The best Denver fishing spots are commonly found in reservoirs or lakes, as opposed to the mountainous creeks you may come across when fishing up in the Rockies. Remember, those 16 and up need to have a valid Colorado Fishing License on them to cast their line at any of the spots listed below.
Whether you’re just searching for a leisurely afternoon getaway or you want to take the boat out and enjoy a day with the family, the Denver Metro area has several great fishing spots waiting for you. Keep in mind, the urban fishing holes will be more crowded than the ones found after a bit of a hike.
Cherry Creek is an 880-acre flood protection reservoir and a prime fishing spot for nearby residents throughout the year. Located in the neighboring city of Aurora, Cherry Creek State Park has a vehicle entry fee of $ 11 and is managed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife. The reservoir is a thriving environment for largemouth bass, trophy walleye, and rainbow trout. Cooler months are usually more conducive to trout fishing along the five miles of shoreline. Common baits used in the area include spinners, gulp worms, mealworms, and nightcrawlers.
If you grow tired of casting from the shore, boating is permitted. There are multiple boat ramps, picnic areas, camping spots, restrooms, and a range of hiking trails throughout the park. There is also the Marina at Pelican Bay, which offers a full line of services such as rentals of pontoon boats, power boats, jet skis, kayaks, and canoes. The watercraft can be rented by the day or by the hour. During the winter months, there are ice fishing opportunities available as permitted by the conditions.
PRO Tip: Fishing is prohibited from the dam or within 100 feet of the dam. Visitors are expected to stay up to date with the local regulations, including minimum sizes and the maximum number of fish that can be kept.
Chatfield Reservoir is contained within Chatfield State Park, coming in at around 1,500 acres. This is a bit larger than Cherry Creek and the 25 miles of shoreline provide more opportunities to find a honey pot fishing hole. The average depth of 18 feet creates prime real estate for bass, bluegill, carp, yellow perch, and channel catfish. There are boat ramps and a marina, though the best fishing is often found near the inlets and outlets, as well as the cliffs and shore banks. Both live bait and jigging spoons are popular choices.
The park features a range of amenities that provide the means to enjoy a successful day near the water, including restrooms, a swimming beach, hiking trails, and even a model airplane field. Located only 45 minutes from Denver, city residents have access to plenty of recreation within the park. A daily park pass runs around $10, with additional camping fees charged for those who want to hang out overnight and get an early jump on their casting in the morning.
PRO Tip: During walleye spawning season, no fishing is allowed within 100 feet of the nets. The season generally runs from March 1st through April 15th.
3. Sloans Lake
Sloans Lake is the only Denver body of water large enough to accommodate water skiing, so it’s a popular recreational area during the warm summer months. No boat rentals are available, so it’s either bring your own or fish from the shoreline. The lake provides solid year-round fishing opportunities, with a convenient track surrounding the perimeter of the lake which allows you to scout out prime real estate.
The diverse warm-water fishery is regularly stocked with walleye, muskie, and channel catfish. The lake is also stocked with Colorado’s signature trout species, including rainbow and brown, though conditions create only a marginally supportive environment for trout. Those seeking the quiet solitude often associated with fishing should head over to the north side of Sloan’s Lake, as it doesn’t allow motorized boats. Aside from water activities, the park has a couple of playgrounds, tennis courts, multi-use trails, and striking views of the Denver city skyline.
PRO Tip: Not only is Sloans Lake a great place to fish, but it’s also a popular location to catch a stunning Denver sunset. Each July, the park also hosts the Colorado Dragon Boat Festival.
Standley Lake is the largest body of water in Westminster, Colorado, and is located at 100th Avenue and Simms Street. The lake is also the third largest reservoir located in the Denver Metro area. With over 1000 acres of surface area, there’s plenty of room for folks to spread out and find a fishing hole. There is a trail that runs parallel to the lake, making it easy to explore the area on foot. Boats are permitted beginning on May 1st through September, weather permitting. This is a “paddle only” reservoir, so no motorized water vehicles. A daily paddle pass is required or for those who frequent the lake, an annual paddle permit is available.
Those interested in making a weekend of their fishing trip can reserve one of the 70 campsites. Considering this is a warm water reservoir, a variety of fish species can be found. This includes large and smallmouth bass, bluegill, yellow perch, and if you’re lucky — rainbow trout. Aside from being a convenient fishing spot in the Denver area, Standley Lake also provides drinking water to multiple neighborhoods.
PRO Tip: There is a daily park pass fee of $7. This covers one vehicle and is good until sunset.
The South Platte River has multiple access points via the public parks that line the river. This is one of the most productive rivers in the state and naturally, it’s also fished heavily by other anglers. About 90% of the river’s 26 miles is accessible from the South Platte River Trail. Showing up early and carving out a private spot is the best way to cast the day away and reel in some impressive catches. The river holds walleye, bass, carp, catfish, and numerous other species. There is a well-off population of both brown and rainbow trout — though you should get ready for a fight because there are some real monsters that cruise the South Platte.
Anglers new to the area will notice that the river seems a bit cloudy. This is due to runoff sediment coming down from the mountains. Colorado Parks and Wildlife is collaborating with Trout Unlimited to restore and rehabilitate the river and so far, their efforts have been incredibly successful. The 3.8-mile stretch of the river nicknamed “The Dream Stream” is a fisher’s paradise and the potential to catch a trophy is high.
PRO Tip: While it may be tempting to do so, don’t fish from the bridges. Denver is a city bustling with bicyclists and pedestrians and the potential to clothesline them with an errant cast is dangerous.
Located in nearby Lakewood, Bear Creek Lake Park has a range of fishing opportunities. The park is centered around three lakes, Bear Creek Lake, Big Soda Lake, and Little Soda Lake. The 2,624-acre park is expansive and it’s not difficult to find a pocket for eager anglers. Bear Creek Lake is open to motorized boats between March 15th through November 15th. The lake is stocked with both warm and cold water species, including smallmouth bass, saugeye, and rainbow trout.
The park has 47 campsites, as well as two yurts and three cabins. This is the closest campground to Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater, which is a prime location for those visiting Colorado or local music lovers who want to fish and catch a show on the same weekend. Know before you go and familiarize yourself with the park regulations, such as no boats powered above 10 horsepower and no-wake boating at the reservoir. Each May, the park hosts a trout fishing tournament on Bear Creek Reservoir. There are 25 slots for two-person teams for both watercraft and shore fishing.
PRO Tip: Most of the bass tend to congregate at the east end of the lake, near the rocks by the dam.
7. Clear Creek
Fly fishing is a favorite pastime of Coloradans. Clear Creek is the ideal spot for those looking to hone their skills or try the hobby out for the first time. The proximity to Denver and the easy access to the water draw a fair crowd during the summer months, especially when you don’t have time to make the longer drive into the mountains. There are plenty of places to set up your lines and keep distance between yourself and others looking to enjoy the natural ambiance of the river. Wild brown trout is a common catch in this area, as well as brook trout and rainbow trout.
The further upstream you travel, closer to Idaho Springs, the better the fishing is likely to be. The creek travels to the Loveland Ski Resort. Water conditions can change rapidly throughout the year, so check the weather and current flow before you head out.
PRO Tip: Runoff can hit Clear Creek pretty hard, making it a popular spot to throw in a whitewater raft. Keep this in mind as you head out on a fishing excursion anytime from late spring to mid-summer.
Boulder Creek is easily accessible from downtown Boulder, which is within an hour of Denver. Several pullouts provide anglers with the ability to quickly drop a line and get to fishing. The primary fish that make up the aquatic population of Boulder Creek include brown trout, with a scattering of rainbows, cutthroats, and brookies. The creek itself is somewhat rugged, which can pose difficulty for those not from the area and inexperienced with hiking.
You’re unlikely to be disappointed when fishing Boulder Creek, as it’s considered to be one of the most consistent fly fishing spots in the Denver and Boulder area. The fish are on the smaller end but they make up for it in their eagerness to bite a line. Keep an eye out for large boulders that dot the length of the creek, which create deep pools for trout to hide in. There are no size restrictions and despite catch and release being encouraged, understand the state bag limit before you decide to keep anything.
PRO Tip: The upper sections of the creek tend to be less crowded, which many anglers prefer. Head up to Market Reservoir near Nederland for prime fishing real estate.
The Big Thompson River, locally known as “The Big T,” begins high in the mountainous Rocky Mountain National Park and makes its way through Estes Park and down to the city of Loveland. One of the safest access points for fishing the river is in Moraine Park. During the rainy season, it can get marshy due to runoff. Anglers should keep an eye out for the private property markers that dot the river banks, indicating areas that are strictly off-limits to pedestrians.
The river is known as one of the most popular fly fishing destinations within the state and for good reason. Brown trout and rainbow trout aggressively compete for flies, though anglers should be considerate that large sections of the river are catch and release. This mainly covers the segment from Olympus Dam to the Waltonia Bridge. The lower you go down the river, the larger the population of browns will be. The middle and upper areas grow more varied in species, including rainbows and even brookies the closer you get to the national park.
PRO Tip: Certain areas of the river require a bit of hiking, especially the pockets that are most likely to hold the endangered Greenback Cutthroat. If you happen to reel one in, handle it carefully and ensure its safe release as they make their population recovery.