Top 16 Colorado Game Fish Species

Top 16 Colorado Game Fishing Species

This post will list the top 16 Colorado game fish species. The state of Colorado offers anglers some world class fishing opportunities! Many anglers associate Colorado with trout, and for good reason. However, there are other species that are found in both quality and quantity.

colorado game fish species

This article will list the most popular Colorado game fish species along with some tips and the state record. Anglers can see all Colorado state record fish on the state website. In some cases, top fishing spots for that species will be included. This is not a list of all of the species available in Colorado, just the most popular and widely available fish.

The top 16 Colorado game fish species are

  • Rainbow trout

  • Brown trout

  • Brook trout

  • Cutthroat trout

  • Lake trout

  • Kokanee salmon

  • Largemouth bass

  • Smallmouth bass

  • Spotted bass

  • Bluegill and sunfish

  • Crappie

  • Yellow perch

  • Northern pike

  • Musky

  • Walleye

  • Catfish

lipless crankbait fishing

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Special thanks to Darlene Johnson and her husband Edwin. Darlene lives in Fort Collins, Colorado and is an avid multi-species angler. She was gracious enough to share some pictures and information for this article!

Colorado trout species


Trout are without a doubt the most sought after Colorado game fish. Anglers have the chance to catch several different species. Trout are found in creeks, rivers, and lakes. In streams and rivers, fly fishing is very popular. This is the classic technique used when pursuing trout species. Anglers spin fishing use spinners, spoons, and live bait. Larger trout are caught in the larger lakes and reservoirs as well, often times by trolling. All of the Colorado trout species can be caught ice fishing as well.

Colorado rainbow trout

top Colorado game fish species

Rainbow trout are probably the most recognizable freshwater game fish in North America. They are very popular as well. Rainbow trout are a beautiful fish that puts up a terrific fight. Many anglers consider them good to eat. The Colorado state record rainbow trout is 19 lbs 10 oz caught in Morrow Point Reservoir. Rainbow trout are not native to Colorado and were introduced in the 1880s. The streams, rivers, and lakes offer ideal habitat for these terrific game fish. They are first on the list of top Colorado game fish species.

Colorado brown trout

Colorado game ish species

Brown trout are the second most popular trout species in Colorado and the rest of the United States. They grow larger, the Colorado state record is 30 lbs 8 oz caught in Roaring Judy Ponds. Brown trout can tolerate warmer water than other trout species, making them a bit more versatile. Like rainbow trout, brown trout are not native and were stocked in the 1890s. Brown and rainbow trout are found throughout Colorado, there really are too many spots to list.

Colorado brook trout

brook trout

Brook trout are native to the Eastern United States and Canada. They were introduced into Colorado in 1872 and are third on the list of top Colorado game fish species. Brookies breed well and are quite aggressive. The record brook trout in Colorado is 7 lbs 10 oz caught in Upper Cataract Lake. Top brook trout spots include all high mountain lakes, ponds, and streams along with the North Platte River, Road Canyon Reservoir, South Boulder Creek, and East Delaney Butte Lake.

Read about the best brook trout fishing lures

Colorado cutthroat trout

cutthroat trout

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Cutthroat trout are the only trout that are native to the state of Colorado and are the state fish. They do not range as much as they once did, due to habitat loss and the introduction of other trout species. The Colorado state record is 16 pounds caught in Twin Lakes. Trappers Lake and the North Platte River are top spots for Colorado cutthroat trout.

Colorado Lake trout

Colorado lake trout

Like many trout species, lake trout were introduced into Colorado waters in the 1890s. Lake trout grow quite large, the state record is 50 lbs 3 oz caught in Blue Mesa Reservoir. Turquoise Lake, Taylor Reservoir, and North Catamount Reservoir are also top spots. Lake trout prefer large, deep bodies of water. Most lake trout are caught by anglers trolling, but drifting and ice fishing produce as well.

Colorado Kokanee salmon

Colorado salmon

Kokanee salmon are native to the Pacific Northwest and do well in some of the cold, clear, deep lakes in Colorado. They do not grow very large, the Colorado state record is 6 lbs 13 oz caught in Spinney Mountain Reservoir. Beaver Creek, Blue Mesa, Clear Creek, Elevenmile, and Taylor Reservoirs are top spots. Most Kokanee are caught by anglers trolling in deep water.

Colorado bass species

Colorado bass

Colorado has some excellent fishing for warm water species as well, and the family of bass leads the list. Largemouth bass inhabit most ponds and lakes that are not up in the higher elevations. Smallmouth are found in cool rivers and lakes. Spotted bass are found in the larger reservoirs. Striped bass are really limited to the Arkansas River and John Martin Reservoir.

Colorado largemouth bass

Colorado bass

Largemouth bass are extremely popular throughout North America. Colorado has some very good bass fishing and it is often overshadowed by trout. Just about every warm pond or lake has a population of largemouth bass. The state record is a respecable 11.38 pounds caught in Echo Canyon Reservoir. Pueblo Reservoir, Horsetooth Lake, and McPhee Reservoir are top spots for largemouth bass in Colorado. Largemouth bass are next on the list of top Colorado game fish species.

Colorado smallmouth bass

smallmouth bass

Smallmouth bass are present in Colorado and do well in the cool, clear rivers. The Arkansas River, Yampa River, Colorado River as well as the river systems surrounding the lakes on the Colorado Front Range are a few productive smallmouth bass fishing spots in Colorado. The state record is 6.69 pounds.

Colorado spotted bass

Colorado game fish species

Spotted bass are a bit of a mix between smallmouth and largemouth bass. They prefer cool, deep lakes and often school up and suspend in deep water. Vertical jigging can be productive. The state record is 4.492 pounds. Spotted bass look very similar to largemouth, the horizontal spots are often more like a stripe.

Colorado panfish

Anglers in Colorado do have opportunities to catch panfish. Bluegill, green sunfish, and yellow perch are the most plentiful species. Most panfish are caught in warmer ponds and lakes. However, yellow perch do well in colder water and bite well through the ice.

Colorado bluegill and sunfish

green sunfish

Colorado does offer anglers some decent fishing for bluegill and sunfish. The green sunfish record is 1.31 pounds and the record bluegill is 2.59 pounds. Shallow, weedy warm water ponds are best for these diminutive Colorado game fish species. Smaller ponds are often the top spots, though larger lakes will certainly hold plenty of fish as well.

Colorado crappie

Colorado crappie

Crappie popularity has exploded in the United States over the last decade. Tournaments have been a part of the reason for this. There are two crappie species; black and white. Both behave very much the same. The record white crappie is 4 pounds and the record black crappie is 3.48 pounds. Crappie are present in good numbers of the lower elevation lakes including Horsetooth Lake, Northglen Lake, and Bonny Reservoir.

Colorado yellow perch

Colorado gae fish

Yellow perch are a feisty and great tasting panfish species. They are found throughout Colorado, from streams to the largest reservoirs. They school up and are aggressive, once located a bunch can be caught in short order. Live minnows and jigs are the top baits. They bite well through the ice. The state record is 2.56 pounds caught in Seaman Reservoir.

Colorado pike, musky, and walleye

The cool, clear, and deep reservoirs in Colorado offer excellent habitat for walleye, pike, and musky, though none are native to the state. Pike and musky are renowned for their fighting abilities while walleye are prized for their fillets.

Colorado northern pike

northern pike

Colorado offers anglers some excellent fishing for northern pike. The cool lakes full of yellow perch and other prey are ideal habitat for pike. These are aggressive, apex predators that grow quite large. The record northern pike in Colorado is 13.06 pounds. Spinney Mountain Reservoir, Navajo, Eleven Mile, William’s Fork and Stagecoach are top pike fishing spots in the state.

Colorado musky

tiger musky

Tiger musky were introduced into Colorado waters for a couple of reasons. Not only do they provide anglers a chance to catch a trophy fish (the record is 40.13 pounds) but they also control undesirable species such as suckers. Lower Big Creek lake, Horseshoe Reservoir, Gross Reservoir, Evergreen Lake, and Pinewood Reservoir are top spots.

Colorado walleye

walleye in Colorado

Walleye are a very popular freshwater game fish species throughout the cooler parts of North America, and Colorado is no exception. Walleye do not put up a great fight but are terrific eating, many consider them to be the best of all fish. They are caught by anglers trolling and drifting in larger lakes. The Colorado walleye state record is 18.81 pounds. Top lakes include Cherry Hill, Chatfield, Boyd, Carter Lake, and Jackson Lake.

Colorado catfish

There are three major catfish species in North America; channel catfish, blue catfish, and flathead (yellow) catfish. All grow fairly large and inhabit the river and lake systems.They are last, but not the least, of the top Colorado game fish species

Channel catfish

Colorado catfish

Channel catfish are the smallest and most widely available catfish species in the state, by far. The Colorado record fish weighed 43.38 pounds. Channel catfish prefer slower moving waters. Most are caught on nightcrawlers, liver, cut bait, and prepared baits.

Blue catfish do well in larger river systems and lakes. They grow quite large, the state record fish is 29.13 pounds. They are not that plentiful in Colorado. Blue catfish feed primarily on bait fish. Flathead catfish are loners which are found in sluggish streams and rivers. Green sunfish are their primary forage. The record is 30.6 pounds.

In conclusion, this article on the top 16 Colorado game fish species will help anglers catch more fish!



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