9 Biggest fish in Colorado 2024 – Hooked on Adventure

fish colorado

Ah, Colorado! A state renowned not just for its majestic mountains and sprawling landscapes, but also for its diverse aquatic ecosystems. From the gurgling brooks to the whispering streams and placid lakes, Colorado offers a fishing experience like no other. 

The allure of catching a big fish in Colorado’s waters is something that has drawn anglers from all over. The excitement of feeling a heavy pull on the line, the anticipation as you reel it in, and the sheer joy of seeing a magnificent aquatic giant at the end of your line is unparalleled.

Fun Fact: Did you know that spending time in nature, especially by water bodies, is not only good for your health but also for your soul? It’s true! And what better way to bond with family and friends than by casting a line and waiting for that thrilling tug?

Fish Habitats in Colorado

Colorado’s freshwater habitats are as diverse as the fish that inhabit them. From the fast-flowing rivers that carve through canyons to the serene lakes that reflect the sky, each habitat plays a crucial role in supporting a myriad of fish species.

Aquatic Habitats Description
Rivers🌊 These flowing water bodies are the lifelines of Colorado, providing a natural habitat for a diverse range of fish species that have adapted to fast-moving waters.
Lakes🏞️  Vast expanses of water, lakes in Colorado are home to a variety of fish species, both native and introduced. Anglers have the opportunity to reel in some impressive catches in these serene settings.
ReservoirsπŸŒ… Man-made bodies of water formed by damming rivers, reservoirs play host to a thriving aquatic ecosystem. Despite their artificial origins, these reservoirs offer great fishing experiences.
Streams🌲 Smaller than rivers but equally vital, streams are habitats where trout species, in particular, flourish. These crystal-clear waters wind through Colorado’s landscapes, providing ample angling opportunities.

Pro Tip: Always research the specific habitat of the fish you’re targeting. Knowing where they like to hang out can significantly increase your chances of a successful catch!

#9 Kokanee Salmon


These land-locked Pacific sockeye salmon, are perfectly suited to Colorado’s large, fluctuating mountain reservoirs. These silver fish with black spots on the upper half of their bodies swim in compact schools, feeding on zooplankton.

During the fall spawning season, they turn reddish in color, and males develop a β€œhook jaw.”

πŸ“Œ Statistic Value
πŸ“ Average Length 12 inches
βš–οΈ Habitat Mountain reservoirs
πŸ† Notable Feature Turn reddish during the fall spawning season

Fun Fact: Kokanee Salmon die after spawning, making their life cycle a unique spectacle in Colorado’s waters.

#8 Rainbow Trout

Rainbow Trout

Rainbow Trout are a favorite among anglers in Colorado. They make up about 80% of the summer angler catch. 

The best time for fishing these beauties is right after the ice melts, targeting the overwintered rainbows. They are abundant in Colorado’s waters, with a significant portion of the captured fish being those that overwintered from the previous year.

πŸ“Œ Statistic Value
πŸ“ Average Length 12.3 inches
βš–οΈ Habitat Streams, rivers, and lakes
πŸ† Largest Catch Length 16.8 inches

Pro Tip: Fly fishing is a popular technique for catching rainbow trout. Using flies that mimic local insects can increase your chances of a successful catch.

#7 Common Carp

Common Carp Fishing

The common carp is a non-native species in Colorado waters. These fish are often seen as a challenge for anglers due to their size and strength. 

Carp prefer slow-moving or stagnant waters and are often found in muddy river bottoms or shallow lakes.

πŸ“Œ Statistic Value
πŸ“ Average Length 14 inches
βš–οΈ Habitat Slow-moving rivers, shallow lakes
πŸ† Notable Feature Can grow to considerable size

Fun Fact: Carp are known to be very adaptive and can survive in a variety of water conditions.

#6 Mountain Whitefish

MOUNTAIN Whitefish

Native to Colorado in the Yampa and White rivers, mountain whitefish have also been introduced in the Colorado River and Cache la Poudre drainages. 

These fish have larger scales than trout and possess an adipose fin. They require delicate handling due to their weak mouth.

πŸ“Š Mountain Whitefish Statistics:

πŸ“Œ Statistic Value
πŸ“ Average Length 17 inches
βš–οΈ Habitat Yampa and White rivers
πŸ† Notable Feature Larger scales than trout

Fun Fact: Smoked whitefish are considered a delicacy in many parts of the country.

#5 Northern Pike

Northern Pike

Fierce predators known for their aggressive nature. They offer good fishing opportunities, especially in the early summer. 

First introduced to Colorado’s waters in 1973, leading to the establishment of a naturally reproducing population. While they do prey on stocked rainbow trout, their numbers aren’t believed to be hampering trout management significantly.

πŸ“Œ Statistic Value
πŸ“ Average Length 17.1 inches
βš–οΈ Habitat Freshwater lakes, rivers, and streams
πŸ† Largest Catch Length 37.1 inches

Fun Fact: Northern Pike have sharp teeth and are known to be ambush predators, often hiding in vegetation to surprise their prey.

#4 Lake Trout

Lake Trout

Often referred to as the “giants of the deep,” they are a fascinating species. These fish provide anglers with the opportunity to catch truly trophy-sized trout. 

However, it’s worth noting that while they are present in many of Colorado’s waters, their popularity is often overshadowed by the more productive and larger Blue Mesa Reservoir downstream

πŸ“Œ Statistic Value
πŸ“ Average Length 17.8 inches
βš–οΈ Habitat Deep, cold lakes
πŸ† Largest Catch Length 30.8 inches

Pro Tip: Lake trout prefer the colder depths of lakes. Using deep-diving lures or weighted lines can help you reach them.

#3 Brown Trout 

Brown Trout

Introduced to Colorado in the 1890s, the Brown Trout has made its mark from high mountain streams to broad rivers flowing onto the plains. 

These fish can be a challenge to catch, but many anglers find success during their fall spawning runs. Their unique dark spotting pattern and reddish dots set them apart from other trout species.

πŸ“Œ Statistic Value
πŸ“ Average Length 20 inches
βš–οΈ Habitat Mountain streams to broad rivers
πŸ† Notable Feature Large dark spotting pattern and reddish dots

Fun Fact: Brown Trout are known to be more elusive and harder to catch than other trout species, making them a prized catch for many anglers.

#2 Cutthroat Trout 

Mountain Cuttrout

Colorado is home to several subspecies of Cutthroat Trout, three of which are native – the greenback, the Rio Grande, and the Colorado. Their range has decreased due to various habitat factors, but extensive recovery efforts are underway by the Colorado Parks and Wildlife

These trout can be distinguished from others by heavier spotting towards the tail and a red slash on their “throat.”

πŸ“Œ Statistic Value
πŸ“ Average Length 24 inches
βš–οΈ Habitat High lakes and streams
πŸ† Notable Feature Red slash on their β€œthroat”

Pro Tip: Cutthroat Trout are native to Colorado, making them a special catch for local anglers. Always handle with care to ensure their conservation.

#1 Tiger Muskellunge

TIGER Muskies

A hybrid of the northern pike and muskie. Introduced to Colorado in the 1980s, these fish were brought in to control suckers and carp populations while also providing a trophy-sized fish for anglers. 

With their long snout filled with teeth and dark tiger-striped sides on a light body, they are easy to identify.

πŸ“Œ Statistic Value
πŸ“ Average Length 40 inches
βš–οΈ Habitat Various waters across Colorado
πŸ† Notable Feature Dark tiger-striped sides on a light body

Pro Tip: Tiger Muskies are aggressive predators. Using large lures over vegetation during the summer can increase your chances of catching one.

After a thrilling day of fishing for Colorado’s biggest catches, many anglers choose to stay overnight in nature. Here’s a guide to some of the best spots to set up camp.


How do I get started with fishing in Colorado?

Fishing in Colorado is an experience open to all. Whether you’re going solo, with friends, or with family, it’s an activity that promises great memories. For beginners, it’s recommended to follow a basic equipment guide to get started. And remember, fishing isn’t just about the catch; it’s about enjoying nature and the process itself.

Are there any regulations I should be aware of?

Yes, there are specific bag & possession limits, fee information, and other regulations that anglers should be aware of. It’s always a good idea to view the official fishing brochure of Colorado Parks and Wildlife for detailed information.

What’s the Catch and Release approach?

Catch and Release is a conservation practice where anglers catch fish but then release them back into the water. This approach ensures that fish populations remain healthy and sustainable for future generations.


Colorado’s waters are a treasure trove for anglers. From the shimmering trout to the elusive pike, the state offers a diverse range of fish that promise an exciting adventure. But as we immerse ourselves in the thrill of the catch, let’s also remember the importance of responsible fishing.

Sustainability is key, and as anglers, we play a crucial role in ensuring that Colorado’s aquatic giants continue to thrive for years to come. So, gear up, head out, and dive into the mesmerizing world of fishing in Colorado’s waters. Tight lines! 

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