I’m sure many of you are looking for fun and safe outdoor summer activities during these challenging and unprecedented pandemic times. Why not head outside and GO FISHING?
As a wildlife officer, I patrol lakes and reservoirs near Colorado Springs including Monument Lake, Palmer Lake, the Upper Palmer Lake reservoirs and Rampart Reservoir in the Pike National Forest. These are great places for people to get out and enjoy the outside, relax and do a little fishing.
Thanks to my work, I have some inside knowledge of what’s out there in these bodies of water and what it takes to catch your limit.
The most important thing to do before you head out fishing is to buy a Colorado fishing license. If you are 16 or older, and want to fish any body of water in the state that is open to the public, you need to have a fishing license to legally fish. Children 15 and younger can fish for free, but they must still follow the laws about daily bag limits and equipment restrictions.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife offers residents two options for fishing. You can buy a single one day license for about $14, and then buy an additional day for about $7, or you can buy an annual fishing license for about $35.
I meet many residents who buy a single day license and then end up buying additional one-day licenses. I tell them it’s easier and less expensive to buy an annual fishing license because it guarantees you a full 13 months of fishing without worrying if you have a valid license or not.
An annual fishing license is valid from March 1 of the year until March 31 of the next year. Just remember, fishing licenses don’t follow the calendar year.
Even better, that annual license will grant you access to 350 or so State Wildlife Areas, effective July 1. Many SWAs are great fishing spots. Find them and all the rules covering them on the CPW website, cpw.state.co.us.
Be sure to grab one of CPW’s Fishing Regulation brochures to see a full list of fishing regulations, catch limits and any special regulations that might apply to the body of water you will be heading to.
Why do you need a license to fish in Colorado?
When Colorado was first settled, fishing was done so heavily and unregulated that some species of fish went extinct and others had their numbers dangerously reduced. Back then, pioneers would fish with dynamite, seine nets, baskets, traps and even poison. Finally, in 1861, the first fishing regulations were passed by the Legislative Assembly of the Colorado Territory.
Since then licenses and regulations have been around to help protect and perpetuate the fish populations in Colorado. License fees help CPW run and manage 19 fish hatcheries throughout the state. These hatcheries breed, hatch, rear and stock over 90 million fish per year. These fish are produced to enhance your fishing enjoyment, but some are raised to serve a critical role in native species recovery.
It’s only fair that everyone who fishes helps share the cost. The money that comes from license sales goes right back into the fish you will hopefully be taking home after a great day by the water.
Speaking of taking fish home, what about those lakes and reservoirs I mentioned above?
• Palmer Lake is a great little lake that many families head to for a nice day outing. You can walk and fish around the entire lake and there is a nice beach around most of the lake to hang out on and fish from. Palmer Lake contains green sunfish, bluegill, largemouth bass, rainbow trout and channel catfish. Rainbow trout is the predominant species caught in the lake and about 2,000 trout are usually stocked there every month during the summer.
• The Upper Palmer Lake reservoir is a great body of water to hike to and try a little more isolated fishing. The reservoir holds rainbow, cutthroat and brook trout. Some larger tiger trout also inhabit the lake. The Upper Palmer Lake reservoir takes a little effort to get to with an uphill hike, but when you get there and see the surroundings and the peacefulness, you’ll be glad you made the trip.
• Monument Lake is another popular family-oriented lake. It is larger than Palmer Lake, however getting around the lake is tough and you are not allowed on the dam to fish. The lake is filled with rainbow trout, largemouth bass, bluegill, yellow perch, channel catfish and even Northern pike. Again, rainbow trout is the main prize, but if you are a little more skilled, and maybe have a boat, you might be able to hook into a bass or even a larger Northern pike.
• Finally, my personal favorite is Rampart Reservoir, located between Colorado Springs and Woodland Park within Pike National Forest. There is a $7 entrance fee, but with the size of the reservoir and the isolation you can enjoy, it is well worth the trip. Rampart is filled with rainbow, cutthroat, brown, cutbow and lake trout. Lake trout is the prized catch up there as motorized vessels are allowed on the lake from Thursday through Sunday. The bag and possession limit for lake trout is limited to two. With all the shoreline available for fishing and all the peace and quiet that comes with being up in the mountains, Rampart is definitely on the top of my fishing list.
My final tip is to always have your fishing license with you on a fishing outing. It is the law and you never know when you might run into me or another wildlife officer checking for fishing licenses.
I understand that being bothered while out enjoying some quiet time fishing is not what you want, but when I check for fishing licenses, my contact with you can be less than a minute and then you’ll be back to enjoying your day.
My contact with you can also be as long as you’d like since I enjoy chatting with folks.
I hope this information inspires you to get outside, enjoy the outdoors and go try a little fishing. As the saying goes, “A bad day fishing is better than a good day at work!”
Go see if that’s true.
For more information on fishing, pick up a brochure at any place that sells fishing licenses or visit: cpw.state.co.us/thingstodo/Pages/Fishing.aspx. You can also download the CPW Fishing App onto your phone and get tons of information on current conditions, stocking reports, fish ID, fishing tips and even special conditions and restrictions.
As always, if you have a question, problem or column idea, please call me at 719-439-9637.
Corey Adler holds a degree in wildlife management from Virginia Tech. He works as a district wildlife manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife in northwest El Paso County and Colorado Springs.