Fishing in Grand County: So much water, so little time
Sky-Hi Daily News
Anglers visiting Grand County are confronted with an enviable dilemma: so much water, so little time. How much water? About 1,000 miles of streams and rivers, 1,000 acres of high mountain lakes and a whopping 11,000 acres of reservoirs, according to the Grand County Tourism Board Web site. Here are some of the waters dedicated anglers won’t want to miss when they visit the county: Gold Medal fisheries Some trout habitat in Grand County holds so many and such large fish, the Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW) has designated it Gold Medal water. Gold Medal waters offer anglers the best opportunities for trophy trout fishing, according to the DOW. Colorado boasts about 9,000 miles of rivers, and of those, only about 168 miles are aquatically rich enough to be designated Gold Medal. Grand County possesses an embarrassment of riches in that about one-fourth of those Gold Medal miles are within easy striking distance.
“We’ve got some of the best Gold Medal waters in the state of Colorado,” said Dan Murphy, owner of Fishin’ Hole Sporting Goods in Kremmling. Anglers looking for a can’t-miss Gold Medal opportunity would do well to check out the Colorado River near Parshall, he said. Richard Crager, co-owner of Budget Tackle in Granby, agrees that this stretch of river is reliably excellent fishing most of the time, though not as of mid-June because “it is blown out right now” with runoff.
From the lower boundary of Byers Canyon about three miles west of Hot Sulphur Springs downstream to the confluence with Troublesome Creek, the Colorado is designated a Gold Medal fishery. That means this stretch of river supports a minimum of 60 pounds of trout per surface acre and at least 12 trout 14 inches in length or larger per acre. On this part of the Colorado, only artificial flies and lures can be used and all trout caught must be returned to the water immediately. The river is known for its large German brown trout, though it contains rainbows as well. The same regulations apply to the Williams Fork River from Williams Fork Reservoir (which Crager notes contains a healthy northern pike population) to the Colorado River, another stretch Murphy highly recommends. “As far as the fly fishing goes … it’s excellent,” he says.
The Blue River from Dillon Reservoir in Summit County to its confluence with the Colorado River near Kremmling features about 34 miles of Gold Medal waters as well. Various bag limits apply to these waters, though the portion in Grand County below Green Mountain Reservoir is catch-and-release only. Of course, not all rivers in Grand County are Gold Medal waters, and some lacking the designation nip quite closely at the heels of their Gold Medal cousins in terms of fishing quality. Here a few: Colorado River, Gore Canyon Murphy recommends starting at the Pumphouse and working upstream toward the rugged and difficult-to-access canyon.
“It’s water that’s open to anything,” he said as far as the types of bait, lures or flies that are permitted. Plus, he adds, “There’s just as good fishing, if not better,” than the Gold Medal rivers. Those contemplating rafting or boating into Gore Canyon should exercise extreme caution. It is expert-only, Class IV water. Fraser River While much of this once-famous trout stream flows through private land and the thirsty Front Range diverts a substantial portion of its flow, recent habit improvements near its namesake town have helped restore some of the stream’s former glory. The river was a favorite haunt of former President Dwight D. Eisenhower, and for good reason: It was once renowned for a hefty population of very large trout.
Those in the know still find more than their share of nice fish in the Fraser. Inquire at Mo Henry’s Trout Shop in Fraser for the latest conditions and tips about where to go. Colorado River below Shadow Mountain Reservoir Crager recommends this flow-controlled reach of water for its consistency, as well as the canal between Lake Granby and Shadow Mountain, “when they’re pumping.”
Although popular and often crowded, these links between Shadow Mountain and Lake Granby routinely yield decent catches of trout and kokanee salmon. Check the regulations ” this portion of the Colorado River is closed to fishing later in the season.
River fishing in much of Colorado this year will require patience.
“I expect that the way the spring’s been kind of cold this year, it’s going to be a long runoff,” Murphy said. So far, high, cold water has been the norm on area rivers, and because of the heavy snowpack the runoff is expected to last well into July. However, the benefits will accrue later in the season with ample stream flows, flushed river beds and full lakes. “The reservoirs are all in fairly good shape,” Murphy said, “which means the fishing is going to be better.”
Other fishing opportunities For those who don’t know a PMD from a weapon of mass destruction or who simply prefer still water fishing to rivers, Grand County has you covered. Anglers will find fishing opportunities from snagging kokanee to deep trolling for monster lake trout to sneaking up on wary trout in high country lakes. “There’s a lot of water here,” Crager notes. “There’s huge opportunities to fish every kind of water,” Murphy said.
For easy family fishing, Murphy recommends Wolford Mountain Reservoir north of Kremmling. Wolford, he says, is a “place where a guy can take his family, and kids can catch fish … everyone catches fish.” If it’s a family looking to fish, “I send them to Willow Creek (Reservoir),” Crager said, because children usually can easily catch fish from the bank. Lake Granby is also frequently is listed in the DOW’s weekly fishing report as a hot spot for northwest Colorado.
The lake holds fish from stocker rainbows to browns, cutthroats, brook trout, lake trout and splake. Smaller waters that can be consistent producers include Monarch Lake and Meadow Creek Reservoir. And for the adventurous who like to combine hiking with their fishing, Indian Peaks Wilderness and Rocky Mountain National Park contain dozens of high mountain lakes and streams worthy of exploration and wetting a line. Check at a visitor center for the latest Park regulations (a Colorado fishing license is required.)
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Grand Lake officials will discuss next week a plan to halt new construction in downtown Grand Lake.