The Catch of a Lifetime

With the Big Thompson River running right through the village, Lake Estes at its east entrance and the Rockies rising in nearly every direction, Estes Park is the scene of a mountain angler's dream. Indeed on any given day, fly fishers, bait fishermen and spin casters can be found testing area lakes and rivers-and admiring the scenery. Fishing licenses are required for anglers ages 16 and older for all fishing and can be purchased at local outfitters and hardware stores.You can find out more about fishing regulations from the Colorado Parks & Wildlife website and their online brochure (the national park may have additional restrictions).

In the village, fishing shops and guides ensure fishermen know where to go have what they need by renting and selling equipment, and offering advice. That local expertise accommodates anglers from beginners to experts, making Estes Park a perfect destination for fishermen of all experience. There's even a stocked pond, with a guaranteed catch that families love.

On the village's outskirts, Marys Lake and the Fall and St. Vrain rivers present more outstanding scenery and fishing. All are fairly easy to access and teem with fish-mostly various kinds of trout. Marys Lake and Lake Estes allow bait fishing. Plus, they're stocked once a week during the summer. Fall River and the St. Vrain River welcome fly fishers. On the Big Thompson, a gold-medal fishery, fly fishers and spin casters catch predominantly rainbows and browns. The first mile of the river east of Estes is catch-and-release; beyond that it is catch and keep.

Area guides report the average fish size to be around 12-15 inches, but can sometimes max out at 25 inches. Rumors claim fishermen can snag up to 50 per day! Other trout species, such as brookies, greenback cutthroats, and hybrid cutbows, inhabit waters inside Rocky Mountain National Park. For information about fishing inside the park, visit the Rocky Mountain National Park fishing page.

The fish bite year-round, with the main fishing season running Memorial Day through Labor Day, sometimes into mid-October. Sections of the Big Thompson run free in the winter and the east end of Lake Estes near the power plant remains ice-free during winter. Ice fishing is allowed on all open-fishing lakes and ponds in Rocky Mountain National Park; hand-augers are required. Plus, fly hatches occur into January and February.