Gold medal casting at Steamboat Lake
Steamboat Lake State Park, 27 miles north of Steamboat Springs on Routt County Road 129, is one of Colorado’s best-kept secrets.
Somehow the premier trout fishing destination, one of only three lakes or reservoirs to carry the Colorado Division of Wildlife’s prestigious Gold Medal rating, is not over-fished and maintains an excellent carry over of fish populations from season to season.
“If you don’t get a hook on every cast, you’ll at least get a hit with the opportunity for bigger fish,” Steamboat’s Straightline Sports co-owner Brett Lee said.
The various creeks surrounding Steamboat Lake produce healthy numbers of naturally spawning trout that combine with the DOW’s stocking efforts to create a lake loaded with large cutthroat and rainbow trout. The 1,053-acre lake has ample secluded fishing spots and regulations allow anglers to bag up to four fish a day with an eight fish possession limit.
The lake can get busy with motorized crafts in the summer, so State Park Resource Technician Matt Blecha recommends that anglers find some of the prime wakeless areas of the lake like the coves off of Rainbow Ridge or that they wade or float out from the reach of shore-casters.
For early season catches, the lake’s cold water streams, like Willow and Larson Creek, attract the spawning trout and Blecha said they are best fished with “bigger nymph flies and wooly-bugger flies that look like crawfish flies, but they’ll even bite on jig-spinners and salmon eggs early on.” Lee recommends finding shady sections of shoreline where the trout like to feed on minnows.
During peak tourist season, Blecha said the far side of the lake, near the dam, offers a better chance for catching the big ones that have grown large in the deeper and more remote waters adjacent to the dam. Access this area by using the separate entrance off of County Road 129 marked Sage Flats, half a mile south of the Visitor’s Center.
Steamboat Lake is open year-round and attracts ice-fishers willing to cut a hole through more than two feet of ice and gain access to the lake’s practically untapped winter bounty.
As the spring heat thaws the ice, Northwest Colorado anglers in the know wait anxiously to get out and fish the lake.
“It’s a yearly event for Steamboat locals. Right when that ice comes of the lake, the lake will be on fire,” Lee said.
Call the Steamboat Lake State Park visitor’s center at 879-3922 to find out when the lake is clear of ice and ready to fish.
Steamboat Lake is a Colorado State Park, costing $5 per car per day to enter the park without a State Parks Pass. To reserve the prime fishing shoreline campsites, call 800-678-2267 or go online at http://www.parks.state.co.us.
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As the snow melting off the peaks surrounding Steamboat Springs feeds the Yampa River, rafters, canoeists, kayakers and paddle boarders are trying to make the most of it.