Most lakes in Colorado will soon see ice starting to form and virtually all the boat ramps will be closed. Mountain river areas will see ice develop and even most fishable tailwaters will experience inclement weather that can make fishing uncomfortable and difficult.
Those of you that follow me know I do a lot of ice fishing this time of the year, but if you are a fly- or spin-fishing angler, there is no need to put the long rods or your boat away. Pueblo Reservoir and the tailwaters below it on the Arkansas River offer excellent open water fishing access, and quite often very mild weather. Doug Pachelli from Pueblo State Park joined me on the radio Saturday to extol the great winter fishing available at the park.
Pueblo Reservoir is one of Colorado’s premier fisheries. It offers great angling for bass, walleye, crappie, catfish and large trout. Unlike other waters in the state, it rarely freezes and typically remains open for boating 365 day per year. I have personally caught walleyes, trout and catfish from my boat in January on Lake Pueblo. If you don’t have a boat or prefer not to take it out in the winter, Lake Pueblo has approximately sixty miles of shore line with great fishing access. The cooler water brings trout closer to shore, giving bank anglers the opportunity to catch large rainbows up to ten pounds that are usually much deeper other times of the year.
In my opinion, the real winter fishing gem at Pueblo is the Arkansas River below the dam. Known as the Pueblo Tailwater, the Arkansas River below Lake Pueblo dam is quickly earning a reputation as one of Colorado’s best winter fly-fishing destination. I have fished this tailwater for more than thirty years with a fly rod and spinning gear. I have caught walleyes, bass, catfish and a variety of trout species.
In the last several years, the Pueblo tailwater has undergone one of the largest stream improvement projects ever completed in Colorado. In 2004 and 2005, a multimillion-dollar stream improvement project was completed that deepened the stream channel and added rock weirs and boulder gardens to the nine river miles between the dam and the confluence of Fountain Creek. Between 2012 and 2013, a second phase of improvements was completed which added even more structure and cover, including the use of large cottonwood timbers. Most of the improvements are concentrated on the 6 1/2-mile stretch from the 4th Street Bridge up to the dam, and this is the stretch of water most important to fishermen. These improvements, combined with better in-stream flows, have led to a significant increase in both the size and number of fish.
A substantial portion of the river is flies and lures only with special bag regulations in place. Other areas allow you to use bait and keep more fish. While I have fished this stretch of river during all seasons, it shines in the winter. During the summer, the flows out of Pueblo Dam can be quite high. Starting Nov. 15, the water storage program kicks in and the flows typically run about 60-to-120 CFS. This makes the river very fishable. Add the fact that Pueblo can experience some very mild weather in the winter and you could find yourself fishing one of Colorado’s premier fisheries in January on a 60 degree day.
Notes: Effective Jan. 1, 2011, special regulations were enacted on the tailwater which allow for fishing by artificial flies and lures only, with all trout 16 inches and longer to be released, from the Pueblo Blvd. bridge up to the Valco bridge. Standard regulations remain in a short section near the Nature Center.
There has also been a change in regulations for boaters on the reservoir that allows access 24 hours per day, but may require pre-inspection. Follow the link below for the complete regulation change.
Click on the link below to listen to my entire interviews with Doug Pachelli.
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