colorado record fish

Colorado's Record Fish Make Most Anglers Into Small-Fry

The Centennial State is known for Rocky Mountain National Park, high-quality big game hunting, western American culture, and excellent fishing opportunities. Countless tourists visit every year to access Colorado's waters whether it's for fly fishing, boating, rafting, or casting a spin rod. In Colorado, record fish abound, and there's fun to be had just about anywhere.

Ice fishing is my personal favorite type of fishing. After living in Gunnison, Colorado, for several years now, I've become quite familiar with fishing Blue Mesa Reservoir. Located about 20 minutes west of town, Blue Mesa is the largest body of water in this state at 14.32 square miles. What's my favorite species to chase there? Well, there can only be one answer: lake trout.

During the late spring of 2020, I went out to my usual spot with a couple of fishing buddies. I lugged all my ice fishing gear out there in my 65-liter backpack, including my Vexilar, tackle box, and my trusty medium-heavy, 28-inch ice fishing rod. I drilled my ice hole, set up my camp chair, and started jigging my favorite lure.

One of my friends was using the Vexilar, so I was focused on feeling my jig hit the bottom of the lake to make sure I was staying on the bottom. After about two hours of fishing, I went to jig my lure and felt resistance. I set the hook. Fifteen minutes later, I lifted a 38-inch lake trout out of my 8-inch diameter ice hole. Shaking from the adrenaline, I heaved the fish into my arms for a photo. To this day, it's still the biggest fish I've ever caught, even though it was probably 30 pounds lighter than the Colorado state record.

Home to 101 fish species, there are all kinds of fish to get into in this Rocky Mountain state. Whether you seek fat largemouth on the front range or finicky brook trout in the intermountain west, you won't get bored as an angler in this rugged state. Unsurprisingly, over 30 species found here have been caught at record-breaking sizes. Here's a brief breakdown of a few of Colorado's favorite record-shattering fish.

Rainbow Trout

colorado record fish

Likely the most common fish to catch in Colorado, rainbow trout are readily accessible just about everywhere. Back in 2003, angler Lee Cox caught the biggest one on record at Morrow Point Reservoir. Morrow Point is located on Colorado's western slope and is part of the Gunnison River. Cox's rainbow weighed 19 pounds, 10 ounces.

Brown Trout

colorado record fish

Gunnison County is also home to the largest brown trout caught on record. Alan Schneider caught a 30.5-pound brown in the Roaring Judy Ponds north of the town of Gunnison. No one's broken his 1988 record yet. Roaring Judy is our local fish hatchery. This CPW location is best known for raising the kokanee salmon that are stocked into Blue Mesa Reservoir each year. During the fall, when the salmon are running, they run a fish giveaway program where fish eaters can take home salmon after they've successfully spawned back at the hatchery. In addition to East River access, folks parking at Roaring Judy will also hike past several ponds, including the one where Schneider caught his hog of a brown trout.

Brook Trout

colorado record fish

My favorite trout to hook into, brook trout held Colorado's oldest fishing record until 2022. Way back in 1947, a man named George Knorr was fishing Summit County's Upper Cataract Lake when he hooked into a 7.63-pound brookie. Summit County is usually known for its incredible skiing opportunities; however, Knorr made it also known for fat brook trout.

Grand Canyon briefly became the new home to Colorado's brook trout record. On May 23, 2022, Tim Daniel caught a 7.84-pound, 23.25-inch brook trout in Monarch Lake.

However, Daniel's record didn't last very long. As it was broken again in November 2022 by a 26.25-inch, 8-pound, 9-ounce brook trout caught by Matt Smiley from Waterdog Lake in Hinsdale County. The monstrous fish had a 16-inch girth.

Lake Trout

colorado record fish

When you compare my personal record laker with the state one, it makes mine look puny. Colorado's state record laker came out of Blue Mesa Reservoir. Generally, most of the lake trout in Blue Mesa are less than 24 inches long. In fact, CPW hosted harvest incentive tournaments in 2020 and 2021 for lake trout in the 24 inches or less range. There was a cash prize of $10,000 for the angler who caught a specially tagged trout; as far as we know, that trout is still out there.

In 2007, a 50.35-pound lake trout was caught by Donald Walker. "You have to play a fish like that just right or you'll break the line. The rod was bent double," Walker said in an interview. Unsurprisingly, Walker mounted his record-breaking fish.

Arctic Grayling

catch and release

Grayling is a unique species to catch in Colorado. Personally, I've gotten into them while fishing Joe Wright Reservoir, a high-elevation body of water that's home to not only arctic grayling, but also cutthroat trout, tiger trout, and long-nose sucker. You can also catch them at Lower Big Creek Lake in Jackson County. That's where angler Derik Drinnen caught the state record weighing in at 1.63 pounds in 2002.

Kokanee Salmon

spawn run

As previously mentioned, kokanee salmon are farmed and stocked into Colorado's reservoirs. Kokanee holds two records in this state: one for snagging and one for angling. The largest snagged salmon was caught by Lee Cox in Blue Mesa back in 2002. In 1986, Will Arduino caught the largest one while angling in Spinney Mountain Reservoir. His salmon clocked in at 6.81 pounds.

Largemouth Bass


One of the most fun fish to catch, largemouth bass are widely available on Colorado's front range. However, the state record for this species was caught in the state's southwestern corner on the west side of the Continental Divide. An 11.38-pound largemouth was caught by Jarrett Edwards in 1997 and no one's caught a fatter one since.


colorado record fish

A cross between a white bass and a striped bass, a wiper puts up a great fight. They're known for being aggressive and feature several dark stripes running laterally down their silver body. Kevin Treanor learned this for himself in 2004 at Pueblo Reservoir when he hooked into a 26.94-pound hybrid.

Yellow Perch

yellow carp

My personal favorite fish to catch and cook, yellow perch are found in most warm bodies of water in Colorado. They offer great fishing opportunities and their firm, white flesh is great for frying, sauteeing, baking, and more. When I have a slew of perch filets, being a true Wisconsinite, I bread them in instant mashed potatoes and treat myself to a fish fry.

Justin Allbrandt must've treated himself to a giant perch taco or two when he caught the state record in 2007. He caught a 2.56-pound chunker in Seaman Reservoir, a deep body of water owned by the City of Fort Collins that's up the Poudre Canyon.



My favorite place to catch bluegill is in a pond outside of a Walmart in Fort Collins, Colorado. I had never witnessed schools of half-dollar-sized bluegill fiercely chasing my size 26 orange nymph before until I decided to park in the lot one day and fish instead of shop. Tons of fun to catch and delicious to eat, bluegill are a great species to chase for anglers new and experienced. However, those bluegills I saw in that pond pale in comparison to the record. Gregory Wallace caught the state record in Totten Reservoir in 2019. His bluegill weighed in at 2.59 pounds.

Tiger Muskie

Another sterile species, tiger muskies are found in only a handful of reservoirs in Colorado. In 1994, Jason Potter caught Colorado's record in Quincy Reservoir in Aurora. His muskie weighed 40.13 pounds, only 11 pounds less than the largest tiger muskie ever caught in the US!

Grass Carp

colorado record fish

Different than common carp, grass carp are also invasive and native to Asia. They were originally brought to the US to control plant growth in aquaculture ponds. They can be found in Colorado, although stocked grass carp here are sterile so they won't reproduce in the wild.

Brian Hussman broke 14-year-old Cody Moreland's 51-pound record in 2013. Hussman hooked into a 57.8-pound carp in Cottonwood Park Lake. To date, it's the largest fish ever hooked into and caught in Colorado of any species. Unsurprisingly, there are some very large grass carp swimming around on the front range.

This is just a small taste of the kinds of giant fish you can find at the end of your line in Colorado. If you fish this state, who knows, maybe your name will be the next one featured on Colorado Parks and Wildlife's record board!

READ MORE: Michigan Angler Reels in Rare Golden Smallmouth Bass