2017 Rocky Mountain Family Fishing Destinations

2017 Rocky Mountain Family Fishing Destinations
Photo Courtesy of Shutterstock

The Rocky Mountain states offer plenty of great fishing waters, and most anglers have their favorite spots to cast for trophies. But with temperatures warming up and the school year winding down, this is the perfect time to focus on a different kind of destination: the best locations for a family fishing trip. The goal this month is to find waters where your kids can actually catch fish, and perhaps enjoy some fun diversions along the way. Here are a few places where you can make some memories.

Photo Courtesy of Shutterstock

As a youngster, my friends and I found fun and excitement in the outdoors. And innumerable fishing trips spent with my grandfather and my parents created detailed remembrances that I treasure today.

Fishing is a wonderful way to explore the great Rocky Mountains as a weekend break or full summer vacation.  The following will highlight some key spots in each of the eight Rocky Mountain states recommended by state game and fish officials for family fishing success. Their recommendations should offer venues safe for kids with a good chance for catching fish.


Dead Horse Ranch

State Park

Arizona has a community fishing waters program focused on several cities/towns in addition to several high-quality waters throughout the state.  Community waters are heavily stocked seasonally with bass or trout, sometimes bluegills.  Youngsters 10 and older need a license.  Marc Dahlberg, state fish and game representative, recommends two waters for kid's fishing.

The state park, located near Cottonwood, offers excellent fishing for kids of all ages.  Non-motorized boats are allowed.  There is a boat launch.  The river and lagoons are stocked bi-weekly through winter with trout to ensure success.  Catfish are stocked during warm months.  Trophy bass are not uncommon here.  Power Bait, worms, and artificial lures are usually successful.  Fly- fishing for river trout is popular.  Camping, cabins, bathrooms and showers are available. Park entry and camping fees are charged.

Along the Way

Camping, hiking and bike trails and horseback riding are popular here.  Nearby, the Tuzigoot and Montezuma Castle National Monuments highlight ancient Sinaguan history and cliff dwellings.

Willow Springs Lake

Dahlberg also suggests Willow Springs Lake, east of Payson.  Trout are stocked weekly.  Largemouth and smallmouth bass, some reaching trophy size, are present.  There is a paved boat ramp.  Nearby campgrounds provide overnight camping.

Shore anglers fishing for trout have good success with nightcrawlers or Power Bait.  Boat anglers should try trolling with lures.  Bass anglers should try spinner baits, jigs and night crawler rigs around underwater structure. Lures and flies imitating over-populated crayfish may attract bigger bass.

Along the Way

Tonto and Canyon Creek hatcheries nearby are worth a visit.  Creeks below the hatcheries are stocked weekly.


Corn Lake

Colorado has a myriad of successful kid's fishing locations.  The department website also identifies "101 places to take a kid fishing."  Colorado fishing licenses are required for 16 and older.

State parks and wildlife representative Alicia Cohn suggested Corn Lake near Grand Junction as a great fishing place for children of all ages.  Easily accessible, it is regularly stocked with trout, but also has bass and bluegills.  Bait and lures will attract easily caught rainbows.

Corn Lake is part of the James Robb State Park bordering the Colorado River that offers river access/fishing as well.  The lake has handicapped access, restrooms, sheltered picnic sites, river access and catfishing.

Along the Way

Be sure to visit the sheer-walled, red rock canyons in Colorado National Monument and watch for bighorn sheep and soaring eagles.

South of Montrose is beautiful Ridgway State Park, surrounded by spectacular San Juan Range peaks.  All water sports are available to include boat rentals at the marina.  The reservoir holds kokanee salmon, trout, and perch while the Uncomphagre River is a highly-rated fly and lure fishing destination.  More appropriate for youngsters stalking willing trout and perch, however, are the ponds. The visitor center and boat launch are supplemented by a playground, full service camping, restrooms, and picnic facilities.


Becker Pond

Idaho has a "Family Fishing Waters" program highlighted on the fish and game website.  Kids 14 and over require fishing licenses.  Becker Pond south of Idaho Falls is a small, heavily-stocked lake.  Located in Ryder Park, Becker Pond has a two- fish limit.  Boats and swimming are prohibited.  The pond is a great location for new anglers or kids to try their hand at fishing.  Dan Garren of Idaho Fish and Game says it won't take a lot of effort to catch a fish here.

Along the Way

Museum of Idaho, located in Idaho Falls, is excellent and has a children's section for hands on exploration of many topics.

Dierkes Lake

Dierkes Lake, located just a few miles east of Twin Falls, is one of the best places to take a kid fishing in Idaho.  The lake features rainbow and golden trout, bass and bluegills.  Many are on the small side, but perfect for little anglers.  Bait, flies and lures will take trout on the west end of the lake.  Bass and bluegills like the rocky areas and weed beds.  Because it is such a good kid's fishery, peak season can be crowded.  The lake is a park environment with full facilities.

Along the Way

Nearby Shoshone Falls is a scenic stop you should make.  Several overlooks provide great views of the falls divided by the boulders which define the twin cascades.

Family Fishing Banner


Lake Elmo

Like Idaho, Montana has a Family Fishing Waters program designed to introduce youngsters to fishing.   Kids 12 and older require a license to fish.  Fish, wildlife and parks representative Ken Frazier recommends Lake Elmo as a prime kid's fishing area.  This urban pond in Lake Elmo State Park in Billings has good shoreline access.  It is heavily stocked with rainbows and some large cutthroat as well.  Bass, sunfish, and catfish are also in the pond. The lake has full amenities. Bait seems to be the best option for catching numbers, and most fish will be on the bottom.  Kid success is good with the rainbows.  There is a minimal fee for fishing.

Along the Way

Pictograph Cave State Park, located  in Billings, focuses on the origins of human habitation in the state.  A well-preserved collection of 2,100-year-old pictographs are viewable at this site.

Brown's Lake

Brown's Lake is a prime location for families with older kids.  Some really big trout swim these waters — especially in spring as rainbow spawners cruise the shallows. Orange scuds work well on these freshwater shrimp-fed trout.  Younger anglers will do better on sunfish and perch.  Brown's Lake is located south of Ovando off Highway 200.

Along the Way

The Montana Natural History Center in nearby Missoula focuses on natural history of western Montana.  The Dragon Hollow Play area in Missoula is a fun place divided into areas for younger and older kids.


Marilyn's Pond

Nevada's Department of Wildlife highlights several places for kids' fishing.  Children 12-15 require a Junior Fishing license and trout stamp, if pertinent.  Marilyn's Pond in Galena Creek Regional Park between Reno and Carson City is a great place for youngsters to fish successfully for trout.  There is a pier with a fishing dock.  Standard bait, lures and flies work well on the hatchery-stocked fish.

Along the Way

There are a hatchery and hiking trails in the park.  Nevada's role in western expansion is highlighted in many historic homes and museums in Reno and Carson City.  Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Nevada mountains are nearby.

Floyd Lamb Park Pond

Just north of the city that never sleeps is Floyd Lamb Park Pond — a series of four ponds.  Only the upper pond is seasonally stocked with trout and catfish.  Several trophy-sized fish have been caught here.  Other species include crappies and bass.  Small spinners, Power Bait, salmon eggs and fly-fishing are effective for trout.  Improved day use areas with shade shelters, picnic tables and barbecues are available on a first-come, first-served basis.  Camping and floatation devices are prohibited.

Along the Way

Twenty miles south are the wonders of Las Vegas.  The Discovery Children's Museum and the Adventuredome add excitement for kids.


Tingley Beach Pond

Kids 12 and older require a fishing license.  Karl Moffatt, New Mexico Game and Fish, recommends Tingley Beach Children's Pond in Albuquerque, for 12 and under.  Trout are stocked in the winter and catfish are introduced in the summer.  Bait, other than live fish, and artificials will be successful here.  The larger Central Pond is for all ages and has handicapped provisions.  The third pond is fly and lure/catch and release only.  Only rental pedal boats are allowed.

Along the Way

In west Albuquerque, Petroglyph National Monument protects one of the largest petroglyph sites in North America, featuring designs and symbols carved onto volcanic rocks by Native Americans and Spanish settlers 400 to 700 years ago.

Trout Lakes

Moffatt also suggested uncrowded Trout Lakes located around 11 miles northeast of Cebolla (nearest source of supplies) off of Highway 84. Trout Lakes is a good option for fishermen of all skill levels, and there are no camping fees. The lakes are located in scenic mountain terrain.  Youngsters should find success with willing trout using bait or artificials.

Along the Way

The Cebolla Wilderness is rich in prehistoric archaeological sites and petroglyphs — remnants of the pre-Pueblo people.  Hiking is the only way to visit here.  High escarpments are fertile nesting grounds for several species of raptors.

Maloya Lake

Scenic 130-acre Maloya Lake lies northeast of Raton up in the cool forest of Sugarite Canyon State Park.  It is a very popular trout destination.  Gas-powered boats are not allowed.  Using Power Bait along the dam and by the boat dock should lead to success for youngsters.

Along the Way

Explore this very scenic state park.  The NRA Whittington Center in Raton is the nation's premier shooting facility.

Photo Courtesy of Shutterstock


Pioneer Park Pond

Utah licenses are required for 12 and older.   The state manages a Community Fishing Program for all, but especially for kids.  Constant stocking ensures success for youngsters.  Pioneer Park Pond in Brigham City is a 2.5-acre pond with a swimming pool, playground, covered picnic tables, restrooms and  wheelchair access. Youngsters will catch rainbows and a variety of other warm water fish.  Boating or floating are prohibited.

Along the Way

Brigham City has golf, summer festivals, history museums and a swimming pool.

Herriman Cove Springs Pond

In Herriman, Herriman Cove Springs Pond is a popular city fishing hole for all.  Bait and artificials will attract trout, catfish, bass, or sunfish.  Please release all bass.  There are handicap and many other comfort, picnic, and recreational facilities.

Along the Way

Golf, fishing, camping, and hiking abound throughout this region of Utah.  A myriad of spectacular scenic venues exists across the state as well.


Healy Reservoir

Wyoming does not manage waters specifically as Family Friendly Waters; however, there are plenty of kid friendly sites.  Fish and game officials recommend the following for family fishing adventures. Just northeast of Buffalo on highway 16 is Healy Reservoir.  It sits on private land so there is only a portable toilet there.  It is perfect for younger kids, especially in the spring, where yellow perch are the target.  Older kids will probably enjoy throwing jigs, spoons, or poppers for big bass and large tiger muskies.  Healy is also a very popular kids' ice-fishing destination.

Along the Way

Visit Buffalo's Memorial Museum and the Petrified forest education area.

Granite Springs Reservoir

Curt Gowdy State Park is between Laramie and Cheyenne, about 25 miles west of Cheyenne just off  I-80.  An access pass is required.  Granite Springs Reservoir offers excellent rainbow and kokanee fishing while Crystal Reservoir also contains brown trout. Perch will keep younger kids with worms and a bobber entertained.  Older kids can stalk or troll for trout or salmon.  Boat docks, good camping and a new visitor center are added attractions.

Along the Way

Visit Cheyenne and Laramie for great Cowboy State attractions and museums.

Get Your Fish On.

Plan your next fishing and boating adventure here.

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