Crystal Lake Colorado Fishing Guide

Crystal Lake Colorado is a beautiful lake that sits in the shadow of the highest peaks of the Rocky Mountain, Mt. Massive, and Mt. Elbert. It’s located about six miles south of Leadville, Colorado, on the west end of US 24. Crystal Lake holds a great trout population and Rainbow Trout, making fishing exciting in this lake. So, if you are looking for a leisure fishing spot that is consistent and highly accessible for drivers, then Crystal Lake Colorado fishing spot is your ideal place.

It’s also worth noting that the lake is on public land within the Arkansas River Headwaters Recreation Area. Therefore, you won’t be required to pay any fee to fish here as long as you have your Colorado fishing license. The best time for fishing in Crystal Lake is the end of May through September. Just remember to carry your damsel flies since only artificial flies and lures are accepted here. This guide highlights everything you need to know about fly fishing in Crystal Lake, Colorado, including when to go, the available fish species, what to take, necessary fishing regulations, and more. 

Where is Crystal Lake Colorado Fishing Location?

Crystal Lake is located off the Million Dollar Highway, just a half-hour drive from the city of Ouray, Colorado. If you’re driving from Denver, plan to spend at least a few days fishing during your visit. Crystal Lake is about a five-hour drive from the town of Colorado Springs. It’s worth taking a trip out to Crystal Lake, even if you have to drive a long distance to get there. The beautiful scenery around Crystal Lake is worth your while, no matter your distance to the lake.

Crystal Lake is a beautiful lake with excellent fly fishing opportunities. You’ll see beautiful peaks and evergreen trees as you cast for that classic Colorado catch. Although Crystal Lake isn’t the first lake to appear in a Colorado fly fishing guide, anglers who want to see fantastic scenery and catch good fish will agree that this lake is worth the trip.

Crystal Lake Iconic Scenery
Crystal Lake Iconic Scenery

Fish Species Available in Crystal Lake

Crystal Lake is fed from nearby springs and is a lovely spot to fish for various species of trout like cutthroats, rainbows, and brook trout. If you don’t have proper fishing equipment but still want to fish for different species of fish like trout and perch, Crystal Lake provides you with that rare opportunity.

RELATED: How To Fish A San Juan Worm

Best Time of Year to Fish in Crystal Lake, Colorado

Some winter conditions in Ouray County can mean you can’t fish in Crystal Lake for many months. It’s best to fish in Crystal Lake when the springs are thawing or wait until summer is here. Talk to local anglers to find out what fish are hatching at what time and what lures you should be casting in the water.

Best Time of Day to Fish in Crystal Lake Colorado

If you fish at the wrong time of day, you’ll be rewarded with some great views but no fish. Be sure to know the fishing season ahead, so you don’t waste your time angling at inappropriate time. The best time to fish in Crystal Lake during the summer is about mid-morning to mid-afternoon or from 9 am to 4 pm. But if the water is warm enough, fish will hit at sunrise and stay well into the evening.

Spring and Fall

Clear Creek offers very good fishing during the spring and fall months. Spring is an excellent time to fish Crystal Lake. There are several fish hatches in the spring and fall that make it a great time to fish in this lake. Moreover, fish will take a variety of flies to catch in the spring and summer, so don’t be afraid to fish at any time during the off-season. Pick the warmest time to fish Crystal Lake in spring and fall to catch the most fish.


Summer brings the warmest water to Crystal Lake, but some fish may have a slow start to their day. You should be fishing from mid-morning to mid-afternoon, or about 9 am to 4 pm. If the water is warm, fish start to bite at sunrise and continue to bite late in the afternoon.


Crystal Lake is not a great fishing spot in the winter, especially during cold weather. It can be freezing in southwest Colorado, making for poor fishing conditions unless you change your fly rod and reel for ice fishing equipment.

Fisherman with a big trout
Fisherman with a big trout

The Right Gear to Carry to Crystal Lake

Fishing in Crystal Lake in Ouray County offers some of the best fishing experiences in the surrounding area. Grab fly flies and a wader to catch some fish. Try casting nymphs and streamers to get a feel for what the lake has to offer.

Crystal Lake is actually a large pond and not a lake, so you can expect a lot of fishing on the shore. You can fish with just your waist waders, but you might enjoy the warmth of chest waders. Fish with some of your favorite flies and streamers to try and catch some fish. It is fine to fish Crystal Lake without a heavy outfit, just an 8 – 10 foot rig weighing just over 6 pounds. If you’re fishing for big fish but having difficulty fishing them, try using a smaller rig.

Crystal Lake’s Fishing Regulations 

You can find the full list of Crystal Lake fishing regulations on the Crystal Lakes (CL) Website or in the CL Office. But in a nutshell, here are the regulations to take note of before you head there:

Badges and Licenses

All renters (adults and children) must have a guest pass before they can fish. Renters must acquire the Guest Pass from Lone Pine to the Crystal Lakes Office to buy fishing passes. The Lake office in Crystal Lakes (located at 300 Tami Road) provides several ways to purchase fishing passes. The Crystal Lakes Office is open Monday through Saturday from 9 am to 5:00 pm and on Sundays between 11 am and 11:30 am. However, Lone Pine has a limited issuance fishing passes on days that the Crystal Lakes Office remains closed. It is necessary to bring cash to purchase your fishing pass.

Rates for Guest Passes Each Day:

  • Kids 6 and under: Free with a paying adult guest.
  • The daily guest pass allows anglers to fish from midnight to midnight daily. 
  • Adults over 16 years of age: $40.00 per day.
  • Children from 7-15 years old: $20.00 per day.
  • Renters must be able to show that they have valid fishing permits and the Guest Pass provided by the Lone Pine Office at all times while fishing.
  • You must carry your pass with you at all times while you are fishing.

It is not required to have a Colorado Fishing License to fish in any of the lakes or ponds on Crystal Lakes property. But those who are 16 years old or older must have a Colorado Fishing License to fish in the lakes and streams.

Necessary Equipment

  • Boats and float tubes are allowed on Crystal Lake, but only on the lakes. Boats must have at least one (1) life jacket for each person on board.
  • Fishing with gasoline-powered equipment is not allowed on Crystal Lake. 
  • One (1) rod and a maximum of two (2) hooks 
  • Maximum of three (3) fish per day.
  • No live bait fish are allowed, except for worms, grasshoppers, and leeches.
  • Do not continue to fish if you’re reached your limit. 
  • No type of vehicle is allowed on the shores.
  • Children under the age of 6 who catch fish on a free child guest pass will be added to the accompanying adult’s bag limit.

Sportsman Areas Regulations

Sportsman Areas include:

  • All streams within the Crystal Lakes Colorado boundaries.
  • Cutthroat Pond, Crystal Park (located on the west of Crystal Lake), and Catawba Pond

Sportsman areas are strictly catch-and-release; any fish caught in these areas must be immediately released. Anyone who catches a fish while fishing in sportsman areas is considered to have caught a fish in the restricted area. The penalty for this violation is $150 plus $25 for each fish the angler has in his possession.

It is strictly prohibited to fish with live baits, and you should use only artificial flies and lures. You may not use more than two treble hook flies in a row or fish a single lure that is tied to two separate lines. The use of barbless hooks is strongly recommended. Here are some additional regulations to observe:

  • Touch a fish with wet hands and on wet surfaces to keep it from losing its slime to your hands.
  • Support the fish horizontally and not by its jaws. Do not try to squeeze or touch the fish’s gills. 
  • Catch and release is encouraged in all areas of the lake.
  • Keep the fish in the water or a wet net for as long as possible, and release it quickly when it is ready.
  • Never remove a fishing hook from a fish by ripping it out. If it is difficult to remove a hook because it will be swallowed or it becomes difficult to remove, simply cut your line. Fish will naturally spit out the hook in a day or two.
  • Put the fish in the water gently, sitting on its belly, and wait until it swims.

Crystal Lake’s Security

Crystal Lakes Security, Fishing Patrol, and Board members have the authority to take your fishing permits and rescind citations if they are violated. Please corporate with them and be courteous to make the day pleasant for everyone!

Fishing violations in Crystal Lakes are subject to rules and regulations formulated by the Crystal Lakes Road & Recreation Association (CLRRA) Panel. Any fines that a renter incurs will be billed directly to them.

Fines & Penalties for Violation

  • Possession of fish that have been caught using a Sportsman’s fishing rod in a catch-and-release area costs $150.
  • Fishing with more than one fishing rod is $50. 
  • Possession of more than one fishing rod while fishing $50. 
  • Fishing without a valid permit (not in the lakes): $150.
  • Fishing after being denied fishing privileges: $150.
  • Using a boat or float tube to travel by any lake other than Crystal Lake (excluding the lake) is $50.
  • Possession of a gas motor on a boat while in Crystal Lake $50. 
  • Violation of a Fishing Area Policy of a Sportsman Area $150.
  • Fishing after the daily limit is cleared (including giving away fish) attracts a fee of $50.
  • Fishing more than your daily limit (for EACH fish in possession) may result in a penalty of $25 per fish.

In addition to Crystal Lake’s fines, violations may result in prosecution as allowed by Colorado State Law and/or the Colorado Division of Wildlife.

Wrapping Up

Fishing success at Crystal Lake Colorado varies greatly each year because it is very small and very few trout are planted. We strongly recommend that anglers fish all the walk-in lakes of Quincy, MA, to maximize their catch. This lake is excellent for trout fishing, with some anglers catching fish that are up to 20 inches.

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Brian Hopkins

Brian is an outdoor writer and the youngest member of our team, but he is extremely knowledgeable when it comes to fishing and different techniques for catching different species. He shares valuable information that the younger generation can relate to. When he is not fishing, you can find him hanging with his friends and gaming on his computer.

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