Crystal Lake in Colorado is one of the most idyllic freshwater mountain lakes in the United States. If you're traveling nearby or live within a hundred miles, this is one fishing spot you don't want to miss!
It’s located about six miles south of Ouray, Colorado, on the west side of US Highway 550. Crystal Lake is a small lake about 1060 ft. by 760 ft. It holds a population of rainbow trout, making fishing exciting in this lake in the middle of nowhere. So, if you are looking for a laid-back leisurely fishing spot that is easily accessible to anyone in a vehicle or on a bicycle, then this Crystal Lake Colorado fishing guide is going to be great reading!
It’s also worth noting that the lake is on public land that is part of the Arkansas River Headwaters Recreation Area. There is no extra fee to fish here, as long as you have your Colorado State recreational fishing license.
If you're looking for the best time for fishing in Crystal Lake then you want the summer months when the water is warm enough for the fish to move around. The months of May through September are the best months of the year to go here for fishing, but for the views, you might prefer to go in the dead of Winter to see the snow and snow-capped mountain peaks surrounding the area.
Just remember to carry your damselflies and an assortment of flies because only artificial flies and lures are legal 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. Let's dive in and see what it's all about!
Where Is Crystal Lake Colorado Fishing Location?
Crystal Lake is located right alongside the Million Dollar Highway (U.S. Highway 550), just a half-hour drive south from the tiny city of Ouray, Colorado, and just north of Silverton.
If you’re driving from Denver, plan to spend at least a day or two fishing and driving that 25-mile stretch of highway, often called 'the most beautiful stretch of highway in America'.
Crystal Lake is about a five-hour drive from the town of Colorado Springs. It’s worth it for most people to drive a long way, even across the country, to see the highway and this picture-perfect little fishing lake. The beautiful scenery can be captured on camera for hours, it can really make the trip worthwhile!
Crystal Lake is a beautiful lake with excellent fly fishing opportunities. You’ll see snow-covered mountain peaks, evergreen trees, and leaves changing colors in fall if you're there during that magical time. Although Crystal Lake isn’t the only lake to appear in a Colorado fly fishing guide, adventurous anglers who want to see fantastic scenery and catch trout will agree that this lake is worth the trip.
Fish Species Available in Crystal Lake
Crystal Lake is fed by nearby springs and streams and is a lovely spot to fish for various species of trout like cutthroats, rainbows, and brook trout. If you happen to keep your fly fishing rod in your vehicle and are passing by and want to try your luck at catching various fish species like trout and perch, this lovely lake provides you with that rare opportunity.
Best Time of Year to Fish in Crystal Lake, Colorado
Some winter conditions around Ouray County are quite harsh and may mean that fishing or even driving to the lake can be dangerous or even downright impossible. The best time of year to fish in Crystal Lake is after the spring thaw and the ground and water have returned from their icy state and the lake and skies are filled with life and hunger from the long winter.
The warmest months of summer are the best time to fish here and at any lake in the area. Since only artificial lures are allowed here, you should talk to some local anglers to find out what flies are hatching and which lures to be casting in the water to increase your chances of catching more fish.
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Best Weekend to Fish in Colorado?
The first full weekend of June each and every year is a ‘free fishing weekend’! You don’t need a license to fish this weekend. Check your calendar!
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. It's probably still worth it to go! Be sure to know all you can about the fishing season, what's biting, what they prefer to eat, and what the weather is like so you don’t waste your time going at the wrong 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. when the sun is hitting the water and there is the most insect and fish activity on the lake. If the water remains warm in the late afternoon, fish will also continue to feed up until dark.
Spring and Fall
Clear Creek offers fantastic fishing during the spring and fall months. Spring is an excellent time to plan a visit to the area with a stop at Crystal Lake. There are several fish hatches in the spring and fall that make it a great time to fish in this lake. If you're really serious about fishing and catching, come during the warm part of the year and fish the warm part of the day during Spring and Fall and you'll catch fish on your fly rod.
Summer warms the water the most at Crystal Lake, but some fish may have a slow start to their day and not be ready at the break of dawn like you are. For the best results, fish from mid-morning to mid-afternoon, or about 9 am. to 4 pm. If the water is warm in the morning like it usually is during late summer, 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 reach freezing temperatures (-32°F) early in winter and the poor fishing conditions will continue until the spring thaw begins in April or May.
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 your flies and a pair of waders if you like, and go catch some fish! Try casting nymphs and streamers to get a feel for what the fish are interested in during the time you are there.
Crystal Lake is actually a large pond and not even a lake, so you can expect a lot of fishing on the shore and there's no need to really walk into the water. You can fish with just your waist waders, but you might enjoy the warmth that chest waders can provide in the cool air.
Try fishing with some of your favorite flies and streamers to see if you are able to catch some fish. It is fine to fish Crystal Lake without a heavy outfit, just an 8 – 10 foot rig rated for 6 lb. or less will suffice. Remember, this is not a big lake and fish here will not be lunker size!
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. We cover some of the essentials below but do keep in mind that you are responsible for knowing all of the rules for fishing in the area.
Badges and Licenses
All anglers (adults and children) must have a day pass or a fishing license for residents or non-resident anglers in order to legally fish at this Colorado lake.
Rates for Fishing Licenses
Keep in mind, the rates for fishing licenses can change each year. There are specific rates for all ages and categories of anglers and you'll need to see which one you fit into to find out your fees for fishing in the state.
There are 1-day rates for the current year of ($15 resident, $18 non-resident), 5-day rates (non-res. $34), extra day rates ($7 res. and non-res.), and annual ($37 res., $103 non-res.) and lifetime passes for both resident and non-resident anglers interested in fishing in the many freshwater locations in Colorado.
There are significant discounts for seniors, children, veterans, and those with disabilities. I encourage you to go straight to the Colorado Fishing License office online at the link below to see what discounts you may qualify for.
It is required to have a Colorado Fishing License to fish in Crystal Lake. You need to arrange this beforehand as there is no office on-site to register and pay your fees. All persons 16 years old or older must have a Colorado Fishing License to fish in the lakes, rivers and streams of CO.
Bring your fly fishing rod for optimal fishing in this amazing setting. Rubber boots or waist waders may be used to keep dry, the bank can be wet and slippery. Bring all gear necessary to catch small trout or bass. A simple 7-foot pole with a fly line or for spinning rods will work well. The lighter the action, the better. A simple 1000-2000 rated fishing reel is sufficient for the small fish in these alpine lakes high in the mountains.
A fishing vest and lanyard filled with your usual gear will be appreciated as you cycle through flies or other artificials to see what the fish are biting that day.
If it's winter, you should be prepared for snow storms, hail, rain, and even landslides. Stock extra food and water, an emergency phone, or a GPS system to help you get out of any jam. Remember there are bears and mountain lions around, and you may want to ensure you have some bear spray close at hand.
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Fishing success at Crystal Lake in Colorado can vary in some years as the lake appears to be fished out after a lot of fishing pressure during especially busy seasons.
You can look at Crystal Lake, a huge pond or a small lake. Either way, it's not going to hold massive fish and you're not going to catch a Colorado record-size fish here! Still, this is some of the most beautiful country the United States has to offer. This is a very accessible lake for anyone in a vehicle and there is a parking area close to the lake.
Make sure you have the proper fishing licenses for anyone with a line in the water and take care to leave the place just as it was in its pristine state when you arrived. Take care not to use live or dead bait, and only use artificial lures and flies.
If you would, practice catch and release so this small fishery can continue to exist and provide sporting entertainment for thousands more people over the years. Small lakes like this can easily become overfished and there is little regulation here, only when the rangers decide to go have a look.
Oh, and one other thing! There are private lakes named Crystal Lake which you may find when you search online for this location. We are not covering any private location in this article, only the public lake located at these GPS coordinates: 37.95832449071744, -107.66504140504142.
Good luck with your fishing adventure and please let us know how it went. We'd love to hear about it in the comments!