Since 1881, Colorado Parks & Wildlife fish hatcheries have been dedicated to improving the fish populations of our beautiful state. Today, CPW operates 19 hatcheries that breed, hatch, rear and stock over 90 million fish per year. Many of the fish produced are to enhance angling opportunities, while others serve a critical role in native species recovery efforts. Colorado fish hatcheries support our angling pastime, which annually contributes 2.4 billion dollars to our state's economy!
Whether you’re an avid angler or just someone who enjoys the occasional weekend fishing trip, here are
11 “Fish Facts” that you should know about Colorado’s fisheries.
All hatcheries are open to the public 7 days a week, 365 days a year (including holidays). Some hatcheries offer self-guided tours, while others may have tour guides available during certain times of the year. Call ahead to learn what is offered at the hatchery you will be visiting. To enhance your experience, some educational materials are available at all hatcheries.
Tours for groups and schools must be arranged in as far in advance as possible. This will help ensure that a sufficient supply of educational materials is on hand and that your group has a coordinated, enjoyable experience.
Hatcheries are busy working environments. To make your visit as enjoyable and rewarding as possible, please observe these
hatchery viewing guidelines.
Take a walk through the operations of the Mt. Shavano State Fish Hatchery in Salida. Learn about the different stages of the life cycle of the fish, which are all destined to be stocked in public waters across Colorado.
Think all mountain fish stocking is done in the summer months? Think again. The current Hatchery Highlight features the Mt. Shavano crew sending catchable rainbow trout through the ice at Eleven Mile Reservoir.
Colorado hatcheries raise over 30 different species of fish and the boreal toad. Here are just a few of those species to prime your knowledge before making a visit:
Cutthroat trout- The only native trout to Colorado, cutthroats are stocked to aid in conservation efforts and to provide angling opportunities in high-altitude lakes and streams. Learn more about cutthroat trout conservation.
Rainbow trout- Native to the Pacific coast, these are a popular game fish in Colorado. CPW hatcheries stock over 2.5 million 10" rainbows (called "Catchables") into public lakes and rivers each year.
Kokanee salmon- Kokanee are the land-locked form of sockeye salmon that live in reservoirs throughout the higher elevations. Each fall, kokanee swim upriver to spawn, where CPW biologists collect millions of eggs to be hatched & raised in hatcheries. Those kokanee fingerlings are released back into the wild each spring to perpetuate their life cycle.
Walleye- Native to the northern tier states of the US and Canada, walleye are found in most of our eastern plains and Front Range lakes. In March and early April, CPW spawning operations harvest about 120 million walleye eggs. Their fry and fingerlings are stocked into Colorado's waters and traded to other states for other various species of fish.
Largemouth bass- First introduced to Colorado in1878, these fish are mainly stocked in Front Range waters. Some low elevation lakes on the western slope also receive fingerlings. More people fish for largemouth bass than any other species in the US.
Channel catfish- Native to eastern Colorado, channel catfish are but one of seven native sport fish in Colorado. About one million fingerlings are stocked into Colorado reservoirs annually.