Fishing at Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area
The Arkansas River offers fishing opportunities for every type of angler -- from the river bank or from a boat. The Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area (AHRA) provides sites with access to some of the best fishing along with picnic tables, grills and views of the river and mountains. Refer to the AHRA Area Map for fishing access points. As the river makes its 150-mile journey from the headwaters of the Arkansas to Lake Pueblo, it can be a placid stream or a roaring river. Fishing will be better in the river’s calmer areas, but even if the river appears calm in spots, it has strong currents and care must be taken when wading. If you would like to take your fishing excursion with an outfitter, refer to this AHRA Fishing Outfitters List (PDF).
The trout population in the Arkansas is 90 percent self-reproducing brown trout and 10 percent Colorado River rainbows, which are introduced as fingerlings. Expect about 2,000 fish per mile on the average. The fishing is best when the flows are lower and the water is clear. Flows will vary during the year with Sept - April maintaining around 250-450 cfs. Runoff begins in mid-May, reaches its peak of around 3000 cfs in mid-June and maintains higher flows into July. This is also the peak of whitewater rafting, and anglers are advised to fish early morning or late afternoon and evening when there are less boaters. The flows typically start decreasing in late July as the snow pack in the high country diminishes, and we are back to 700-1000 cfs for July and into August.
For more information on current fishing conditions within the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area, please see “Arkansas River” in the Southeast Region in the Colorado Division of Wildlife's Fishing Report.
Certain sections of the river have special regulations, so be sure to look for posted signs. Respect the rights of the private landowners along the river by not trespassing, and be a good steward of the river.
Fishing regulations on the upper Arkansas River
a. From the Stockyard Bridge (CR 102) below Salida to the confluence with Badger Creek, 7.5 miles:
b. From the Highway 24 river overpass below Leadville, downstream to lower boundary of Hayden Ranch as posted: