Trout Unlimited’s “Colorado Gold” shines conservation spotlight on Gold Medal trout waters


Growing coalition unites in effort to protect, restore and expand state’s Gold Medal fisheries

Trout Unlimited (TU) recently announced the launch of “Colorado Gold,” a new conservation campaign designed to change the way the angling community thinks about Colorado’s Gold Medal trout waters and the headwaters that sustain them.

Colorado is a treasure currently in high demand. And when it comes to quality trout fishing, the state’s signature Gold Medal waters offer up the motherlode. The 322 river miles and three lakes awarded Gold Medal status by Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) serve as the main attraction for anglers seeking out big trout, providing both inspiration and incentive for Colorado Gold.

“Colorado Parks and Wildlife does an incredible job of managing our fisheries, but our rivers, lakes and fish are seeing more pressure than ever before and our Gold Medal trout waters are on the front lines, facing the cumulative impacts of climate change, development, dewatering and seasonal overcrowding,” said Scott Willoughby, TU’s Colorado Gold campaign coordinator. “At the same time, we see opportunities alongside those threats. Through Colorado Gold, our goal is to work with state officials to expand the range and scope of Gold Medal water policy by organizing, educating and activating the thousands of trout fishing advocates who rely on these resources while supporting rural economies, respecting local interests and preserving the health of Colorado’s highest-quality cold-water habitats.”

The current allotment of Gold Medal water statewide is facing an unprecedented increase in popularity. By capitalizing on that rising interest, TU is channeling its resources into balancing the public’s awareness of the rewards and opportunities Gold Medal fisheries provide against the watershed-wide challenges they face.

To that end, TU recently launched the Colorado Gold website at The evolving site is designed to attract anglers with continuously refreshed content combining useful and accurate tips on fishing Gold Medal waters with information on TU’s efforts to protect, restore and improve those waters along with details on how to participate in the campaigns as members of the Colorado Gold Coalition.

With more than 40 business partners to date, Colorado Gold has already begun building a formidable coalition of anglers, outdoor enthusiasts and recreation businesses intent on working in collaboration with resource managers to expand protections for Gold Medal fisheries, increase access to Gold Medal trout waters, restore depleted fisheries and uphold the commitment of establishing Gold Medal waters as Colorado’s “highest quality cold-water habitat.”

“Colorado Gold provides an opportunity to bring some needed attention and additional resources to Gold Medal trout waters in Colorado,” said John Land LeCoq, founder and CEO of Fishpond, a Colorado Gold Coalition partner. “I live along the Blue River in Summit County and witnessed the decline of the fishery from a Gold Medal trout stream above Green Mountain Reservoir to eventually losing that designation in 2016, and I’ve seen the impact that’s had on the local fishing and guiding community. We need to figure out how to bring that fishery and habitat back to the Gold standard and make sure the same thing doesn’t happen to other Gold Medal waters in Colorado. This campaign can help get us there.”

Just as Colorado Gov. Jared Polis recently proclaimed that “42 state parks simply ain’t enough for a state our size,” 322 miles of Gold Medal water doesn’t accommodate a state offering almost 10,000 miles of fishable trout streams (and another 2,000 lakes). By restoring de-listed Gold Medal waters, improving habitat and addressing the threats facing existing Gold Medal fisheries, Colorado Gold is working to conserve enough high-quality habitat to merit a 30% increase in CPW’s Gold Medal trout waters by the year 2030. Strengthening protections for Gold Medal waters while expanding the geographic reach will help safeguard more Colorado fisheries while redistributing pressure on a currently limited resource.

“Within the angling community, Gold Medal designations set the standard for high quality trout fisheries across Colorado,” said David Nickum, Executive Director of Colorado Trout Unlimited. “By strengthening the protections surrounding Gold Medal waters, bringing declining fisheries back up to capacity, and recognizing other deserving rivers and lakes among Colorado’s signature trout waters, we can help CPW broaden the scope and raise the standards for trout fisheries statewide.”

With the launch of the Colorado Gold campaign, TU invites anyone interested in learning more about fishing the state’s Gold Medal trout waters and how to help protect them to visit and join the Colorado Gold Coalition. Registration is free, and while it’s not required to enter the site, it does offer access to exclusive content and premium product raffles from partners like Northwest River Supplies (NRS) and Denver-based Down River Equipment (DRE). Then join more than 12,000 TU members statewide in making the most of the treasure that is Colorado Gold.

Gold Medal waters are Colorado’s highest quality coldwater habitats and have the capability to produce many quality-size (14 inches or longer) trout. Colorado Parks and Wildlife may designate a water as Gold Medal once it has been demonstrated that the fishery consistently (1) produces a minimum trout standing stock of 60 pounds per acre and (2) produces a minimum average of 12 quality trout per acre. Gold Medal water designation can only be applied to waters of the State that are accessible for fishing by the general angling public. For a complete list of Colorado’s Gold Medal waters, visit


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