On Golden Pond: Nate Crawford, Big Ed’s

Beautiful Lake Dillon in front of snow-capped mountains

“I absolutely love the water,” says Nate Crawford, owner/operator of Big Ed’s Fishing Ventures in Dillon. He grew up fishing on his grandfather’s 60-acre farm in Kentucky. “My grandpa had a little pay pond out in the middle of the sticks,” he says. “We’d fish these giant bass. That’s really where I started, and it prompted my love for the outdoors.”

Crawford moved to Summit County in 2006 and helped run Good Times Adventures snowmobile and dog sledding tours, and also managed and guided whitewater trips in the springs and summers. He moved over to Big Ed’s in 2009 as the owner/operator. “It started with one boat, two trips a day, and me running around answering the phone and getting the lines wet,” he laughs. “We feel really lucky that these days. We have three boats, and run trips four times a day.”

Crawford raves about the fish in Lake Dillon. “The fishery continues to get better year after year,” he says. “Wildlife biologists and tests done show bigger, more plentiful fish every year.” Rainbow trout, brown trout, kokanee salmon and arctic char swim in Lake Dillon, which is surrounded by the stunning Tenmile Range, the Buffalo Range and the Gore Range. “The kokanee are the brother to the Pacific sockeye salmon,” says Crawford. “Unlike the Pacific sockeye, the kokanee turn from a silver-sheen type coloration to a vibrant red sheen with green coloration. They’re very vibrant.” And the char, he explains, is only found in one other spot in the lower 48 states.

Those looking to take a charter trip on one of Big Ed’s boats, either a 22- or 24-foot pontoon boat holding four to six guests and one guide, can expect to be fishing within five minutes of leaving the Dillon Marina, says Crawford. “We talk about the surrounding mountains, the old buildings you can see in Dillon, and get folks fishing not long after they leave the slip,” he says. The charter guests either start off retrieval lure fishing, or with a trolling method. “That’s where we cast the lines behind the boat, cruise a mile an hour, pull the lures through the top of the water and hang out and eat a sandwich or just relax,” he says.

Whether troll fishing or lure fishing (where the boats are nudged deep into the river inlets where fresh, oxygenated water is coming into the lake), a Big Ed’s boat will explore much of Lake Dillon’s 28 miles of shoreline over the three-hour charter. “We love catch and release, but every licensed individual can keep up to four trout. At no extra charge, the guides will fillet them for you so they’re ready to go on the grill.”

“I love showing people new activities,” Crawford says of guiding. “It’s gratifying to show people a new way to hang out, to take it outside and enjoy time away from work. And to put them on fishing is amazing.”   

For more information, see fishcolorado.com and bigedsfishing.com.- Lisa Jhung

Photos by Bill Linfield/Town of Silverthorne