Makayla Salazar, the first person to catch a fish in Lake Nighthorse, is too young to remember the construction of the long-awaited lake.
Lake Nighthorse was approved by Congress in 1968 to fulfill a water rights settlement with Native American tribes, but work on the $560 million project did not start until 2003.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife declined to oversee the lake in 2008, prompting the city to assume management of it in 2009 – the same year water started flowing into the reservoir.
Salazar was one of many children on Saturday crowding the shores of the lake to catch fish in celebration of Lake Nighthorse’s opening.
The city planned the event for kids 15 years old and under with special permission from Colorado Parks and Wildlife because Lake Nighthorse doesn’t officially open until Sunday.
“The kids are really being quite successful today,” said Parks and Recreation Director Cathy Metz.
Jordan Davin, 12, caught his very first fish in Lake Nighthorse. He described himself as a catch-and-release fisherman.
“This lake is awesome,” he said. “But I don’t like eating them because they’re an innocent animal.”
His brother, Eli, 13, did not share the same sentiments regarding fish.
“We are poor people; we eat the fish,” he joked.
The Davins, who live in Red Mesa, have been eagerly awaiting the opening of the lake.
“All four of my kids caught a fish,” said Sasha Davin. “This lake is close to home, not really expensive and something we can all do together.”
Bryan Montgomery, 15, reeled in two fish before noon. He released the second trout because it was too small to eat.
“I’ve been waiting for this lake to open,” he said. “I love it. It’s really exciting.”