By GEORGE MORSE
Sports and Outdoors
Los Alamos Daily Post
After a brief period of cold weather with temperatures dropping down into the teens here in the Espanola Valley and in some mountain towns single digits, the weather has fallen back into a pattern of dry with above-average temperatures. This is not good news for the ski areas or for the winter snowpack. Some ski areas will open on a very limited basis with a base of man-made snow. Others are still waiting for more snow. The snow survey by the National Resources Conservation Service shows that all of their reporting stations report below-average (some well-below average) snowpacks for this time of year.
The kokanee salmon snagging at Heron Lake is reported as slow and has been since the season opened Nov. 11. I strongly believe the low water levels at Heron have severely impacted the kokanee fishery here. Kokanee are a coldwater fish and the low water levels have limited the amount of coldwater habitat for them. Also, Heron Lake has a population of lake trout, another coldwater species which preys heavily on kokanee salmon. The smaller volume of coldwater habitat concentrates the kokanee into a smaller area and they are subject to heavy predation by the lake trout.
Until they are able to raise the water levels at Heron Lake, I expect the kokanee fishery to continue to suffer. This once-great kokanee fishery needs a shot in the arm in the form of a deep snowpack and heavy spring runoff. Unfortunately, that may not happen this winter.
That said, Heron Lake is still one of the better destinations for a fishing trip this time of year. The bank fishing for rainbow trout is still pretty good and they are primarily good-sized holdover fish. I’m surprised there are no reports of small lake trout being caught from the bank at Heron, as they should be moving into shallow water as the temperature drops.
Another reason to go to Heron Lake is the fishing in the Chama River above El Vado Lake remains good. It’s a bit of a hike down to the river from Heron Dam, but it’s nearly always worth the walk. Every trip I’ve taken down there this year has yielded at least one big trout, either a brown trout and/or a rainbow trout.
The fishing in the Chama River below El Vado Dam continues to be good, although streamflows here are running above normal. The streamflow below Abiquiu Dam continues to be well above normal. The fishing here will not improve until they cut back the streamflow below Abiquiu Dam.
The bass and walleye have moved into deeper water at Abiquiu Lake and you’ll need a boat to find them. They should start to catch some trout from the bank at Abiquiu Lake. It was recently stocked with fingerling (3-4 inch) rainbow trout. You might try a lure that resembles a small rainbow trout near where they did the stocking.
The fishing at Fenton Lake picked up last week. Fenton Lake has been stocked with rainbow trout the last two weeks and that’s the likely reason for the improved fishing there. They’ve also been stocking the Jemez River and the fishing there has been good.
The streamflow in the Rio Grande came up a lot last week, possibly because the irrigation season in the San Luis Valley of Colorado has ended and they are no longer taking water out of the river. That has slowed the fishing down a little bit. Once the streamflow stabilizes it should be pretty good.
The bank fishing at Eagle Nest Lake for rainbow trout is fair and they’re still catching a few northern pike. Eagle Nest is the premier ice fishing destination in the state once it freezes over enough for safe fishing conditions. With the warm temperatures, the bank fishing may last a bit longer than normal and the ice fishing start a little later than normal at Eagle Nest.
The fishing at Lake Maloya near Raton is still pretty good. Here again, the warm temperatures will likely delay the icing over of this lake. Storrie Lake near Las Vegas is also worth a try. The streamflows in the Pecos River are low and clear. The fishing has been pretty good. Try drifting nymphs if you’re a fly fisherman. Monastery Lake near Pecos has been very good and this lake is heavily stocked.
Navajo Lake is still fair for bass and northern pike, but you need a boat here to really cover the water. There are some big brown trout in Navajo Lake and they should be active now that the water has cooled down.
The streamflow in the San Juan River below Navajo Dam is at a very comfortable level for fishing and it has been good in the Quality Waters. You can usually find a little more elbow room on the Quality Waters this time of year. The fishing below the Quality Waters is also good and does not receive the fishing pressure that the Quality Water does.
The quail season is now open. Although there is very limited hunting for quail here in Northern New Mexico, there can be excellent quail hunting in the southern part of the state. New Mexico is possibly the only state where you can harvest four different species of quail. Bobwhite quail, scaled quail, Gambel’s quail and Montezuma quail inhabit different areas of the state. A good spot for bobwhite and scaled quail is the Mescalero Sands area east of Roswell. For Gambel’s, the area south of Deming can be good. You can find Montezuma quail in the foothills of the San Mateo Mountains between Socorro and Truth or Consequences. I hope to take a quail hunting trip this winter and try to bag a Gambel’s quail and a Montezuma quail. I’ve already bagged bobwhite and scaled quail. A Montezuma and a Gambel’s will complete my “Grand Slam” of New Mexico quail.