By GEORGE MORSE
Los Alamos Daily Post
Sports and Outdoors
As the writer of a weekly fishing report, I draw on my experience of 50 years fishing the lakes, rivers and streams of Northern New Mexico. I also use several websites as sources of information. Among them are the United States Geological Survey, where I can find out about streamflows. This information can be very useful. One example is the Rio Grande, where the annual caddis hatch is drawing fly fishermen. On Monday (4/9), the flow in the Rio Grande was 257 cubic-feet- per second. Great for fly fishing.
On Wednesday (4/11) the flow was over 700 cubic-feet- per second. In two days, the flow had nearly tripled and the water had turned very murky. Some anglers reported it as tan-colored. Not very good conditions at all. I had actually expected the Rio Grande to rise, but I was surprised at how quickly it happened.
It also helps to monitor streamflows below El Vado and Abiquiu Dams on the Chama River. Here, the streamflows are dependent on how much water they are releasing below the Dam. With the irrigation season starting, streamflows are likely to be heavy. Really heavy flows can result in difficult if not nearly impossible fishing conditions. However, they sometimes cut back the flows during the summer.
Last year, I noticed that the streamflow in the Chama River had been lowered in late June after weeks of heavy streamflows below Abiquiu Dam. I figured this would be a prime time to fish below Abiquiu Dam. To make a long story short, I hooked and landed a 25-inch brown trout.
The other website I frequently check is the Weekly Fishing and Stocking Report by the New Mexico State Department of Game and Fish (NMDGF). This Report tells you how anglers are doing and what they’re using at lakes and rivers throughout the state. Since I already have my preferred methods of fishing and will often go fishing at a spot where I have a hunch the fishing might be good despite reports to the contrary, I take the fishing report with a grain of salt.
The stocking report tells you where and when catchable-size rainbow trout have been stocked by the Department. Many anglers will use this report to decide where they will go fishing. I prefer to fish spots that have not been recently-stocked because it increases the chances that any fish you hook will be a wild or holdover trout.
For several years now, the Department has periodically stocked bigger-than- average rainbow trout in selected lakes across the state. Anglers wishing to hook bigger fish will often targets these spots. This offers many anglers a chance to hook a big trout that many would not normally have in the waters they like to fish. It keeps more anglers happy and overall has been a positive program. To most anglers, a big fish is a big fish and they don’t care that it was raised in a hatchery and its tail and fins are all ragged and worn down by the concrete walls of the hatchery.
Finally, be sure and check the weather report. This past week, strong winds were forecast for later this week. Today (Thursday (4/12) the wind is really blowing hard. The wind reported at Taos was a sustained 41 miles-per- hour. This will make fly-fishing the Rio Grande really difficult if not impossible today.
Every now and then, I will check the National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Snow Survey to see what our snow depths are in the mountains and what kind of spring runoff from the melting snow to expect. Last year, the reports were very encouraging because of the heavy snowpack. This year after a very dry winter, those same reports are disappointing if not downright depressing. It looks like low streamflows and falling water levels in the reservoirs will be the norm this season.
Last Friday (4/6) I took my first fishing trip of the new season to Abiquiu Lake. I had been saying in my latest fishing reports that the walleye should start biting soon and that there was the possibility of catching a big trout at Abiquiu Lake. I decided to find out if I was right. That day, the wind wasn’t blowing too hard and I went fishing that afternoon. I like to drive across Abiquiu Dam and hike down to the Canones Arm of the lake where Canones Creek used to flow into the Chama River.
I don’t own a boat, so I fish from the bank. There is a lot of bank at Abiquiu that would be very unproductive to fish from. The area I like has a lot of shallow water with deeper water nearby. The shallow water warms up quicker this time of year and attracts fish. It promotes weed growth, which produces food for the walleye and trout, as well as the smallmouth bass that also are found in Abiquiu.
Upon arriving, I noticed that the water level was a lot lower than it had been. What was an island a week ago I could now walk out to without getting my feet wet. I was using one of my favorite methods for this time of year, which is drifting a nightcrawler beneath a bobber.
I wasn’t getting any bites initially, but then had a bite but missed it. The fish were close to the bank, which is not unusual this time of year. I was fishing late in the afternoon. Finally, I hooked a fish. Initially, I thought it was a walleye because it didn’t fight that hard. It turned out to be a smallmouth bass of 13 inches. Since I like fried bass filets, I decided to keep it since it was of legal size (12 inches). Another bass would make for a nice dinner.
The next bite I had was really close to the bank, probably less than 20 feet. This fish immediately tore line off the reel and then jumped out of the water probably 30 yards from where I had hooked it. It was a big trout. I had hooked the fish on my light 5-foot, 6-inch spinning rod that’s rated between four-to- eight pound test line. I had six-pound test line spooled on the reel, so I couldn’t horse this fish in. It put up a valiant fight, but it was well-hooked. The drag on the reel did its job, giving the fish line when it made its strong runs, but keeping enough pressure on it to tire it out. After a while, I was able to lead it into shallow water where I was able to grab it behind the gills. It felt firm and strong in my hands.
It was a beautiful, silvery rainbow trout. Rainbow trout are stocked in Abiquiu as small fish about 3-4 inches long and they grow big on the natural foods in the lake. This gives them all the great qualities of wild trout. They have deep orange meat, are strong fighters and have clean, beautiful fins.
I have a 15-inch ruler that I use at Abiquiu to measure the bass and walleye (there’s a 14-inch size limit for walleye). This fish was much longer than that. Taking two measurements, I was able to come up with a length of about 21 inches.
So I had been correct about the possibility of hooking a big trout at Abiquiu. I did not catch a walleye. There were reports of some nice walleye being hooked by anglers trolling crank baits last week. I expect the walleye fishing to get better as the water warms up a little bit more. I plan on returning to Abiquiu soon to see if that happens.
The trout made a great dinner baked in the oven two days later. The bass filets were a good lunch the day before.
The sun was setting so I started to hike back to the truck. One of the things I like about fishing this spot is it requires a short but steep hike out. At 70 years old, it’s nice to know I can still do it. I always thank the Lord for seeing me to the top one more time. One advantage to being 70 years old is I now get a free fishing license.
Now is a good time to fish Abiquiu Lake. You’ll likely catch some bass and there is the definite possibility of hooking a big trout or a walleye. They have planted yellow perch in Abiquiu and they should start to bite soon. Later this year, the trout will go back to deeper water as the shallow water gets too warm for them. There are also catfish in Abiquiu and fishing at night in the warmer months for cats can be productive.
It was a day that reminded me of why I still look forward to going fishing. I look forward to more days spent enjoying the outdoors here in the beautiful state that I live in.