Sports and Outdoors
It’s always surprising just how many people from other states are not aware that the temperature in New Mexico gets below zero.
When I tell them that, a look of disbelief comes over their faces. Perhaps it’s because on a map New Mexico is right next to Arizona, which people associate with warm winters and high temperatures.
Elevation plays a key role in our temperatures here. The lowest point in New Mexico is Red Bluff Reservoir south of Carlsbad. It’s still 2,844 feet above sea level. Most of New Mexico north of Interstate 40 is over a mile in elevation.
The lowest temperature ever recorded in New Mexico was minus-50 degrees in 1950 at Gavilan. You won’t find Gavilan on most maps. It’s a small settlement north of Lindrith in Rio Arriba County.
Here in the Espanola Valley, the temperature cratered in January of 1971. It hit minus-38 degrees. It was a life-threatening situation for some folks as gas lines lost pressure and some people were without heat. The battery in my truck froze and exploded when we tried to jump it. Apple trees and other fruit trees were killed by the cold.
More recently, in 2011 we had a blast of Arctic air in February drop temperatures below zero. To make matters worse, the Gas Company shut off gas to Espanola, Taos and other communities here in northern New Mexico. For days we shivered and used wood stoves, electric heaters, small gas heaters and did whatever we could to try to keep our houses warm.
We can still experience below zero temperatures in the spring. The coldest temperature ever recorded in the lower 48 states in April was at Eagle Nest, NM April 5, 1945 when the temperature dropped to a bone-chilling minus-36 degrees.
With temperatures dropping to well-below zero this week in the Moreno Valley where Eagle Nest Lake is located, it shouldn’t be long before it and other lakes in Northern New Mexico have ice thick enough to allow for ice fishing. A phone call on Monday said the ice at Eagle Nest was still not safe enough to fish on. Anglers should call (575) 377-1594 to check on conditions.
A phone call to Fenton Lake State Park confirmed that Fenton Lake is frozen over. The lake is closed to ice fishing. Call 575.829.3630 for current conditions. Nearby Seven Springs Brood Pond was starting to freeze last week and may be frozen over now.
Lake Maloya at Sugarite Canyon State Park near Raton was freezing over with ice extending out from the shoreline. It is closed to ice fishing, as is Lake Alice at Sugarite Canyon State Park. Lake Maloya was stocked Dec. 11 with 1,777 rainbow trout. Call 575.445.5607 for current conditions.
Other lakes may also be freezing over. Thin ice has been forming at Monastery Lake near Pecos that melts during the day. The fishing has been good. If this lake does freeze over, ice fishing is never allowed here.
Storrie Lake near Las Vegas may be freezing over and it has not been stocked recently. There have been no reports here and the fishing is likely pretty slow.
There were no reports from Santa Cruz Lake near Chimayo. Thin ice may be forming here in the morning. This lake is at a lower elevation and doesn’t usually freeze over. The temperature is expected to go back up to the 50’s later this week and this might be a good spot to try over the weekend.
Most of the smaller streams are becoming icy. The best stream fishing now is on the larger rivers, especially below dams. The Chama River below Abiquiu Dam gave up a 26-inch rainbow trout last week and there also are some big brown trout here. The streamflow Tuesday was 292 cubic-feet-per-second, which is more than last week but still a good level for fishing. The limit here is two-fish-per-day
There were no reports from the Chama River below El Vado Dam. Heavy snow in this area may be keeping anglers away.
The streamflow in the Rio Grande Tuesday was 365 cubic-feet-per-second, which was down from Monday when it was 510 cubic-feet-per-second. Floating ice can be a problem on the Rio Grande. It was stocked Dec. 11 in the Pilar area with 2,001 rainbow trout. It was also stocked above Pilar with 250 rainbow trout. The fishing in the Rio Grande could pick up later this week as temperatures warm up.
The fishing in the Red River below Questa has been good, but it has been cold in the Questa area and the banks are likely icy.
The fishing in the Pecos River has been good. The Pecos River between Pecos and Cowles is likely starting to get icy. The Pecos River at Villanueva State Park below the town of Pecos and Interstate 25 is now being stocked with rainbow trout.
Over in the Four Corners area, the San Juan River below Navajo Dam was flowing Tuesday at 577 cubic-feet-per-second. The fishing in the Quality Water has been fair-to-good with a variety of fly patterns. No report on the Bait Water, where it should be at least fair.
There have been no reports from Lake Farmington or Jackson Lake. They were both recently-stocked. Lake Farmington was stocked Dec. 9 with 2,445 rainbow trout. Lake Jackson was stocked Dec. 9 with 815 rainbow trout. The fishing should be at least fair.
No reports from Navajo Lake, so the kokanee salmon snagging season is likely over. The best fishing at Navajo now is probably for rainbow trout. In years past anglers would troll lures like Rapalas at Navajo during the winter and catch some very big trout.
The fishing has been good for catfish at Cochiti Lake using cut bait.
Tingley Beach in Albuquerque was stocked twice last week with a total of 2,400 rainbow trout. The fishing here has been good for these stocked trout.
The drainage canals in the Albuquerque area are now being stocked with rainbow trout. The fishing in the Albuquerque, Albuquerque South, Belen Riverside, Bernalillo, Corrales Riverside and Peralta drains has been fair-to-good.
The best fishing at Elephant Butte Lake right now is likely for catfish.
The Rio Grande below Elephant Butte Lake was stocked Dec. 10 with 650 rainbow trout. The flow here is very low and the fish confined to the deeper pools.
There is some good trout fishing in the Ruidoso area in Southeastern New Mexico. Alto Lake has been fair-to-good for rainbow trout. Grindstone Reservoir has been good for rainbow trout.
In Southwestern New Mexico, the trout fishing has been good at Bill Evans Lake near Silver City. It was stocked Dec. 9 with 1,634 rainbow trout. No reports from Lake Roberts near silver City. It should be at least fair for rainbow trout with the possibility of catching a Gila trout here.