By GEORGE MORSE
Sports And Outdoors
Los Alamos Daily Post
New Mexico’s State Parks remain open for day use to New Mexico residents only.
Lakes in Northern New Mexico are starting to freeze-up, but in most cases the ice is not yet thick enough to allow ice fishing. Now is a good time to plan a trip to Southern New Mexico. The weather is usually warmer. State parks are a little less-crowded, as are National Parks and Monuments.
The state Game and Fish Department stocks many of the small municipal lakes and ponds with catchable-size rainbow trout between 9-12 inches long during the winter. In most cases, these waters will not support trout through the hot summers. Only a handful of lakes in the Gila National Forest around Silver City and the Lincoln National Forest around Ruidoso are able to sustain trout the year-around.
If you are a small-game hunter, Southern New Mexico offers excellent quail hunting. New Mexico is one of the few, maybe the only state where you can harvest four different species of quail. Scaled, Gambel’s, Montezuma and bobwhite quail are found here.
The bobwhite have the most limited distribution, being found in the Southeastern portion of the state near the border with Texas. Scaled quail are found throughout Southern New Mexico. A good place to hunt with a chance to harvest both species is the Mescalero Sands east of Roswell.
Gambel’s quail are found throughout the state. Montezuma quail are found in the foothills of the southern mountains mountains. The Sacramento, San Mateo and Gila mountain ranges where the grass is high are areas to look for Montezuma quail. Southwestern New Mexico would be a good area to try to harvest three (Gambels, Montezuma, scaled) of the four species of quail.
On the plus side, at least one of the popular ice-fishing destinations is now open, with others likely soon to follow.
Sugarite Canyon State Park near Raton is open daily. Lake Alice and Lake Maloya are both now open for ice fishing.
Please exercise extreme caution while ice fishing. Lake Alice is a small lake and the fishing is primarily for recently-stocked rainbow trout. Lake Maloya is much larger and is capable of producing larger, holdover trout. It is well-stocked too. Call (575).445.5607 for current conditions
Eagle Nest Lake State Park is one of the prime ice-fishing destinations. Although closed to ice-fishing now due to unsafe conditions, it shouldn’t be long until the ice is thick enough to safely fish on. Temperatures at Eagle Nest fall to well-below freezing at night. It would be reasonable to expect ice-fishing to be underway by New Year’s Day, if not sooner.
Rainbow trout, yellow perch and northern pike are the species that can be caught, with an occasional kokanee salmon. For more information and current conditions, call (575).377.1594.
Fenton Lake State Park in the Jemez Mountains is another popular ice-fishing destination. Although currently closed due
to unsafe ice conditions, it was stocked Dec. 9 with 1,190 rainbow trout. There should be plenty of trout to be caught
once the ice is safe for fishing. Fenton also has wild brown trout and you might catch a Rio Grande cutthroat trout from
an earlier stocking. Fenton Lake is stocked throughout the winter. Call (575).829.3630 for current conditions.
Storrie Lake State Park near Las Vegas is open Thursday-Sunday from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. The fishing here should pick up as
it was stocked Dec. 3 with 5,085 rainbow trout averaging 8.3 inches in length. Ice may start to form on this lake. Call (505).425.7278 for conditions.
Heron Lake State Park is open. Heron Lake seldom freezes over. The kokanee salmon snagging was very slow over the weekend. The best fishing may be from the bank for rainbow trout with the possibility of catching a lake trout. Call (575).588.7470 for conditions. El Vado Lake State Park is closed for the season.
Laguna del Campo near Los Ojos is closed.
Most high elevation lakes are now frozen over and may be inaccessible due to ice and snow.
Santa Cruz Lake near Chimayo normally does not freeze over and usually has open water. It is open Thursday-Sunday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The fishing can be good here in the winter. The temperatures have been cold even at this lower-elevation lake and thin ice may be forming, especially in the mornings. The Santa Cruz River is iced over.
Abiquiu Lake is open to walk-in fishing. The lake level is low. The fishing has been slow for walleye and trout.
Ute Lake State Park is open. The fishing should be slow-to-fair for white bass. Conchas Lake State Park is open. Santa
Rosa Lake State Park is open and anglers have been catching some crappie. Sumner Lake State Park is open and fishing for walleye could be fair.
A Boil Water advisory is in effect at Conchas Lake State Park.
Over in the Four Corners, Navajo Lake State Park is open. This lake does not freeze over. The kokanee salmon snagging is just about over. The best fishing may be for trout and possibly northern pike. It was stocked last week with a total of 25,575 small rainbow trout. Call (505).632.2278 for conditions.
Lake Farmington is open. This Lake is administered by the City of Farmington. It has been stocked Dec. 9 with 1,785 rainbow trout.
Tiger Park Pond in Aztec was stocked Dec. 1 with 1,344 rainbow trout. Aztec Pond #1 was stocked with 192 rainbow averaging 18.3 inches in size.
Bluewater Lake State Park is open. There is some ice on the lake and it is currently closed due to increasing ice conditions. Temperatures here can vary by as much as 50-degrees, with lows in the single digits. It was stocked Dec. 16 with 4,586 rainbow trout and you can still catch the big tiger muskies that this lake holds during the winter. Call (505).876.2391 for current conditions.
Most small streams are now icing over and difficult to fish. The larger rivers are the best bet this time of year, especially below dams.
The Chama River below Abiquiu Dam is flowing at 47.0 cubic-feet-per-second. This is a low flow and fishing conditions are good. The water here is usually murky. The fishing has been good for stocked and holdover rainbow trout. There are some big, wild brown trout here.
The Chama River below El Vado Dam is flowing at 102 cubic-feet-per-second. This is a good level for fishing, which has been fair-to-good for stocked rainbow trout and wild brown trout. You may catch some small Rio Grande cutthroat trout here. Please release them carefully and give them a chance to grow.
The Rio Grande streamflow is 359 cubic-feet-per-second at Taos Junction Bridge. This is below normal but still a good flow for this time of year. The fishing has been fair-to-good for rainbow and brown trout. The Rio Grande in the Pilar area was stocked Dec. 10 with 2,252 rainbow trout.
The Red River near the Red River Fish Hatchery is flowing at 34 cubic-feet-per-second. The fishing is normally fair-to-good here. It was stocked Dec. 9 with 701 rainbow trout. The upper Red River above Questa is icing over.
Eagle Rock Lake near Questa is likely iced over. I have never heard of anyone ice fishing here, but it may be worth a try.
Use extreme caution when testing the ice thickness.
The best winter-fishing river and well-known throughout the angling world is the San Juan River below Navajo Dam. The streamflow here is 338 cubic-feet-per-second, which is less than 50-percent of normal. .
The fishing has been fair-to-good with a variety of fly patterns in the Quality Water. The fishing here is catch-and-release with flies and lures having a single, barbless hook. The fishing in the Bait Water below the Quality Water has been fair-to-good with flies, bait and lures. The Bait Water was stocked Dec. 16 with 3,768 small rainbow trout in what is called a “put-and-grow” stocking. These fish will grow to catchable size.
The Pecos River above the town of Pecos is icing over. During the winter, the Pecos River is stocked with rainbow trout at Villanueva State Park, which is open. Fishing can be good after these stockings. It was stocked Dec. 8 with 543 rainbow trout.
Monastery Lake is closed to fishing. Ice fishing is never allowed here.
The trout fishing has been fair in the Jemez River. The streamflow was 16.1 cubic-feet-per-second. The smaller streams in the Jemez Mountains are iced over.
In the Albuquerque area, Tingley Beach is open again. Fishing should be good for stocked rainbow trout. It was stocked twice last week with a total of 2,400 rainbow trout.
The Albuquerque area drainage canals are stocked with rainbow trout about every other week. The fishing should be fair in the Albuquerque, Albuquerque South, Belen Riverside, Corrales Riverside and Peralta drains. They were all stocked last week.
Escondida Lake just north of Socorro was stocked Dec. 16 with 799 rainbow trout. There are also a few catfish, largemouth bass and crappie in this little lake.
Elephant Butte Lake State Park is open. Fishing this time of year for white bass and catfish can be very good if you can locate where the fish are schooled up, which they tend to do in the winter. Now is a good time to perhaps hire a guide, as they make it their business to know where the fish are. The water level is extremely low. It will likely slowly rise over the winter as they try to store as much water as possible to prepare for spring planting.
The Rio Grande below Elephant Butte Lake is barely flowing as they are not releasing water from the lake. The streamflow was 0.92 cubic-feet-per-second. The fish are congregated in the deeper pools. The fishing has been fair for catfish. It was stocked Dec. 4 with 1,299 rainbow trout.
In the Ruidoso area, the fishing remains good at Alto Lake and Grindstone Reservoir. These lakes are administered by the City of Ruidoso and reserved for residents and property owners of Lincoln County, as well as residents of Mescalero.
Alto Lake was stocked Dec.3 with 612 rainbow trout. Grindstone Reservoir was stocked with 762 rainbow trout.
The Ruidoso River was flowing at 0.47 cubic-feet-per-second at Ruidoso.. It was stocked Dec. 3 with 250 rainbow trout.
Streamflow at Hollywood was 3.67 cubic-feet-per-second.
The State Game and Fish Department stocks many of the small municipal lakes in Southern New Mexico. Several lakes in the Carlsbad area receive heavy stockings. Carlsbad Municipal Lake was stocked Dec. 4 with 1,500 rainbow trout. Lake Van was stocked with 1,500 rainbow trout.
In Southwest New Mexico. Lake Roberts has been fair for rainbow trout and catfish. It was stocked Dec. 15 with 1,115 rainbow trout and there are a few Gila trout in this lake. This is a trophy-bass lake where the limit is two largemouth bass-per-day 14 inches in size or longer.
Bear Canyon Lake has fair fishing for stocked rainbow trout. It was stocked Dec. 15 with 1,115 rainbow trout. There are also catfish and crappie here.
Bill Evans Lake received two heavy stockings of rainbow trout last week. A total of 5,064 rainbow trout were stocked.
There are catfish here. This is a trophy bass lake where the limit is two largemouth bass-bass -per-day 14 inches in size or longer. The state-record largemouth bass was caught at Bill Evans Lake.
The streamflow in the Gila River is 55.7 cubic-feet-per-second. The fishing has been good for catfish in the lower Gila River.
Quemado Lake has been fair for rainbow trout. This lake can sometimes freeze because it sits in a cold spot where the temperature can fall dramatically despite its southerly location.