The weather forecast was for snow and very cold temperatures to move into New Mexico this week and it looks like they were right on the money. We had about three inches of snow here in Espanola and the drive to Santa Fe was an adventure with traffic backups. Very cold temperatures are forecast for at least the next four days and lows in some of the mountain valleys will likely fall below zero.
Very cold temperatures are not unexpected for this time of year. Some of the coldest weather occurs the last week of December and the first week of January. Those of us who have lived here long enough remember the brutally cold winter of 1971, when the temperatures dipped to well below zero the first week of January. They bottomed out at minus-37 degrees here in Espanola, creating life-threatening situations. The gas lines lost pressure and many people were without heat during this time. Hotels in Santa Fe opened their rooms to residents and everything came to a standstill. The battery in my truck froze solid and exploded when we tried to charge it. Of course, water pipes froze and burst.
We used to get some phenomenal snowstorms too. In 1987, a single storm dropped 49 inches of snow in Los Alamos. The 1980’s and 1990’s saw some tremendous snowpacks and record spring runoffs here in New Mexico. Brutally cold temperatures can occur as late as April. The coldest temperature ever recorded in April in the lower 48 states was at Eagle Nest in the 1950’s. An unbelievable minus-24 degrees.
With climate change, it’s probable that these record temperatures and snowfalls are a thing of the past. Still, there was that cold spell in February, 2011 when the lows were below zero here in Northern New Mexico. The gas to communities like Espanola and Taos was shut off and we shivered for several days before it was restored.
So the cold temperatures we are experiencing now are not that out of the ordinary and nowhere near records. It’s possible that some lakes that have been frozen but where the ice has been too thin to allow for ice fishing may soon have ice that is safe enough to venture out on. With the very cold temperatures that are forecast, probably not that many anglers will be out, so reports may be sketchy. Everywhere will be cold, with lows even in Southern New Mexico forecast to be in the teens.
One spot worth trying will be the Chama River below Abiquiu Dam, where streamflows are low at 105 cubic-feet-per-second. The fishing has been fair here. The fishing at Abiquiu Lake has been slow and launching boats here is still very difficult.
The Chama River below El Vado Dam is flowing very low at 24.2 cubic-feet-per-second. The fishing has been fair here. El Vado Lake is frozen over and unsafe for fishing.
Heron Lake looks like a good spot to try. The bank fishing for rainbow trout has been good using Power Bait.
With snow in the forecast, remember that the stretch of US Highway 64 between Tierra Amarilla and Tres Piedras is not maintained during the winter and is often closed to travel.
Fenton Lake is frozen over and closed to fishing. Call (575) 829-3630 for a report on the conditions.
The Jemez River was stocked Dec. 19 with 1,050 rainbow trout. The fishing below Battleship Rock has been reported as good.
There were no official report on the fishing at Santa Cruz Lake. I did hear of an unconfirmed report of a 28-inch trout caught here recently. The water is low but rising at Santa Cruz.
The Rio Grande is flowing at 312 cubic-feet-per-second. The fishing has been fair-to-good for trout.
The Red River below Questa has been fair-to-good for trout using salmon eggs and Power Bait. There are always fish here because of its proximity to the Red River Fish Hatchery.
Still no reports from Eagle Rock Lake near Questa. If ice fishing is allowed here it should be worth a try as this lake is heavily-stocked with rainbow trout.
Eagle Nest Lake is iced over and still closed to fishing. The ice at this lake should soon be thick enough for ice fishing and its normally pretty good here. Call (575) 377-1594 for conditions.
Lake Maloya at Sugarite Canyon State Park near Raton still had open water and the fishing has been good. It was stocked Dec. 17 with 1,500 rainbow trout. With the cold temperatures being forecast, this lake could soon freeze over. Lake Alice at Sugarite Canyon State Park is frozen over and closed to fishing. Call (575) 445-5607 for conditions.
The fishing at Storrie Lake State Park has been fair-to-good for stocked rainbow trout. This lake may freeze over. Call (505) 425-7278 for conditions.
The Pecos River is being stocked with rainbow trout in the Villanueva area south of the town of Pecos. It was stocked Dec. 18 with 500 rainbow trout and the fishing has been good.
Monastery Lake near Pecos is frozen over and closed to ice fishing.
The Four Corners area continues to be a good area for anglers to try their luck. In the Aztec area, several spots were recently stocked. The Animas River was stocked Dec. 17 with 337 rainbow trout. Tiger Park Pond was stocked Dec. 17 with 1,102 rainbow trout.
The fishing at Lake Farmington has been fair-to-good for stocked rainbow trout. The fishing at Jackson Lake has been fair for trout.
The streamflow in the San Juan River below Navajo Dam is 289 cubic-feet-per-second. The fishing in the Quality Waters has been good with a variety of fly patterns. The fishing in the Bait Water below the Quality Water has been fair-to-good.
The fishing at Navajo Lake has been slow with just a few northern pike being caught.
There were no reports from Cochiti Lake.
Tingley Beach in Albuquerque was stocked Dec. 18 with 2,401 rainbow trout. The fishing has been very good for trout and a few catfish are also being caught.
The drainage canals in the Albuquerque area are stocked weekly with rainbow trout by the State Game and Fish Department and the fishing has been good.
In Southern New Mexico, the Carlsbad area may be a good destination. Carlsbad Municipal Lake was stocked Dec.18 with 1,499 rainbow trout. Lake Van, also in the Carlsbad area, was stocked Dec. 17 with 1,999 rainbow trout. The fishing has been good.
In the Silver City area, the fishing for trout has been very good at Lake Roberts. Bill Evans Lake was stocked Dec. 19 with 1,632 rainbow trout and the fishing has been good.
The fishing at Elephant Butte Lake has been slow-to-fair for white bass and largemouth bass. It has been slow for catfish. The fishing in the Rio Grande below Elephant Butte Dam has been fair-to-good for stocked rainbow trout.