By GEORGE MORSE
Sports and Outdoors
Los Alamos Daily Post
February is an in-between month where the weather starts to transition from winter to spring. There can still be some seriously cold weather and heavy snow storms. There can also be some “false spring” days where the temperature will climb into the 60’s and even 70-degrree range.
The buds on some of the deciduous trees will start to swell. The Siberian elms, which grow like weeds down here in the Española Valley are usually the first that you’ll notice starting to break dormancy. Juniper trees will start to shed pollen and those of us with allergies will start to get runny noses.
Toward the end of the month, the apricot tree buds will be swelling and by the end of March will start blooming in the Espanola Valley. On the warmer days you may even see a few bees looking for sources of nectar. These early scouts will return to the hives to let the rest know it’s not yet time to leave.
Waterfowl wintering in Southern New Mexico will start heading north by the end of the month to their breeding grounds near the Arctic Circle. Look for flocks of sandhill cranes and snow geese on their way, beginning a journey that they have been doing annually for thousands of years.
Snowpacks in New Mexico’s river basins are running below normal at the end of January. More snow is needed to break the drought plaguing most of the Southwest.
New Mexico State Parks remain open for day use only with no overnight camping. They are reserved for New Mexico residents. The State Game and Fish Department continues to stock thousands of catchable-size and larger rainbow trout during the winter.
Fenton Lake State Park in the Jemez Mountains is a popular ice-fishing destination. It was opened to ice fishing Jan. 2. It was stocked Dec. 29 with 515 rainbow trout and stocked again Jan. 5 with 546 rainbow trout. There should be plenty of trout to be caught now that 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. The most recent stocking was Jan. 21 of 562 rainbow trout. Call (575) 829-3630 for current conditions.
Eagle Nest Lake State Park is one of the prime ice-fishing destinations in the state. Temperatures at Eagle Nest fall to well-below freezing at night and often below zero. Rainbow trout, yellow perch and northern pike are the species that can be caught, with an occasional kokanee salmon. The fishing for trout and perch has been good. Some big pike have been landed. For more information and current conditions, call (575) 377-1594.
Heron Lake State Park is open. Recent photos show that Heron Lake is frozen over. It opened for ice fishing Jan. 11 at the Dam Site Recreation Area. The kokanee salmon snagging season is over. The best fishing will be for rainbow trout with the possibility of catching a lake trout. Call (575) 588-7470 for conditions at both Heron Lake and El Vado Lake.
El Vado Lake State Park is closed for the season. The only area open at El Vado is the Dam Day Use Area. Ice fishing is allowed here. In addition to rainbow trout, you might hook a brown trout at El Vado, as well as small smallmouth bass.
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. The fishing at Lake Maloya has been fair–to-good. It was stocked Jan. 7 with 4,440 rainbow trout. Call (575) 445-5607 for current conditions
Cochiti Lake had been closed most of last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It will reopen Jan. 4 by reservation for day use. Ice fishing is not allowed here. Fishing has been reported as slow. Tickets and reservations may be made at www.recreation.gov. The Tetilla Peak Recreation Area is closed.
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 has started to form on this lake and recent photos show plenty of ice on the lake, likely making for difficult if not impossible fishing. No reports on any ice-fishing activity. Call (505) 425-7278 for conditions.
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. Some anglers report parking and hiking in to Hopewell Lake between Tres Piedras and Tierra Amarilla.. They are catching rainbow trout through the ice.
Santa Cruz Lake near Chimayo normally does not completely freeze over and usually has open water. The lake is currently temporarily closed for safety reasons. 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. Ice here seldom if ever gets thick enough to safely fish on. If the access road gets icy, it will be shut down. The boat ramp is not open. The Santa Cruz River is iced over. Check the Bureau of Land Management website at: blm.gov/visit/santa-cruz-lake-recreation-area.
Abiquiu Lake is now open for day use, including the boat ramp and picnic areas. The campground is closed. A four-wheel drive vehicle is recommended for launching boats. The lake level is low and there is ice covering much of the lake. 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 and possibly walleye. Conchas Lake State Park is open and some crappie are being caught. Santa Rosa Lake State Park is open and anglers have been catching some crappie and walleye. This lake is extremely low. 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 season is over. The best fishing may be for trout and possibly northern pike. It was stocked twice last week with a total of 35,656 small rainbow trout. Call (505) 632-2278 for conditions.
Lake Farmington is open. This Lake is administered by the City of Farmington. On Jan. 12, it was stocked with 1,800 rainbow trout averaging 13.7 inches in size.. It received another stocking Jan. 21 of 1,034 good-sized rainbow trout averaging 13.8 inches in size. It was stocked Jan. 28 with 1,330 rainbow trout. The fishing should be good.
Tiger Park Pond in Aztec was stocked Dec. 22 with 1,328 rainbow trout and stocked again Jan. 4 with 1,005 rainbow trout. Aztec Pond # 1 was stocked Jan. 4 with 150 rainbow trout.
Bluewater Lake State Park is open. There is some ice on the lake and it is currently closed to ice fishing and boating due to increasing ice conditions. Temperatures here can vary by as much as 50-degrees, with lows in the single digits. You can still catch the big tiger muskies that this lake holds during the winter. It was stocked twice two weeks ago with a total of 5,999 rainbow trout. Call (505) 876-2391 for current conditions.
Most small streams in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains 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 37.5 cubic-feet-per-second. The flow is low, but this is still a good level for fishing. 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 limit here is two-fish-per-day. It was stocked Jan. 20 with 517 good-sized rainbow trout averaging 13.8 inches in size.
The Chama River below El Vado Dam is flowing at 105 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. Some big brown trout were caught recently by anglers using Rapalas. You may catch some small Rio Grande cutthroat trout here. Please release them carefully and give them a chance to grow.
The Chama River above El Vado Lake is iced over.
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. 30 with 2,250 rainbow trout. It was stocked again Jan. 11 with 2,001 rainbow trout. The Rio Grande above Pilar in the Gorge was stocked Jan. 27 with 2,249 rainbow trout. Some of this stocking takes place near the John Dunn Bridge north of Taos and in the Orilla Verde Recreation Area.
The Red River near the Red River Fish Hatchery is flowing at 41.2 cubic-feet-per-second. The fishing is normally fair-to-good here. It was stocked Jan. 7 with 701 rainbow trout. It was stocked again Jan. 20 with 698 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 as it is heavily-stocked in the summer and fall. 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 382 cubic-feet-per-second, which is less than 50-percent of normal. .
The fishing has been 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 Quality Water is stocked with small rainbow trout that grow quickly in the fertile waters. It was stocked three times last week with a total of 74,869 small rainbow trout. There are big, wild brown trout in the Quality Water that are not adverse to gobbling up their rainbow brethren. Some of these fish would likely shatter the state record if they could be kept and weighed.
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 Bait Water was stocked Jan. 12 with 1,056 rainbow trout averaging 13.7 inches in size. It was stocked again Jan. 22 with 3,560 catchable-size rainbow trout and with 455 rainbow trout averaging 15.2 inches in 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 Jan. 5 with 501 rainbow trout. It was stocked Jan. 21 with 499 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 has come down a little and was 16.7 cubic-feet-per-second. The Jemez River was stocked Jan. 21 with 999 rainbow trout. 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 2,402 rainbow trout.
The Albuquerque area drainage canals are stocked with rainbow trout about every week. The fishing should be fair in the Albuquerque, Albuquerque South, Belen Riverside, Corrales Riverside and Peralta drains. They were stocked last week.
Escondida Lake just north of Socorro was stocked Jan. 7 with 799 rainbow trout. It was stocked again Jan. 20 with 800 rainbow trout. There are also a few catfish, largemouth bass and crappie in this little lake. The fishing for stocked trout should be good.
Elephant Butte Lake State Park is open. Fishing this time of year for white bass and catfish can be 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 0.65 cubic-feet-per-second. The fish are congregated in the deeper pools. The fishing has been fair for catfish. It was stocked Jan. 27 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 Jan. 12 with 301 rainbow trout. Grindstone Reservoir was stocked with 449 rainbow trout.
The Ruidoso River was flowing at 1.14 cubic-feet-per-second at Ruidoso. It was stocked Jan. 12 with 249 rainbow trout. Streamflow at Hollywood was 3.87 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 Jan. 25 with 1,500 rainbow trout. Lake Van was stocked Jan. 25, also with 1,500rainbow trout.
In Southwest New Mexico. Lake Roberts has been fair for rainbow trout and catfish. It was stocked Jan. 12 with 1,248 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 and stocked Jan. 12 with 1,248 rainbow trout. There are also catfish and crappie here.
Bill Evans Lake has had good fishing for stocked trout. It was stocked twice last week with a total of 3,266 rainbow trout. 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 58.7 cubic-feet-per-second near Gila Hot Springs. 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.