By GEORGE MORSE
Sports And Outdoors
Los Alamos Daily Post
Happy New Year!
Overshadowed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2020 elections this past year, there is an ongoing situation that will have a direct effect on the fishing opportunities for the coming year.
New Mexico is in the grip of a severe, ongoing drought that is affecting the entire state. A large portion of New Mexico from north to south is suffering from exceptional drought conditions.
Streamflows this past year were exceptionally low. The upper Rio Grande was little more than a mountain stream with flows of only about 30 cubic-feet-per second during the summer. Reservoir water levels dropped steadily. Beginning this New Year, water storage levels in reservoirs across the state were at just 19-percent of their capacity. Many reservoirs were at less than 10-percent of their capacity.
So far this winter the early snowpack is running below normal. Several years of well-above-average snow packs are needed to help the state recover from this drought.
These low streamflows and low water levels in our reservoirs are impacting the recreational opportunities here in Northern New Mexico. Low water levels mean boat ramps are closed and the launching of boats become difficult if not impossible.
Low streamflows are really hurting wild trout populations, particularly the fishing for wild brown trout. These trout populations depend on natural reproduction. Low streamflows and high water temperatures during the summer and early fall are making it tough on wild trout to sustain themselves.
Hopefully, snowfall will increase later this winter, because it is desperately needed.
New Mexico State Parks remain open for day use only with no overnight camping allowed yet. They are open to New Mexico residents only.
On the bright side, another lake has opened up for ice fishing. Fenton Lake State Park opened for ice fishing Jan. 2 and the fishing should be good at this well-stocked little lake in the Jemez Mountains.
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. 9 with 1,190 rainbow trout and stocked again Dec. 29 with 515 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. 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. For more information and current conditions, call (575).377.1594.
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. The fishing at Lake Maloya has been fir –to-good. Call (575).445.5607 for current conditions.
Cochiti Lake has been closed most of the year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It will reopen Jan. 4 by reservation for day use. 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 may start to form on this lake. Call (505).425.7278 for conditions.
Heron Lake State Park is open. Recent photos show that Heron Lake is frozen over. The ice conditions are dangerous and the lake is closed to ice fishing. The kokanee salmon snagging season is over. The best fishing prior to freeze-up was 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. The only area open at El Vado is the Dam Site Recreation Area.
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. The lake is currently closed due to snow. 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.
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. 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 season is over. The best fishing may be for trout and possibly northern pike. It was stocked Dec. 23 with a total of 27,872 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. It was stocked Dec. 30 with 1,590 rainbow trout.
Tiger Park Pond in Aztec was stocked Dec. 1 with 1,344 rainbow trout. It was stocked Dec. 22 with 1,328 rainbow trout.
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 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 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 limit here is two-fish-per-day.
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 Chama River above El Vado Lake is iced over.
The Rio Grande streamflow is 327 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.
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 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 320 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. 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 was 17.9 cubic-feet-per-second. The Jemez River was stocked Dec. 29 with 1,006 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 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. 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 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 0.74 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 0.71 cubic-feet-per-second at Ruidoso.. It was stocked Dec. 3 with 250 rainbow trout.
Streamflow at Hollywood was 3.09 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 52.4 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.