New in 2020, anglers can participate in the New Mexico Trout Challenge.
Participating anglers can earn awards and recognition by catching five trout of different species within New Mexico lakes and river during a calendar year.
The five species of trout are:
- Rio Grande cutthroat trout;
- Rainbow trout;
- Brown trout;
- Brook trout; and
- Gila trout.
Rainbow trout will likely be the easiest trout to catch, as they are the species raised in the state fish hatcheries and stocked in water all across the state. Under its winter trout program, the State Department of Game and Fish stocks rainbow trout in the winter in select waters that could not support trout during the summer in Southern New Mexico. During the spring, summer and fall they are stocked in Northern New Mexico. Rainbow trout were originally native to streams and rivers that empty into the Pacific Ocean
Brown trout are the second most common species anglers are likely to catch. They used to be stocked, but are no longer. Very adaptable, brown trout have established wild, naturally-reproducing populations in many of the rivers, streams and lakes in New Mexico that are capable of sustaining trout year-around. Brown trout were originally native to Europe and Asia. They are still sometimes referred to as German brown trout.
Rio Grande cutthroat trout are one of two species of trout that were originally native to New Mexico. They are easily-identified by a red slash under their lower jaw that gave them their name. They are raised and stocked by the Department at Seven Springs Fish Hatchery in the Jemez Mountains. Most of the stocking of cutthroat trout is in the planting of small, fingerling trout in small headwater streams in the hopes of establishing wild, naturally-reproducing populations. Many of the streams containing cutthroat trout have special regulations to protect the species. Only two cutthroat trout may be kept as part of the daily trout limit. Most cutthroat trout are now found in the small, headwater streams of the Rio Grande, Chama River, Jemez River and Pecos River drainages. Occasionally, larger cutthroat trout will be stocked in a few spots like Fenton Lake.
Gila trout are the other trout species native to New Mexico. They are confined to the Gila River drainage in Southwestern New Mexico. They are being raised at the Federal Fish Hatchery in Mora and at the Department’s Glenwood Fish Hatchery. Most stocking of Gila trout is also in the planting of smaller fish in headwater streams. Larger Gila trout are sometimes stocked in Lake Roberts near Silver City and in the Gila River and its main tributaries. A free Gila trout fishing permit is required. Many of the streams containing Gila trout have special regulations.
Brook trout were at one time stocked in New Mexico, but no longer. They have established wild, naturally-reproducing populations in a few of the small headwater streams and high mountain lakes in Northern New Mexico. Hopewell Lake near Tres Piedras is a good example of a wild brook trout fishery. Originally native to the Appalachian Mountains and Great Lakes areas of the Eastern United States and in Canada, brook trout were widely-stocked throughout the Western United States in the early 20th Century. Brook trout have a tendency to overpopulate some streams. Brook trout and brown trout can both have red spots and are sometimes confused as to identification.
For more information on the New Mexico Trout Challenge, visit the Department’s website at www.wildlife.state.nm.us/fishing. For illustrations to help with species identification and for special regulations on specific streams, river and lakes, view the Rules and Regulations publication on the website. A printed copy of the Rules and Regulations may be picked up at license vendors and Department offices throughout the state.
Fishing opportunities are limited this time of year in Northern New Mexico due to ice and snow.
One good spot to try for ice fishing is Eagle Nest Lake. The ice here is thick enough to allow for ice fishing. The fishing for rainbow trout has been good. Yellow perch are another popular species with ice fisherman. Eagle Nest also has some big northern pike. Call (575) 377-1594 for updated ice conditions.
Lake Alice at Sugarite Canyon State Park near Raton has been opened to ice fishing. Lake Maloya, also at Sugarite Canyon, still does not have ice that is considered safe and is still closed. Call (575) 445-5607 for updated ice conditions.
Fenton Lake still does not have safe ice conditions and is closed to fishing. Call (575) 829-3630 for updated conditions.
Monastery Lake near Pecos has frozen over and is closed to fishing. Ice fishing is not allowed at this lake.
The streamflow in the Chama River below Abiquiu Dam was 76.6 cubic-feet-per-second. This is a good flow for fishing and it has been good. The limit here is two-fish-per-day. There will be closures on the Chama River below Abiquiu Dam as it is undergoing a fish habitat improvement project. Call (505) 685-4371 for details and closures.
The streamflow below El Vado Dam on the Chama River was 108 cubic-feet-per-section. The fishing has been fair-to- good for brown trout. El Vado Lake appears to be completely frozen over. Ice fishing is normally not allowed here due to unsafe conditions.
Heron Lake may have some open water and if it does the bank fishing for rainbow trout could be worth a try. Call (575) 588-7470 for conditions at both Heron Lake and El Vado Lake.
There were no reports from Santa Cruz Lake near Chimayo. It may be frozen over.
The streamflow on the Rio Grande was 465 cubic-feet-per-second. The fishing has been good upstream from the Pilar area. This area has been heavily-stocked.
Over in the Four Corners area, the winter fishing on the San Juan River below Navajo Dam can be very good and you’ll normally have a little more elbow room on this popular stretch of river this time of year. The streamflow was 465 cubic-feet-per-second. The dry fly-fishing has been fair-to-good in the Quality Water. Fishing in the Quality Water is catch-and-release using flies and lures with a single, barbless hook. The fishing with nymph fly patterns and egg fly patterns has been good in the Quality Water. A 21-inch brown trout was caught in the Bait Water below the Quality Water. Fishing has been good with flies and nightcrawlers. Any legal method of angling may be used in the Bait Water and the limit here is five-fish-per-day.
No reports from Lake Farmington. It should be worth trying as it has been heavily-stocked.
No reports from Navajo Lake. It does not freeze and the best fishing is likely for rainbow trout. Try bank fishing near the Dam or trolling lures like Rapalas. There are some big brown trout in Navajo Lake.
Tingley Beach in Albuquerque has been heavily stocked and the fishing has been good. The Albuquerque area drainage canals have been stocked and the fishing has been fair-to-good.
There were no reports from Elephant Butte Lake. From what I can gather there can be good catfishing this time of year, particularly if you open your wallet and hire a guide. There were some reports of anglers having some luck catching trout in the Rio Grande below Elephant Butte Dam. The limit for trout in the Rio Grande between Elephant Butte and Caballo Lake is three-fish-per-day. It was stocked Jan. 3 with 741 rainbow trout.
Alto Lake near Ruidoso has been good for trout. It was stocked Dec. 31 with 999 rainbow trout. No reports from Grindstone Reservoir near Ruidoso. It should be worth trying as it is heavily-stocked with rainbow trout.
Lake Roberts near Silver City was stocked Dec. 31 with 1,121 rainbow trout and the fishing should be at least fair if not better. You might hook a Gila trout here. Bear Canyon Reservoir was stocked with 1,121 rainbow trout. The fishing has been fair-to-good . Bill Evans Lake was not stocked last week. The fishing has been fair for trout from earlier stockings.