By GEORGE MORSE
The closure of Santa Fe National Forest and Carson National Forest remains in effect this week due to the extreme fire danger. All recreational activities, including fishing, are prohibited on National Forest lands. Lakes, rivers and streams on National Forest lands are closed to fishing.
While New Mexico has seen its share of wildfires so far this season, the neighboring state of Colorado is getting hammered by wildfires right now.
For weeks the 416 Fire has been burning north of Durango and has burned 52,778 acres. It is 37-percent contained. Fortunately, no homes have been lost so far in this fire.
The Spring Creek Fire, which was reported June 28, has overtaken the 416 Fire as the largest presently burning in Colorado. This wildfire has grown with frightening speed and now stands at 78,944 acres in less than a week. It is just five-percent contained. It is burning east of Fort Garland.
The fire was human-caused and one man has been arrested on suspicion of arson charges.
It has already destroyed 104 homes and forced the evacuation of 2,000 more residences. US Highway 160 between Fort Garland and Walsenburg is closed at La Veta Pass. State Highway 12 between Trinidad and the town of La Veta is closed in the Cuchara area.
State Highway 12, also known as the Highway of Legends, was one of my favorite drives in Colorado. It is heart-breaking to think of what must be happening along what was one of the most beautiful drives in Southern Colorado.
Highway 160 was a popular route for people from Northern New Mexico to travel if they were heading north to Colorado Springs and Denver. Now that it is closed, US Highway 285 is a good alternate route.
However, you will see another wildfire from Highway 285. The Weston Pass Fire has grown to 9,300 acres. That has now closed Highway 285 north of Salida between Antero Junction and Fairplay. You will need to take US Highway 50 to Pueblo or US Highway 24 from Antero Junction to Hartsel if you are headed north.
This has been a brutal summer so far with streamflows at what are likely historically low levels. The mighty Rio Grande is now down to just 57 cubic-feet-per second at Cerro where it enter New Mexico from Colorado. Streamflows in other rivers and streams are also running very low.
With so many of the streams, rivers and lakes that would normally be well-stocked with rainbow trout by the State Game and Fish Department now closed, the Department has been making heavier stockings of trout in those waters that are still open and suitable for stocking. The Department cannot stockpile trout at its hatcheries and they need to be stocked.
That means that despite the closures and tough conditions, there is still good fishing at those lakes and streams that remain open. There is also good fishing for the warmwater species of gamefish like bass, walleye, crappie, bluegill and catfish.
The fishing for smallmouth bass remains good at Abiquiu Lake. The fishing for walleye is also good. Crank baits andcurly-tail jigs are attractive to both species. The fishing for crappie is good using smaller versions of the same lures. Nightcrawlers are a good bait. Bluegills are also being caught.
The Chama River below Abiquiu Dam is slow due to the heavy release of water from beneath the dam.
El Vado Lake is dropping rapidly. Fishing near the dam has been good for smallmouth bass and rainbow trout.
The Chama River below El Vado Dam has been good for stocked rainbow trout and an occasional wild brown trout. It was stocked June 26 with 2,726 rainbow trout.
The bank fishing for rainbow trout was fair-to-good at Heron Lake. This lake was stocked June 27 with a total of 3,656 rain bow trout. Of these fish, 171 were rainbow trout averaging over 17 inches in size.
The Chama River above El Vado Lake is running very low. Portions of the upper Chama River on Carson National Forest land are closed.
The fishing at Laguna del Campo near Los Ojos has been fair-to-good.
There were no reports from Santa Cruz Lake near Chimayo. This lake heats up a lot during the day and the trout retreat to deeper water. Try fishing here early and late in the day.
The Rio Grande is running at just 200 cubic-feet-per-second at Taos Junction Bridge. The fishing has been good on the Rio Grande for rainbow and brown trout using flies, lures and bait. It was stocked June 26 with 2,503 rainbow trout. Portions of the Rio Grande on Carson National Forest are closed.
Eagle Rock Lake near Questa is open and the fishing has been good for stocked rainbow trout. It was stocked June 28 with 545 rainbow trout of catchable-size and with 54 rainbow trout averaging over 15 inches in size.
The Red River is running low in the Questa area. The fishing has been fair-to-good. The Red River is open for fishing from Red River Fish Hatchery downstream to its confluence with the Rio Grande. It is also open for fishing within the town of Red River. This area was stocked June 28 with 1,801 rainbow trout. The stretch of the Red River between Questa and the town of Red River is primarily on Carson National Forest Land and is closed to fishing. This includes the Fawn Lakes.
Eagle Nest Lake has been heavily-stocked as it is open and still suitable for stocking. A total of 53,642 rainbow trout were stocked here last week. That included 344 rainbow trout averaging over 15 inches in size. The fishing has been very good for trout, good for perch and they are also catching some nice northern pike.
In Northeastern New Mexico, several lakes are still open for fishing, which has been good.
Maxwell Lake 13 on the Maxwell Lakes Wildlife Refuge has been fair-to-good for rainbow trout using Power Bait and salmon eggs. The fishing for catfish has been good using nightcrawlers and liver. There are also largemouth bass here and the state-record yellow perch was caught at Maxwell Lake 13.
There have been no reports from nearby Stubblefield Lake. It might be worth a try for largemouth bass and walleye. The state-record channel catfish was caught at Stubblefield Lake.
The trout fishing at Lake Maloya in Sugarite Canyon State Park near Raton continues to be very good. Trout are being caught on flies, lures and Power Bait. There were no reports from Lake Alice, a smaller lake also in Sugarite Canyon State Park. It should be good for stocked rainbow trout.
The Charette Lakes near Wagon Mound were stocked June 26 with 2,726 rainbow trout and the fishing has been good. There are also yellow perch here.
Coyote Creek State Park is located near Guadalupita between Mora and Black Lake. It is open and Coyote Creek was stocked with 801 rainbow trout. The Coyote Creek Pond was stocked with 600 rainbow trout. The fishing has been good.
Storrie Lake State Park near Las Vegas is open and the fishing has been good for rainbow trout. There are also some big catfish in Storrie Lake.
Over in the Four Corners, the San Juan River below Navajo Dam is flowing at 1050 cubic-feet-per-second. The fishing has been good with various fly patterns in the Quality Waters. The Bait Waters below the Quality Waters has been heavily stocked with rainbow trout. There were a total of four stockings last week with a total of 9,310 rainbow trout. This included 171 rainbow trout averaging over 17 inches in size. The fishing has been good.
The fishing for largemouth and smallmouth bass at Navaj Lake has been good. The fishing has been fair-to-good for northern pike, which will often hit the same lures being used for bass. The crappie and perch fishing has been fair. Anglers are catching a few kokanee salmon while trolling.
The fishing for catfish has been good at Cochiti Lake. The fishing for crappie, perch, white bass and northern pike has been fair using minnows beneath a bobber. Anglers are also catching some largemouth bass and smallmouth bass.
The fishing for tiger muskies at Bluewater Lake near Grants has been good. Several of these toothy critters over 40 inches long were caught last week. Be sure to use a steel leader. Large crank baits, jerk baits and swim baits are good choices for these big fish.
Tingley Beach in Albuquerque was stocked with 471 channel catfish averaging 18 inches in size. The fishing has picked up since the stocking and it has been good using worms, liver, shrimp and homemade dough bait.
Channel catfish have also been stocked at many municipal lakes throughout Southern New Mexico. The fishing is usually at least fair-to-good following these stockings.
The water level in Elephant Butte Lake is dropping. The fishing continues to be very good for largemouth bass and smallmouth bass. The fishing has been good for catfish, white bass and walleye.
Please be careful with fireworks over the Fourth of July. Please observe any local bans on fireworks and use only those that are legal.