By GEORGE MORSE
Sports And Outdoors
Los Alamos Daily Post
With the official beginning of spring (Saturday March 20) less than two weeks away, the weather is certainly indicating a changing of the seasons.
Temperatures have been climbing into the 60’s and 70’sand some mornings the low temperatures have been above freezing.
Much of New Mexico is locked into an exceptional drought and this winter has not delivered what was needed to pull us out of it. Snowpacks remain below normal and the weather pattern is typical of a La Nina winter with the strongest storms passing to the north of New Mexico.
Reservoir levels remain very low with most New Mexico reservoirs holding less than 20-percent of their capacity and in many cases less than 10-percent of their capacity according to the National Resources Conservation Service Snow Survey.
It looks like a challenging year for New Mexico’s farmers and water managers as they try to squeeze as much as they can out of or limited water resource. It could be an active fire season as well.
It looks like our brief ice-fishing season is over with the closing of Lake Maloya near Raton and Heron Lake near Chama to ice fishing. Eagle Nest Lake and Fenton Lake closed earlier at the beginning of February.
New Mexico’s State Parks are now open to all visitors. Camping is allowed by reservation only. Call 877.664.7787 for reservations.
Morphy Lake State Park near Mora was opened for day use March 1 after being closed for more than a year. Initially, it was closed for repairs on the dam. Later, it was closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The fish here have had over a year to grow unmolested and there could be some nice, large holdover trout here. Fishing has been described as slow.
Some anglers report it was stocked over the weekend. This stocking will not show up until the State Game and Fish Department’s next weekly stocking report Friday.
Clayton Lake and the Charette Lakes are now open for fishing after being closed over the winter. The fishing could be pretty good for some nice-sized holdover rainbow trout at Lower Charette Lake. It also has good perch fishing. The Charette Lakes are located between Wagon Mound and Springer.
Clayton Lake State Park is now open daily with camping by reservation only. It was stocked March 3 with 4,001 rainbow trout. It also has some big walleye and a few trophy-size largemouth bass. The state-record walleye was caught at Clayton Lake. The boat ramp is closed. At Clayton Lake, be sure to check out the Dinosaur Tracks.
Maxwell Lake 13 on the Maxwell Lakes National Wildlife Refuge opened up Monday for fishing. Save yourself a trip. This lake practically dried up last fall and will need to be restocked.
Fenton Lake State Park in the Jemez Mountains was a popular ice-fishing destination. It was closed to ice fishing Feb. 5 due to deteriorating ice conditions. There is now open water for bank fishing. This lake can get very crowded. It is heavily-stocked. The most recent stocking was March 3 of 2,275 rainbow trout. Fenton is now open to out-of-state visitors. Camping is allowed by reservation only. Call 877.664.7787 for reservations. Fenton also has wild brown trout and you might catch a Rio Grande cutthroat trout from an earlier stocking. Call (575).829.3630 for current conditions.
Fishing the Rio Cebolla below Fenton Lake might be worthwhile. It was stocked March 3 with 250 rainbow trout.
Eagle Nest Lake State Park had been one of the prime ice-fishing destinations in the state. It was closed to ice fishing Feb. 4 due to deteriorating ice conditions. As of Monday it remained closed with no reports of any open water for bank fishing. Overnight camping will resume March 15 by reservation only. 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 had been good. Some big pike were landed. For more information and current conditions, call (575).377.1594.
Heron Lake State Park is open. Ice fishing is now closed due to deteriorating conditions. Camping is available by reservation only. The kokanee salmon snagging season is over. There are no reports on open water for bank fishing.
Boating is closed. Some open water could develop later this week. 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 now closed at El Vado Lake and there is still no camping. Boating is closed.
Sugarite Canyon State Park near Raton is open daily. Lake Alice and Lake Maloya are now closed to ice fishing. Camping is available by reservation only. 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. It was last 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 reopened Jan. 4 by reservation for day use. Ice fishing is not allowed here. Fishing has been reported as slow. Catfish are likely your best bet. The boat ramp is open. Tickets and reservations may be made at www.recreation.gov. They are not sold at the lake. The Tetilla Peak Recreation Area is closed.
The gate hours at Storrie Lake State Park near Las Vegas are from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Camping is available by reservation. It was last stocked Dec. 3 with 5,085 rainbow trout averaging 8.3 inches in length. Ice has formed 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. The ice here is likely to thin to allow for ice fishin and will not last long. Call (505).425.7278 for conditions.
Laguna del Campo near Los Ojos is closed. Opening date is May 1 at this little lake.
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 is currently open for day use. It will be open Thursday-Sunday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The fishing can be good here in the winter. There is open water here for bank fishing. The lake is full and the boat ramp is open. It was stocked March 4 with 4,137 rainbow trout. For updated conditions, check the Bureau of Land Management website.
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 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 and the boat ramp is closed. Sumner Lake State Park is open and fishing for walleye could be fair. Camping is allowed by reservation only at all these lakes. Warm temperatures are forecast this coming week.
A Boil Water advisory is in effect at Conchas Lake State Park.
Over in the Four Corners Navajo Lake State Park is open. Camping is by reservation only. 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 three times two weeks ago with a total of 108,872 small rainbow trout Boating conditions are good. Call (505).632.2278 for conditions.
Lake Farmington is open. This Lake is administered by the City of Farmington. This lake received a total of 4,164 rainbow trout last month, including 2,834 trout averaging over 13 inches in size. It was stocked Feb. 11 with 2,410 rainbow trout.
It was stocked again Feb. 24 with 2,189 rainbow trout. The fishing should be good for these stocked fish.
Tiger Park Pond in Aztec was stocked March 2 with 1,447 catchable-size rainbow trout and with 150 rainbow trout averaging 15 inches in size. Aztec Pond # 1 was stocked with 101 rainbow trout.
Jackson Lake north of Farmington has received several heavy stockings of trout recently. It was stocked Feb. 23 with 2,211 rainbow trout. It is part of the Jackson Lake Wildlife Management Area managed by the State Game and Fish Department
Bluewater Lake State Park is open. Boating conditions are listed as good. Camping is allowed by reservation only. You can still catch the big tiger muskies that this lake holds during the winter. It was stocked Feb. 10 with 6,000 rainbow trout. The trout fishing has been very good. Call (505).876.2391 for current conditions.
Most small streams in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains are iced over. There may be more open water as the temperature warms up. The larger rivers are the best bet this time of year, especially below dams.
The Chama River below Abiquiu Dam is flowing at 36.2 cubic-feet-per-second. The flow is very 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. 2 with 517 good-sized rainbow trout averaging 13.8 inches in size. It was stocked March 1 with 558 rainbow trout.
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. 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 484 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 Feb. 23 with 1,999 rainbow trout. The Rio Grande above Pilar in the Gorge was stocked Feb. 23 with 249 rainbow trout. Some of this stocking takes place near the John Dunn Bridge north of Taos and in the Orilla Verde Recreation Area.
During the winter some anglers like to toss large streamers in the Rio Grande hoping to entice a strike from a big northern pike. The Pilar area and the Orilla Verde Recreation Area are good spots to try.
The Red River near the Red River Fish Hatchery is flowing at 36.3 cubic-feet-per-second. The fishing is normally fair-to-good here. It was stocked Feb. 16 with 700 rainbow trout. The upper Red River above Questa is icing over.
Eagle Rock Lake near Questa is iced over. There are reports of some ice fishing activity here but no reports on success. It may be worth a try as it is heavily-stocked in the summer and fall. The ice may be deteriorating quickly here. Use extreme caution when testing the ice thickness. There may be some open water for bank fishing.
The best winter-fishing river and well-known throughout the angling world is the San Juan River below Navajo Dam. The streamflow here is 418 cubic-feet-per-second, which is less than 50-percent of normal. It offers world-class fly fishing.
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 two weeks ago with a total of 74,869 small rainbow trout. It was stocked again Feb. 3 with 10,420 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 March 2 with 3,010 catchable-size rainbow trout.
The Pecos River above the town of Pecos is iced over, but some water may be opening up as the temperatures get warmer. Camping is closed in Pecos Canyon State Park. 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 March 2 with 504 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 risen sharply and was 49.8 cubic-feet-per-second.
The Jemez River was stocked March 2 with 1,000 rainbow trout. The fishing is good once you find where the stocked fish are. The smaller streams in the Jemez Mountains are iced over, but may be beginning to thaw out.
In the Albuquerque area, Tingley Beach is open again. Fishing should be good for stocked rainbow trout. It was stocked March 2 with 2,278 catchable-size rainbow trout and with 240 rainbow trout averaging 14.5 inches in size.
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, as was the Bernalillo Drain. Fishing for other species like bass and catfish may soon pick up as the weather gets warmer.
Escondida Lake just north of Socorro was stocked Feb. 23 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. Camping is by reservation only. 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. Some good-sized white bass have been caught trolling crank baits. Fishing for largemouth bass, smallmouth bass and walleye should pick up soon. 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 0.25 cubic-feet-per-second. The fish are congregated in the deeper pools. The fishing has been fair for catfish. It was stocked Feb. 24 with 649 rainbow trout.
Anglers in the Roswell area should be aware that Berrendo Creek is being stocked again. It had been closed because of too much trash being left behind. It was stocked March 3 with 400 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. They are now open to all anglers. Alto Lake was stocked Feb. 22 with 999 rainbow trout. Grindstone Reservoir was stocked Feb. 22 with 1,499 rainbow trout. Grindstone Lake has a lot of deep water and is capable of producing larger, holdover trout.
The Ruidoso River was flowing at 2.46 cubic-feet-per-second at Ruidoso. Streamflow at Hollywood was 4.31 cubic-feet-per-second. It was stocked Feb. 24 with 500 rainbow trout. This is a fairly heavy stocking for this little stream, so the fishing may hold up a bit longer.
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 March 3 with 1,324 rainbow trout. Lake Van was stocked March 3 with 1,325 rainbow trout. These stockings will end soon as the weather gets warmer.
Southwest New Mexico escaped the worst of the recent cold weather and the lakes here remain free of ice. Fishing in the lakes around Silver City should be very good soon as the water remains cold enough for trout to be active. It is also warming up a bit and the fishing for warmwater species like bass and catfish should pick up as well.
In Southwest New Mexico. Lake Roberts has been fair for rainbow trout and catfish. It was stocked Feb. 22 with 1,360 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 March 4 with 2,240 rainbow trout. There are also catfish, crappie and largemouth bass here.
Bill Evans Lake has had good fishing for stocked trout. It was stocked twice last wee with a total of 2,024 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 49.0 cubic-feet-per-second near Gila Hot Springs. The fishing has been good for catfish in the lower Gila River. Trout fishing should pick up in the upper Gila River and its forks soon.
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. Photos from earlier this winter show plenty of ice. It probably has plenty of open water now.