By GEORGE MORSE
Sports & Outdoors
Los Alamos Daily Post
As I remember, it was in March of last year that things abruptly changed. I was driving back that night from Albuquerque after having watched a state high school basketball tournament.
We had been informed that there would be no more fans allowed to attend the tournament games due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We were about to begin an unknown journey that none of us were looking forward to.
After a year of lockdowns, state-park closures, limited camping areas and restrictions on other outdoor recreation opportunities, things are looking up a bit this coming year. The number of COVID-19 cases are down and we recently had a day where there were no new deaths reported in New Mexico. Because most of us, at times grudgingly, practiced social distancing, wore our masks and avoided large groups we appear to be headed in the right direction. With the development of vaccines, the light at the end of the tunnel looks a little brighter.
If we learned anything, it’s how much we value our freedom to be able to fish, hunt, hike, camp and just spend time enjoying the outdoors. We understand what it means to our physical and mental health. We live in a beautiful state. We learned to appreciate it even more.
At times, things got ugly as popular areas became overwhelmed with people. Trash piled up in popular outdoor areas. Hopefully, we learned it is our responsibility to keep the outdoors clean and preserve the outdoor experience for those who will come after us.
It’s March again and our current fishing licenses will expire at the end of the month. Be sure to purchase a new license if you plan on going fishing April 1 and afterwards here in New Mexico.
New Mexico’s State Parks are now open to all visitors. Overnight camping is allowed by reservation only. Call 877.664.7787 for reservations. For information on individual state parks in New Mexico, visit the state parks website.
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 may be some open water for bank fishing starting to open up, but no reports of any open water fishing yet. This lake can get very crowded. It is heavily-stocked. The most recent stocking was March 17 of 1,006 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 at Fenton.
Fishing the Rio Cebolla below Fenton Lake might be worthwhile. It was stocked March 17 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 and snow is forecast the next three days. Overnight camping resumed 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.
The Cimarron River in Cimarron Canyon State Park is losing its ice cover. Fishing has been fair for rainbow and brown trout. Streamflow below Eagle Nest Dam is 3.10 cubic-feet-per-second.
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 is some open water for bank fishing at Heron with a little more at El Vado. Boating is closed. Some more open water could develop later this week. Bank fishing should be at least fair 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 now closed at El Vado Lake and there is still no camping. Boating is closed. Should be more open water here soon.
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. It was stocked March 9 with 250 rainbow trout. There is plenty of open water at Lake Alice. Lake Maloya is much larger and is capable of producing larger, holdover trout. It is well-stocked. It was stocked March 9 with 1,501 rainbow trout. There is a lot of ice still left here, but there should be some open water soon. Call (575).445.5607 for current conditions.
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 had over a year to grow unmolested and there are some nice, large holdover trout here. Fishing had been described as slow initially, but anglers were catching good-sized cutbow trout and cutthroat trout. It has now been heavily-stocked. It was stocked March 10 with 1,498 rainbow trout. It was stocked again March 18 with 2,699 catchable-size rainbow trout and with 216 rainbow trout averaging 15.1 inches in size. It might be hard to get your bait, fly or lure past all those stockers to the
bigger and better holdover trout.
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. It was stocked March 11 with 2,500 rainbow trout. 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. This is a trophy bass lake where the daily limit is two bass-per-day 14 inches in size or longer. 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 March 1 for fishing. Save yourself a trip. This lake practically dried up last fall and will need to be restocked.
Stubblefield Lake is also very low, but could be worth a try for catfish. The state-record channel catfish was caught here.
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. It was stocked March 9 with a total of 7,534 rainbow trout. Camping is available by reservation only. No reports on any fishing activity. It’s likely at least fair for stocked trout. 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. Cabresto Lake near Questa may offer some ice fishing. Both these lakes normally stay frozen until early May.
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 18 with 3,885 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-to-fair 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. Some crappie and walleye 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.
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 three 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. It was stocked Feb. 24 with 2,189 rainbow trout. It was stocked again March 8 with 2,349 rainbow trout. The fishing should be good for these stocked fish.
Tiger Park Pond in Aztec was stocked March 16 with 1,034 catchable-size rainbow trout and with 150 rainbow trout averaging 15 inches in size. Aztec Pond # 1 was stocked with 103 rainbow trout.
The Animas River in Aztec was stocked March 16 with 273 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 was stocked March 8 with 1,056 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. It was stocked again March 8 with 5,992 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 thawing out. 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 44.1 cubic-feet-per-second. The flow is very low, but this is still a good level for fishing. The water here is usually murky, but has been clearing up recently. 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 15 with 517 rainbow trout.
The Chama River below El Vado Dam is flowing at 99.5 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 starting to lose its ice. Streamflow at La Puente was 93.9 cubic-feet-per-second.
The Rio Grande streamflow is 453 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 March 10 with 2,000 rainbow trout. The Rio Grande above Pilar in the Gorge was stocked March 10 with 250 rainbow trout. Some of this stocking takes place near the John Dunn Bridge north of Taos and in the Orilla Verde Recreation Area.
The Rio Grande Gorge above Pilar was stocked March 10 with 10,661 fingerling Rio Grande cutthroat trout. The State Game and Fish Department is hoping to establish a naturally-reproducing population of cutthroats here. These stockings are done by carrying the trout on backpacks into the Wild Rivers section near Questa.
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 40.0 cubic-feet-per-second. The fishing is normally fair-to-good here. It was stocked March 9 with 702 rainbow trout. The upper Red River above Questa is starting to thaw out.
The Red River Hatchery Pond is now open and was stocked March 16 with 952 rainbow trout.
Eagle Rock Lake near Questa is losing its ice cover, so no ice fishing.. There is now some open water for bank fishing. This little lake is right off the highway. It is heavily-stocked. It should be worth a try.
The best winter-fishing river in the state and well-known throughout the angling world is the San Juan River below Navajo Dam. The streamflow here is 408 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 smaller 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 starting to lose its ice as the temperatures get warmer. Camping is closed in Pecos Canyon State Park. The streamflow at Pecos was 33.2 cubic-feet-per-second. 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 17 with 550 rainbow trout. The Pecos River from Villanueva to Interstate Highway 40 was stocked March 16 with 201 rainbow trout.
The Gallinas River near Las Vegas is starting to lose its ice. The streamflow was 3.32 cubic-feet-per-second.
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 to 50.7 cubic-feet-per-second. The Jemez River was stocked March 17 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 beginning to thaw out.
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 2,514 rainbow trout, including 230 rainbow trout averaging 15.4 inches in length. 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. Fishing for catfish in the Rio Grande near Albuquerque should pick up soon.
Escondida Lake just north of Socorro was stocked March 16 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. 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. A 55-pound blue catfish was recently caught. 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 March 16 with 1,508 rainbow trout. The streamflow here should be increased soon.
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 16 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 March 17 with 1,000 rainbow trout. Grindstone Reservoir was stocked March 17 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 1.14 cubic-feet-per-second at Ruidoso. Streamflow at Hollywood was 4.31 cubic-feet- per-second. It was stocked March 17 with 250 rainbow trout.
The Timberon Ponds neat Cloudcroft are being stocked again. They were stocked March 17 with 250 rainbow trout.
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 16 with 1,500 rainbow trout. Lake Van was stocked March 16 with 1,423 rainbow trout. These stockings will end soon as the weather gets warmer.
In Southwestern New Mexico, fishing in the lakes around Silver City should be very good soon as the water still 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. This is the time of year when some of the biggest bass will be caught all season.
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 March 9 with 2,136 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 in March. This is a good time of year to catch a trophy-sized largemouth bass
The streamflow in the Gila River is 46.3 cubic-feet-per-second near Gila Hot Springs. This is very low for this time of year. 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. This lake has not yet been stocked this year, but there may be some nice holdover trout.