By GEORGE MORSE
Sports And Outdoors
Los Alamos Daily Post
The weather has turned sharply colder and it won’t be long until the small, higher elevation lakes in Northern New Mexico will begin to freeze over.
A local angler recently reported ice forming on Hopewell Lake between Tierra Amarilla and Tres Piedras. The ice would melt off during the day. The Canjilon Lakes, Trout Lakes, Lagunitas Lakes and others will soon be frozen.
The fishing can be quite good at this time before the lakes become unfishable. The larger reservoirs and lakes take longer to start to freeze and many winters some will remain ice free. Trout will often feed heavily to fatten up for the winter.
If you’d like to catch a Rio Grande cutthroat trout without having to hike into the small, headwater streams where most of them are found, you should make a trip to Fenton Lake in the Jemez Mountains. It was stocked Oct. 20 with 512 Rio Grande cutthroat trout averaging 13 inches in length.
These fish come from the nearby Seven Springs Fish Hatchery, where Rio Grande cutthroats are raised for stocking in the state’s waters. Most cutthroat trout are stocked as small fingerlings in the small, headwater streams in the hopes they will establish naturally-breeding populations that eventually will not need restocking.
The Rio Grande cutthroat is our state fish. It is one of two trout species native to New Mexico. The Gila trout of Southwestern New Mexico is the other. The other trout species like brown trout, rainbow trout and brook trout were all introduced into New Mexico by humans.
The Rio Grande cutthroats now occupies just a fraction of the area that it used to inhabit. Over-fishing, habitat destruction and competition with the introduced trout species have reduced their population. At one time it was being considered as an endangered species, the State Game and Fish Department has made a strong effort to re-establish the Rio Grande cutthroat in suitable waters throughout the state.
The limit on cutthroat trout is two-fish-per-day and is included in the regular trout limit of five-fish-per-day. Any fish having the distinguishing red slashes under its lower jaw is considered a cutthroat trout.
The stocking of larger Rio Grande cutthroat trout at Fenton Lake is one of excess brood fish at the Hatchery that are being replaced by new brood fish. Brood fish are those that are used to gather eggs (females) and milt (males) from. The eggs are then hatched and raised at the Seven Springs Fish Hatchery until they are stocked.
The fishing has been good at Fenton Lake. It is also well-stocked with rainbow trout and has wild brown trout. You can try for a Fenton Lake tripleheader by catching a rainbow trout, a brown trout and a cutthroat trout the same day.
Other waters in the Jemez Mountains have been fishing well. The streams in the Jemez area are running low and clear.
The wild brown trout are spawning and active. The Jemez River was stocked Oct. 24 with 1,008 rainbow trout.
The Seven Springs Brood Pond near the Seven Springs Fish Hatchery is reserved for anglers under 12 years of age. It has good fishing for stocked rainbow trout and wild brown trout. There are some big fish in this little pond. Interestingly, the fish stocked in this pond come from other fish hatcheries and not the nearby Seven Springs Fish Hatchery. Only Rio Grande cutthroat are raised at Seven Springs.
Santa Cruz Lake near Chimayo has been a hotspot lately for some big, stocked rainbow trout. There are also some wild brown trout in this lake.
The Rio Grande is running low and clear now, with flows running a little below normal. It was stocked Oct. 24 in the Gorge above Pilar with 250 rainbow trout.
In the Pilar area, the Rio Grande was stocked Oct. 24 with 2,000 rainbow trout. One angler reported a tripleheader in the Gorge near Questa, catching a rainbow trout, brown trout and Rio Grande cutthroat trout. The fishing has been good.
In the Chama area, snagging for kokanee salmon will begin Friday at Heron Lake. Snagging here has been a bit slow in recent years and there were few reports on the kokanee fishing during the summer. It will be interesting to see how the snagging is this season. There have been no reports on how the snagging has been at El Vado Lake.
Navajo Lake in the Four Corners area has been the only lake reporting good snagging for kokanee salmon. Salmon snagging appears to drawing the attention of most anglers here, as there are no reports on fishing for other species.
Still in the Four Corners area, the streamflow in the San Juan River below NaajoDam was cut back to 300 cubic-feet-per-second Tuesday. This is a low flow for this section. The fishing has been good in the Quality Water below the Dam with a variety of fly patterns. The fishing in the Bait Water below the Quality Water has been good. The Quality Water was stocked Oct. 22 with 45,011 small rainbow trout.
Abiquiu Lake is still low and they are still releasing a lot of water from the lake into the Chama River below Navajo Dam.
A for-wheel drive vehicle is recommended for launching boats at Abiquiu Lake.
The Chama River below Abiquiu Dam was stocked Oct. 23 with 1,085 rainbow trout. The streamflow here was 669 cubic-feet-per-second and that is still too high for good fishing conditions here.
In the Questa area, Eagle Rock Lake was stocked Oct. 23 with 501 catchable-size rainbow trout and with 101 rainbow trout averaging 15.4 inches in size. The fishing has been good here and should continue to be good until it starts to ice over.
The Red River below Questa is usually a good spot to fish in late fall and even into the winter. It was stocked Oct. 22 with 700 catchable-size rainbow trout and 200 rainbow trout averaging 15.4 inches in size. The fishing has been good.
The fishing for rainbow trout has been good with Power Bait and spinners at Eagle Nest Lake. There have been no reports on other species. There appears to be very little snagging of kokanee salmon here.
The Cimarron River in Cimarron Canyon State Park has a healthy streamflow now as water is being released from Eagle Nest Lake. The fishing has been fair-to-good for stocked rainbow trout and wild brown trout. The fishing at the gravel Pit Lakes at Maverick Campground is likely slowing down, but there could be some stocked rainbow trout still left over.
Maxwell Lake 13, Clayton Lake and the Charette Lakes will all close for the season today. Lake Maloya at Suagarite Canyon State Park near Raton still has good fishing. The weather has been cold here and the area has been receiving snow. This lake may start to ice over.
No reports on the fishing at Storrie Lake near Las Vegas. The fishing has been good in the Gallinas River near Las Vegas.
The Pecos River is running low and clear. The fishing is still good for stocked rainbow trout and wild brown trout.
The fishing at Monastery Lake near Pecos has been good.
The fishing at Tingley Beach in Albuquerque is still reported as slow despite a recent stocking of trout. Perhaps the water here needs to cool down a little bit more before the trout fishing picksup.
The fishing at Elephant Butte Lake is slowing down. It has been fair for white bass. The fishing for catfish has been fair.
The bass fishing has been slow.
They are still not releasing water from Elephant Butte Dam into the Rio Grande.
Grindstone Reservoir and Alto Lake near Ruidoso were both recently stocked. Grindstone was stocked Oct. 21 with 1,500 rainbow trout. Alto Lake was stocked Oct. 22 with 999 rainbow trout. The fishing has been good at both lakes and they do not freeze over during the winter.
Lake Roberts near Silver City has both rainbow trout and Gila trout. It stays open all winter and does not freeze over. It was stocked Oct. 22 with 344 rainbow trout.