By GEORGE MORSE
Los Alamos Daily Post
New Mexico is still feeling the effects of what has been a hot and dry year. The monsoon rains were not enough to significantly raise low streamflows and reservoirs are at very low levels.
The low streamflows and high water temperatures are negatively impacting trout, particularly in our streams and rivers. Trout prefer cool, well-oxygenated water to live in and survive.
There have been trout dieoffs reported recently in the Pecos River between the towns of Pecos and Cowles. Anglers are reporting hundreds of dead and dying trout. Up until very recently the State Game and Fish Department was still heavily stocking trout in this area. They should suspend stocking until conditions improve.
Ominously, many of the dead trout are reported to be brown trout. Brown trout are not stocked and are wild fish that are sustained by natural reproduction. The loss of these fish does not bode well for the future. The Department has said they plan to rebuild the trout populations by stocking when conditions improve. Since the Department stocks just triploid rainbow trout that cannot reproduce, this will not do anything to help the population of wild trout and make our fisheries even more dependent on stocked fish than they already are.
The rivers and streams that I can recommend fishing now are those directly beneath dams. Because the streamflows here are controlled by releases from the dams and because the water comes from the bottom of the lakes where it is colder, they remain suitable for the survival of trout. This includes the Chama River below Abiquiu, El Vado and Heron dams. The San Juan River below Navajo Dam remains good. The Cimarron River below Eagle Nest Dam is still okay, but streamflows here can get very low if they are not releasing water from Eagle Nest Lake.
The Rio Grande is still okay, but water here is very low compared to average streamflows for this time of year.
Our neighboring state of Colorado is also experiencing low streamflows and high water temperatures. The Colorado Department of Parks and Wildlife (the equivalent of our State Department of Game and Fish) has implemented voluntary closures on several rivers, including the Conejos River which is popular river with New Mexico fishermen.
The voluntary closures ask that anglers voluntarily not fish these rivers to relieve the stress on trout. Even if you practice catch-and-release, trout that are already struggling under difficult conditions can’t handle the stress of being caught and released. Many of them will die no matter how careful you are.
It might be a good idea for our State Department of Game and Fish to consider voluntary closures.
That said, the fishing in some of our smaller trout lakes remains good thanks to heavy stocking by the Department. A good example of this are the Canjilon Lakes. Since reopening Aug. 22, these little lakes have been heavily-stocked. The Department has even stocked a number of Rio Grande cutthroat trout. There were 299 cutthroat trout stocked here Sept. 26 that averaged over 12 inches in size. These fish came from the Seven Springs Fish Hatchery, where they are
In addition, the Department stocked 810 catchable-size rainbow trout Sept. 24 and 300 rainbow trout that averaged over 18 inches in size. Conditions at these little lakes can get crowded, but there are certainly plenty of fish waiting to be caught.
The fishing for warmwater fish like bass, walleye and catfish is another option. Abiquiu Lake remains very low and extreme caution should be used when launching boats. A four-wheel drive vehicle is recommended. The fishing for smallmouth bass has been fair and a few walleye are starting to show up. The walleye fishing should improve as the water starts to cool down. It’s still a little too warm for trout to be active, but there is some cooler weather forecast later this week that could make them more active.
The Chama River below Abiquiu Dam is still too murky and the flow a little too heavy for good fishing. Once the flow is lowered as the irrigation season comes to an end, the fishing should improve here.
The fishing remains good in the Chama River below El Vado Dam. The wild brown trout here should become a little more active as their spawning season approaches.
No reports on the fishing and kokanee salmon snagging at El Vado Lake, which remains very low. The boat ramps are closed here.
The fishing at Heron Lake is very slow. The fishing in the Chama River below Heron Dam has been good and there are some big fish here. Above Heron Dam the flows in the Chama River are very low.
No reports from Laguna del Campo near Los Ojos, but the fishing should be at least fair here for stocked trout. The fishing at the Trout Lakes near Cebolla has been fair-to-good for stocked trout. They were stocked Sept. 24 with 945 rainbow trout.
The fishing has been fair at Hopewell Lake between Tierra Amarilla and Tres Piedras. The wild brook trout here should be starting to show some color and become more active as their spawning season approaches. You should start to hear some elk bugling in the mountains here.
No reports from the Rio de los Pinos neat the Colorado border north of Tres Piedras. The wild brown trout here should start to be more active.
In the Jemez Mountains, the fishing at Fenton Lake has been fair-to-good. Several streams in the Jemez area were stocked last week. The Rio Cebolla below Fenton Lake was stocked Sept. 27 with 399 rainbow trout and the fishing has been good. The Jemez River was stocked Sept. 25 with 822 rainbow trout and the fishing has been good.
The Rio San Antonio was stocked Sept. 27 with 748 rainbow trout and the fishing has been good here too. All these streams contain wild brown trout.
The fishing at the Seven Springs Brood Pond near the Seven Springs Fish Hatchery has been good. It was stocked Sept. 27 with 549 rainbow trout.
Santa Cruz Lake near Chimayo is very low and you’ll have to walk a bit to reach the shoreline, which is likely muddy. The fishing is reported as fair for rainbow trout. It’s most likely best near the dam in deeper water.
The trout fishing in the Rio Grande has been good despite the low flows. The fishing has been slow-to-fair for smallmouth bass.
Despite a stocking Sept. 26 of 1,200 rainbow trout in the Rio Pueblo near Penasco, there were no reports. The streamflow here is very low.
The streamflow in the Red River is among the best of the smaller tributaries of the Rio Grande and the fishing has been good. The Red River Hatchery Pond is well-stocked and should be at least fair.
The fishing at Eagle Rock Lake near Questa has been good. This lake is heavily-stocked. It was stocked Sept. 26 with 500 catchable-size rainbow trout and with 200 rainbow trout that averaged over 15 inches in size.
Eagle Nest Lake remains a hotspot if you’re looking to catch a mess of yellow perch, which are very good eating when properly fileted. The trout fishing has been fair. There were no reports on the kokanee salmon snagging, which opened Oct. 1 at Eagle Nest.
The Cimarron River in Cimarron Canyon State Park was stocked Sept. 24 with 2,425 rainbow trout. The fishing in the river has been good and the flow is good right now. The Cimarron Gravel Pit Lakes were stocked Sept. 24 with 399 catchable-size rainbow trout and with 100 rainbow trout averaging 15 inches in size. The fishing at the lakes should be at least fair.
No reports from Stubblefield Lake and Maxwell Lake 13. The trout fishing at Maxwell Lake 13 should start to pick up as the weather cools down. Any holdover trout in this lake will be good-sized as it is very fertile. Migrating waterfowl should start showing up at this lake, which is part of a National Wildlife Refuge.
The fishing at Lake Maloya in Sugarite Canyon State Park has been good and will likely get better as the weather cools down.
The fishing has been slow at the Charette Lakes. Morphy Lake State Park remains closed due to repairs on the dam.
Despite a heavy stocking of 3,034 rainbow trout Sept. 28 at Storrie Lake State Park, the fishing remains slow.
The fishing has been good at the Gallinas River near Las Vegas.
After the reported fish dieoffs, it’s no surprise that the fishing in the Pecos River has been slow. A better bet in this area is Monastery Lake near the town of Pecos, where the fishing has been good all summer and remains so. The fishing at the Cowles Ponds north of Pecos has been fair.
Over in the Four Corners, the fishing has been good for northern pike, largemouth bass and smallmouth bass at Navajo Lake. The kokanee salmon snagging season opened Oct. 1. It was reported as very slow.
The streamflow in the San Juan River below Navajo Dam was 750 cubic-feet –per second Monday and is scheduled to be decreased to 500 cubic-feet-per-second. The fishing in the Quality Waters has been good with a varietyof fly patterns.
The fishing in the Bait Waters has been good with flies, lures and bait. The Bait Waters were stocked Sept. 26 with 2,320 rainbow trout.
Cochiti Lake has been fair for catfish, largemouth bass and smallmouth bass.
The fishing for stocked catfish at Tingley Beach in Albuquerque has been slow.
Despite very low water at Elephant Butte Lake, the fishing has been excellent for white bass. White bass are a schooling fish that prefers open water and the low water levels have concentrated them. The fishing has been good for largemouth bass, smallmouth bass and catfish. They are not releasing water below Elephant Butte Dam.
The fishing for catfish below the Dam in the Rio Grande has been good.