In this section
Out-of-state anglers must purchase an annual fishing license, a one-day license or a five-day license. The fishing license year is April 1- March 31.
A few lakes and parts of some streams are designated “Special Trout Waters,” more commonly referred to as “Quality Waters.” On most of them, only artificial flies and lures with single, barbless hooks can be used. All have restrictions on bag and possession limits. Many Indian pueblos and reservations offer public fishing, mostly for rainbow trout, some with bass or catfish.
Navajo Nation – Whiskey Lake, north of Gallup at 8,000 feet, offers average catches of 14- to 18-inch rainbow trout and a decent opportunity for 20-24-inch and larger fish (closed Dec.-Apr.). Navajo fishing and boat permits are available at sporting goods stores in the Gallup and Farmington areas. Reliable advice on routing to Whiskey and all lakes on the Navajo Nation is strongly advised. Visit the Navajo Nation Department of Fish and Wildlife website, http://www.nndfw.org/ for more information.
Navajo Lake State Park - This 15,000-acre irrigation impoundment in the Four Corners area is home to rainbow trout, brown trout, kokanee salmon (landlocked Pacific sockeye salmon), largemouth/smallmouth bass, northern pike, channel catfish, crappie and bluegill. For information on Navajo Lake and the San Juan River below the lake, visit www.emnrd.state.nm.us/spd/navajolakestatepark.html.
San Juan River - The San Juan River is a famous trout stream because the water portion directly below the dam is nearly always cold and clear because the dam slows the water and filters out the mud. This stretch is among the most hallowed trout fishing waters in North America. The rich waters spawn abundant flora, which in turn creates a fine environment for insect proliferation, which in turn supports one of the most prolific trout populations in any large river, both in terms of quantity and average fish size. It is illegal to fish with more than two flies on a single line when fishing the special trout water on the San Juan River.
Cochiti Lake - A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACOE) lake 50 miles north of Albuquerque and about 10 miles west of 1-25 has black bass, white bass, bluegill, crappie, walleye, catfish and northern pike. While Cochiti Lake is located within the boundaries of Cochiti Pueblo, permission to fish there is not required, as it is a USACOE facility. Visit www.corpslakes.usace.army.mil
Heron Lake - Less than 20 miles southwest of U.S. 64 near Tierra Amarilla, Heron is a no-wake, 6,000-acre lake that favors fishing and sailing. Produces 14- to 20-inch kokanee, and 10-to 20-plus-pound lake trout. Many visitors use guides to provide proper equipment and advice. Visit www.emnrd.state.nm.us/SPD/
Jemez Mountains - Jemez streams and Fenton Lake are accessible via N.M. 44 northwest out of Bernalillo, then N.M. 4 north out of San Ysidro. Jemez waters are heavily stocked with catchable rainbows. Some streams have good populations of brown trout. Visit www.emnrd.state.nm.us/SPD/
Jicarilla Apache Reservation - Probably the best lake in the state for large rainbow trout is Stone Lake - 18 miles south of U.S. 64 out of Dulce. Stone Lake is currently stocked with rainbow trout, largemouth bass and brown trout. Stone is most easily fished from small boats and float tubes, and is an extremely productive fishery with an unbelievable diversity and abundance of aquatic invertebrates. Tiger salamanders and Fat head minnows also contribute to trout diets in this lake and growth rates of 2 inches have been recorded at Stone Lake. However, prolonged drought conditions have seriously affected the Jicarilla fishing lakes, and decreased opportunities for fishermen. There are seven fishing lakes ranging in size from 35-500 acres, when full. Two of these lakes, Hayden Lake and La Jara Lake are currently dry. The other lakes including Stone Lake, Mundo Lake, Enbom Lake, Dulce Lake and Horse Lake have been impacted by drought conditions but are currently stocked for fishing. Bait fishing is allowed at Mundo and Enbom Lakes. At Stone Lake, however, only artificial flies and lures, with barbless hooks, are allowed. Mundo Lake offers rainbow trout, brown trout, largemouth bass, channel catfish, and bluegill. Stone Lake also has rainbow, brown and largemouth bass; Enbom Lake has rainbow trout; and Dulce Lake features channel catfish. Visit www.jicarillahunt.com/fishing
Private Waters on the Brazos River - The Brazos River east of Chama flows mostly on private land. Two long-established lodges with a variety of accommodations and prices offer access to the river’s fine rainbow and brown trout - Corkins Lodge to 2.5 miles of private access, and Brazos Lodge to public access.
Red River and Lower Red River - The Red River originates in the Wheeler Peak Wilderness Area above Red River, NM. The Red is New Mexico’s largest tributary to the Rio Grande. There are two distinct sections on the Red River, the Upper Red and the Lower Red. The Upper Red River flows along Highway 578 and continues through the town of Red River. This section is heavily stocked with rainbows and has wild browns and includes a 3-mile section of designated Special Trout Water. The Upper Red fishes best May through October. The Lower Red River is a 4-5 mile stretch from Questa, NM to the confluence with the Rio Grande. This wild canyon section features pocket water, riffles, plunge pools and short deep runs. Easier access is at the Red River Fish Hatchery parking lot, ideal for a half day. The better fly fishing requires hiking down one of two trails in the Wild and Scenic Rivers Area of the Rio Grande, west of Questa, NM. Wild brown trout and some rainbows averaging 10-14 inches inhabit the Lower Red plus a few 15-16 inchers. In the winter nice cuttbows migrate into the Lower Red from the Rio Grande. The main fly fishing season is September through mid April, with fall and spring being best. The summer can be hit or miss with runoff and rain.
Rio Chama Below El Vado Lake - In and around El Vado Ranch, rainbow and brown trout inhabit the many holes, pools and ripples of the nearby lakes and streams. In fact, this part of the Rio Chama is spectacular and it is not uncommon to hook an 18-20 inch trout. Take N.M. 112 west of U.S. 64 near Tierra Amarilla and proceed to Cooper’s EI Vado Ranch right at the river; parking fee applies.
Rio Grande - Anglers along the Rio Grande will be challenged by native brown trout, German brown trout, rainbow trout, and northern pike. All anglers, 12 years or older, must have the following: a valid New Mexico fishing license, a Wildlife Habitat Improvement validation, and a Habitat Management and Access Validation (Only those younger than 18, 100% Disabled Resident Veterans and Resident Anglers 70 and older are exempt from purchasing this validation.) in their possession. Licenses are available at the Rio Grande Gorge Visitor Center. To improve trout fisheries, "Special Trout Waters" have been designated north from Taos Junction Bridge to Colorado. Anglers need to be aware of special restrictions that apply in this area. Visit www.blm.gov/nm
Cimarron River – The Cimarron River flows east out of Eagle Nest Lake, U.S. 64, through Cimarron Canyon State Park. Good for 10- to 14-inch rainbows and browns. A stretch of Special Trout Water starts near Tolby Campground.
Clayton Lake - A 176-acre impoundment, about 15 miles northwest of Clayton and north of U.S. 64, Clayton Lake State Park has one boat ramp. Fish for rainbows, walleye, largemouth, catfish and big bluegill.
Eagle Nest Lake State Park – Eagle Nest Lake, a 2,000-acre impoundment alongside U.S. 64 northeast of Taos, is one of the state’s premier kokanee and trout lakes, surrounded by the stunning scenery of the high mountains of the Moreno Valley. The lake at 8,300’ elevation is a cool retreat from summer heat or a winter wonderland. Good in open water or through the ice for 14-inch plus rainbows.
Springer Area Lakes - Springer Lake is about 5 miles west of Springer. Best (Apr.-June and Sept.-Oct.) for 5- to 25-pound northern pike. Lake 13 on the Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge, off N.M. 445 just outside the village of Maxwell, produces rainbows in the range of 12 to 24 inches. Charette Lakes on a mesa southwest of Springer usually offer good fishing for 10- to 14-inch rainbows and perch. Maxwell and Charette Lakes closed Nov.-Feb. Contact the Springer Chamber of Commerce, 575-483-2998 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Valle Vidal - The Valle Vidal is a lush mountain basin located in the heart of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, in northern New Mexico. It is managed by the Carson National Forest primarily for its wildlife, as well as its outstanding scenic and recreational opportunities. The Valle Vidal is a veritable Rocky Mountain paradise, with abundant populations of regional wildlife, including mule deer, black bear, mountain lion, bald eagles, and native Rio Grande cutthroat trout. Shuree Ponds, open July 1 to Dec. 31, are stocked with 15-inch-plus rainbow trout, with one reserved for anglers under 12. Daily bag is two 15-inch or bigger fish.
Three lakes along 1-40 between Tucumcari and Santa Rosa usually offer good fishing for walleye: Ute Lake, 25 miles northeast of Tucumcari along U.S. 54 near Logan; Conchas Lake, 31 miles from Tucumcari via N.M. 104; and Santa Rosa Lake, about 10 miles north of 1-40 out of Santa Rosa. The lakes also have small mouth/largemouth bass and channel catfish; great some years for crappie; and Ute and Conchas also have white bass. Be sure to check water levels before planning any fishing trip.
Brantley Lake - An impoundment on the Pecos River reached via CR 30 off U.S. 285, 12 miles north of Carlsbad, Brantley Lake has largemouth/spotted/white bass, walleye, catfish, crappie and bluegill. If you go, concentrate on the upper portions of the lake for channel catfish and white bass. Brantley is catch and release fishing only due to contamination concerns.
Rio Peñasco on Private Land - The Peñasco is a spring creek with nine miles of trout water teeming with wild browns and rainbows along NM 82 east of Cloudcroft. A number of springs help maintain a water temperature of 52-60 degrees year round. Most of the wild browns and rainbows average 10-14 inches with realistic odds of trout reaching 20 inches. The constant water temperatures and tremendous aquatic insect population allow the trout to grow year round. The entire length of the Peñasco is privately owned. Mel and Jennifer Foley (505-687-2221) operate a 2-mile section known as The Rio Penasco Fishing Company. The Foleys offer day trips and overnight camping in comfortable tent-cabins with a full bathhouse. The Mesilla Valley Flyfishers have a two-mile public access lease on the Cleve Ranch. A $10 daily permit is available at the well-posted parking areas along US Highway 82 or by calling the Anglers Nook in Las Cruces, NM (505-522-3810). Five miles of the Penasco on the Mulcock Ranch (505-687-3352) is available for day fishing with a nominal rod fee. The Mulcock Ranch currently features a bunkhouse available for camping.
Ruidoso Area – The Ruidoso River: The Ruidoso River is still recovering from the flooding of 2008 and intermittent low water levels due to drought in recent years. Fishing may be fair for small brown trout and good for rainbows if water levels allow stocking. Grindstone Lake: Stocking of rainbows has been sporadic the last few years due to water quality problems. During the summer, try fishing early in the day (before the sun hits the water) and cast to rising fish. Check stocking reports and lake levels before planning a fishing trip. Bonito Lake remains closed for fishing until further notice.
Bill Evans - Some 30 miles northwest of Silver City and about four miles southwest of U.S. 180, Bill Evans Lake is 300 feet above the river that fills it. Water from the Gila River is pumped up a high mesa to where a sparkling lake is impounded. The lake annually fills anglers' creels with crappie, channel catfish, bluegill and largemouth bass. Trout, although present throughout the year, are more active from October through May. Compared to other southwestern lakes, Bill Evans has relatively cool waters and largemouth bass grow slower than in warmer lakes. Call New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, 575-522-9796
Caballo Lake - About 16 miles south of Truth or Consequences via 1-25, Caballo Lake holds a large population of walleye in the 14-24 inch range and fishing should be very good. Fishing should be very good for blue and channel catfish ranging from 10-20 inches.
Elephant Butte Lake - New Mexico’s big one, Elephant Butte Lake is a few miles north of Truth or Consequences, just east of 1-25. Current lake conditions appear to favor blue catfish. Fishing for them should be excellent. White and largemouth bass fishing will be fair throughout the lake during late spring and summer. The Department plans to stock 1 million striped bass fry this spring. Several large stripers were found in recent surveys, but they are few and far between. Fishing should be good for walleye.
Silver City Area - Fishing Lake Roberts for largemouth bass and bluegill is generally good from spring to early summer. Channel catfish should be good in summer. During the winter, fishing for stocked rainbow trout should be good. Fishing at Quemado Lake should be good for stocked rainbow trout throughout the year, but slows in the summer as water temperatures increase. Tiger muskies are available throughout the year and are currently being caught at record sizes at Quemado, as well as at Bluewater Lake (you can only keep one, however, and it has to be longer than 40 inches). Fishing for stocked rainbow trout at Snow Lake is best from November- March. Expect fishing to be slowest in the summer. Both the Gila River and the San Francisco River along with their many tributaries are located within the Forest. Upper reaches and headwater tributaries of both rivers offer trout fishing, the lower reaches of both rivers offer quality warm water fishing opportunities. Visit the www.wildlife.state.nm.us fishing report.
Sandia Pueblo lakes - Open all year. North of Albuquerque; take the Alameda exit west about a mile to N.M. 313, then north about a mile. Three small lakes with bass, catfish and rainbow trout; Anglers can expect to catch 10- to 13-inch rainbows. Subject to availability, sometimes stocked with 3- to 8-pound rainbows.
Tingley Beach: The three ponds at Tingley Beach provide something for everyone. Whether you want to fish the Catch and Release pond, or want to expose a young angler to the sport at the Kid’s Pond, you’re set at Tingley Beach. Catchable-size trout and catfish are stocked from October through April in large quantities. If you live within Albuquerque or the surrounding communities, Tingley Beach is a classic “urban fishery” and it’s hard to beat.