New Mexico Department of Game and Fish
Media contact: Dan Williams, (505) 476-8004
Public contact: (505) 476-8000
dan.williams@state.nm.us

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, April 1, 2009:

Get ready for another great fishing season
at northwestern New Mexico lakes, streams

By Rick Castell

Ramah LakeFishing in New Mexico is good year-round depending where you cast a line, but the season "officially" opens April 1, the day anglers must purchase a new fishing license. Once that formality is out of the way, the opportunities are nearly endless, whether you are after trout, bass or any of the state's wide range of sport fish.

But the question remains: Where to go?

Fortunately, the Department of Game and Fish has fisheries biologists willing to stick their necks out and advise anglers about the best waters for the type of fishing they prefer. Here's my forecast for northwestern waters:

Navajo Lake -- always a good bet

Navajo Lake completely filled last year and it should maintain a significant water level this year. This should translate to adequate spawning opportunity for game fish this spring.
 

  • Crappie fishing usually is very good at Navajo, especially in mid-May. However, last year the crappie fishing was just fair, as the fish seemed to be spread out and in well-populated “pockets.” The increased water level will contribute to good crappie fishing.
  • Kokanee fishing should be good, as usual. Navajo is such a deep reservoir that this fish species probably will be the last affected by any drought conditions and decreased water levels. Snagging success should start to pick up in mid-October.
  • Black bass fishing should be fair to good. Most shallow coves at Navajo support a substantial black bass population. The preferred spawning depth of largemouth bass is about 6 feet, while smallmouth bass prefer about 10 feet.
  • Northern pike fishing has dramatically improved the last few years. It is unknown if this increased angler success is due to an actual increase in northern pike numbers or significant recent recruitment, with many young pike being caught. Many pike have been taken on jigs while crappie fishing.

Abiquiu Lake -- pretty steady

  • Crappie, largemouth and smallmouth bass fishing should be fair, probably comparable to last year.
  • Walleye fishing should be good. They have been stocked as fry for the last several years and appear to be doing quite well in Abiquiu.  Although growth rates don’t rival Conchas and Ute lakes, walleye fishing at Abiquiu is quite popular.
  • Trout fishing probably will be poor. Abiquiu historically was managed as a put-grow-and-take rainbow trout fishery. However, in recent years the whirling disease problem has crippled some state hatcheries, and caused the Department to look more toward a catchable trout stocking program for the time being.
  • Kokanee salmon are occasionally stocked in Abiquiu, but stockings are so infrequent that anglers planning a trip specifically for kokanee would have better luck at Navajo or Heron lakes.

Ramah Lake -- Go early in the season

Ramah is still recovering its spiny-ray population following an extensive fish-kill in 2006. Spring surveys should determine whether any largemouth bass survived. Depending upon the runoff, Ramah will rise, probably quite a bit this year. However, the higher water levels have been short-lived in recent years. In fact, during the last two years, we were only able to stock rainbow trout in early to mid-spring. The same thing likely will happen this year, but quite a few trout are usually stocked during this period of time. It’s definitely worth the trip for the scenery, if nothing else.

  • Bluegill fishing should begin to emulate what it used to be, despite the water fluctuations. Granted, the oldest bluegill will only be about 3 years old. You can catch bluegill on many rig/lure types, but it’s hard to beat dunking night crawlers.

Jemez-area streams -- a safe bet

A Santa Fe National Forest map will help you find good fishing opportunities in the Rio Cebolla, Rio Las Vacas, Jemez River main and east forks, and the Guadalupe River.

Water levels should be good most of the year, and most all of the Jemez-area streams are stocked regularly with catchable rainbow trout (March to September). Most of these streams also contain brown trout, and the fishing should be good, especially in the fall as the browns go to spawn.
 
Recent surveys were conducted as a response to angler complaints about poor fishing. These surveys reflected an abundance of both trout species, even during the busiest fishing periods of the year. A suggestion: If you hope to land some of these smart and wary fish, you should take caution to be as quiet as possible and actually “sneak” into these fishing holes.
 
Dunking worms, salmon eggs, or grasshoppers are extremely effective at catching brown trout. Panther Martin and Roadrunner spinners are also fairly effective, but you’re much more likely to get snagged on something and spoil your quiet approach.

San Pedro Parks Wilderness streams -- my favorite

High mountain streams such as the Rio Perchas, Rio Las Vacas and Rio Puerco are always a good bet for Rio Grande Cutthroat trout. If you’re willing to take a hike into the woods, you will be rewarded. This area is one of the most beautiful in the state, and you usually won’t see another person. Don't forget your Santa Fe National Forest map.

The Rio Las Vacas will provide the most opportunity for the avid fly fisherman, as it’s by far the most voluminous of these streams and provides the most room for casting. The best bet is usually to hike up the Palomas trail until it bisects the Rio Las Vacas. From there you can travel up or down stream.

San Juan River -- a blue-ribbon fishery

The San Juan flows from below Navajo Dam and back into Colorado northwest of Shiprock. Fishing should be good, as it usually is, for most of the year. This is especially true following the runoff and releases from Navajo Lake when water flows are reduced to less than 500 cubic feet per second.

The San Juan is regularly stocked with catchable-size rainbow trout below the four-mile stretch of special regulation "quality" waters below the dam. Brown trout also are prevalent throughout the length of the San Juan.

The San Juan provides opportunities for everyone from the most avid and purist fly angler to the novice beginner. The first quarter-mile below the dam is catch-and-release only, with tackle restricted to artificial flies or lures only, and no more than two single barbless hooks per line. The same tackle restrictions apply to the next 3.5 miles downstream, although anglers are allowed to keep one fish per day at least 20 inches long.

A number of capable guides are available in the Navajo Dam area for beginners or those who want to learn the river.

Look for fishing forecasts for other areas of New Mexico in the 2009-2010 Fishing Rules & Information booklet, available at license vendors statewide, Department of Game and Fish offices in Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Raton, Roswell and Las Cruces; and online at www.wildlife.state.nm.us.
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Rick Castell is the Northwest Area fisheries biologist for the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. He can be reached in Albuquerque at (505) 222-4715 or rick.castell@state.nm.us.

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