New Mexico Wildlife

New Mexico Department of Game and Fish

Home |  Recreation |  Apps & Permits |  Enforcement |  Conservation |  Education |  OHV |  Commission

Fishing Information  

Last Updated: 9/24/2008



New Mexico Walleye



With a mouthful of needle-sharp teeth and jutting lower jaw, the walleye is a formidable predator. In New Mexico, the walleye is considered a creature of the depths, hovering in dark waters far below anglers on the surface. This species avoids sunshine and calm water, preferring winds (3-10 mph), small surface waves, and depths (20-60 feet). It is not unheard of to catch walleyes in 90 feet of water. Water temperature has a great deal to do with where walleyes locate.


As a species, walleye are highly adaptable and multiply so rapidly they tend to take over new waters, preying upon resident fish. Good walleye habitat requires an ample supply of forage fish, 2- to 5-inch fingerlings, including shad, yellow perch, and crayfish. Walleye are at the peak of feeding in 64-degree water.


Every March, the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish collects millions of walleye eggs, mostly from Ute and Conchas reservoirs, for artificial propagation at the Rock Lake Hatchery. Up to 40 million walleye eggs are hatched and nurtured, then stocked as fry in area reservoirs.



Despite its official name and pike-like appearance, the walleye is actually a member of the perch family. The walleye is named for its blind-looking "wall" eyes, which are milky white, to help it see and feed in near darkness. It is a cylindrical, solid-bodied species with two tall, stiff dorsal fins, and the front fin is sharp with hard spines. Hazy color bands cross its back along its greenish-brown sides, above a cream-colored belly. A silver spot marks the bottom rear tip of the tail fin.



In reservoirs, use heavy (3/4 to 1 1/2 oz.) vertically shaped jigging spoons along the edges of old river channels at depths of 100 feet or more. Winter walleye fishing is most successful when your boat is equipped with a depth finder.



Best spring fishing action is on windy days during April and May, just after the spawn. Spawning occurs in water from 42 to 56 degrees F. Look for walleyes to gather and spawn in gravelly or sandy bays (where prevailing spring winds stir up wavelets), off shoreline bars, or in open water gravel flats. Moderate wave washing is needed to assist eggs in hatching. Reservoir walleyes spawn over a three-week period, primarily after dark, in water depths of 3 to 12 feet.

On cloudy, breezy days, it is not uncommon to catch walleye in less than 10 feet of water in areas where you'd normally expect to find largemouth bass. Under these conditions, use small jigs tipped with minnows, shallow running crankbaits, spinners, plastic worms, salt craw, and curly tail grubs.



In summer, walleyes frequent sand bars and points mostly at night, feeding on crayfish and minnows. For summer bait, most walleye fishermen use minnows, worms, bottom bouncer rigs, or wide-wobble crankbaits. As waters warm throughout the season, walleyes move further and deeper into cool, dark waters. While moving to these depths, walleyes are often attracted to structure, such as islands, underwater land forms, or deep weed beds.

As fall approaches, they return to their spring habits, such as frequenting shallower water and rocky structure, and returning to an all-fish diet again as they fatten up for winter.



Ute and Conchas (historically, our best walleye waters); Caballo (a close second); Santa Rosa, Cochiti, Clayton, Sumner, and Abiquiu.


Fishing for Walleye: Pointers from the Pros

  • Summer walleye fishing is easier if you use a depth finder.
  • A quarter-ounce lead-head hook with a yellow curly-tail grub is a favorite for both deep and shallow fishing. Tipping your hook with bait, whether worms or a piece of baitfish, can increase your chances.
  • Fish from shore using live bait on sinker rigs or jigs.
  • After dusk along the shore, cast a 5- to 7-inch shallow-running crankbait in 2 to 7 feet of water full of perch or bluegill, yet still near deep water. Wear chest waders, fish quietly, and bring a net.


A 10-percent federal excise tax on your purchase of fishing equipment and motor boat fuel helps states indi-vidually promote sport fisheries. This includes acquiring easements or leases for public fishing, funding hatchery and stocking programs, supporting aquatic education, and improving boating facilities for anglers.