It may be landlocked, but New Mexico is full of excellent fishing. Fly fishing, wading, drifting down rivers, and boating on large lakes, are all great ways to have fun in New Mexico. Some of the nation’s best trout fly fishing can be found in this dry state. Popular fish include Rio Grande trout, gila trout, and white bass.
The famous Rio Grande is best to fish at the start of fall when massive brown trout swim through its waters on their spawning run. You can also find rainbow trout, smallmouth bass, northern pike, channel catfish, and, of course, Rio Grande cutthroat trout.
Another waterway that is almost as famous among fishermen is the San Juan River. The San Juan River is a nationally renown fishery – there are thousands of fish per mile of water! This is an amazing angling spot for trophy trout.
New Mexico is home to some uncommon trout variations like the Rio Grande cutthroat trout and the olivine colored Gila trout. The Rio Grande cutthroat is the state fish. You can find gila trout in the Gila Trout River, which is also one of few rivers that allows troutlines (gila trout require special, free permits). There is also the Snake River trout, found in its namesake.
Kokanee salmon can be caught in New Mexico, too, and are also the only fish legally allowed to be removed via snagging. Navajo Lake and Heron Reservoir are two popular winter salmon snagging locations. For year round salmon a trip to El Vado Reservoir is in order. There you can also angle for rainbow and lake trout, among many others.
For excellent trout fly fishing below El Vado Reservoir, try the Rio Chama, a tributary of the Rio Grande. It passes through a scenic landscape, leaving you in breathtaking surroundings as you fish. The state record twenty pound brown trout came from the Rio Chama, too – now that is big and beautiful.
Winter trout fishing is a treasure given New Mexico’s year round warmth. Many fine trout fishing streams and lakes are actively stocked with rainbow trout in winter, like the Black River and Bear Canyon Lake.
Bass may not be the state fish, but they are the most commonly angled for warm-water fish. Fall fishing for striped bass in Elephant Butte Lake is exquisite. Striped are not Elephant Butte Lake’s only bass, though, as it is home to smallmouth, largemouth, and white bass. Elephant Butte Lake also holds carp and catfish. In fact is is the location of the state record blue catfish, a fifty-two plus pound monster!
All fisherpersons over the age of twelve must buy a recreational fishing license online, at a state agency, or by mail. Additional stamps may be required, and certain limitations may apply so check regulations with the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish.
Recreational fishing licenses are availible for both residents and non-residents for yearly, one day, or five day use. Youth and senior licenses are less expensive. To qualify for state residency you must be living within New Mexico, not claiming any other state as residency, for over ninety days before applying for a fishing license. University students may apply after attending one full term within New Mexico.
New Mexico’s residents over seventy years old are eligible for free licenses, while anyone with a physical or developmental disability may get one at a reduced fee. Disabled veterans and those returned from duty after the date of April, 2003, may also apply for a free license.
Try their free fishing days to sample New Mexico’s waters!
Whenever you head out fishing to a new place, it's always best to speak to local anglers. Use fishing forums to ask questions and learn about the most accurate and up to date conditions.