By Susan Brown
Good fishing holes are hard to find in large part because anglers are a tight-lipped bunch who like to keep this information close to their tackle box. Whether you’re looking to snag walleye and bluegill or rainbow trout and catfish, New Mexico boasts some of the best fishing in the Southwest. Here are the five best fishing holes in the state.
At 8,200 acres and 13 miles in length, Ute Lake is one of the longest in the state. It’s fed by the Canadian River and Ute Creek. With lots of coves and inlets, it’s great fishing for walleye, smallmouth bass, crappie, bluegill, and channel catfish. You can fish round-the-clock every day of the year. It’s worth noting that several state-record game fish have been caught here. There are paved ramps on both the north and south side for launching.
The translucent blue-green water here is impressive. As is the fishing. Locals know that, traditionally, this lake is notorious for being one of the best for walleye and smallmouth bass. But at 25 miles-long and with 60 miles of shoreline, there’s plenty of room for other fish. You’ll find bass, crappie, and bluegill at the end of your line too. Night fishing is popular but beware of shallow water and sandbars in the river channels. There are two modern marinas for launching and a store just in case you forgot your bait.
The elusive tiger muskie has been known to make an appearance at the end of a fishing line here. They were introduced by the Department of Fish and Game to help control invasive species. It worked. You’ll find some of the biggest here, making for a great catching experience. The lake is also stocked with rainbow trout, native and cutthroat trout, and catfish. Access to popular fishing spots can be reached by car without difficulty. In winter months, this is a popular spot for ice fishing. There are no marinas, but two paved ramps provide boat access.
The headwaters of this river are located in the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range north of town. It flows for 926 miles, eventually connecting with the Rio Grande, and offers plenty of access along its banks. It has populations of wild brown trout and is stocked with rainbow trout. In some of the smaller tributaries that feed the river you’ll also find the state fish, the Rio Grande cutthroat trout. There’s public access at the Dalton Day-Use area. Before you head to the river, stop in at Tererro General Store, which is the “last top for campers and fishermen along the Pecos River.” The store boasts any last-minute fishing supplies you might need.
Trout fishermen know that this world-renowned river is the place to go for both rainbow and brown trout. Some studies indicate there may be 15,000 fish per mile and average between 16 and 18 inches, if not bigger for the lucky angler. The section of river below the Navajo Dam is known for its trophy-sized fish. If you’re looking for a fish fight, this is the place to go. There are areas that are catch-and-release only, as well as some that are limited to barbless flies and lures and a catch limit. The river is a popular fishing destination…so, the fish are wary! If you need supplies before you go, stop in at Abe’s Motel & Fly Shop, which has been “outfitting fishermen for the San Juan River since 1958.” Now that’s reliable. After your trip, grab a bite to eat at Abe’s and book a room to stay the night.