By George Morse
There’s some really good news coming from the Chama-Tierra Amarilla area. Water levels at Heron Lake are the highest they’ve been in many years and the marina at Willow Creek is now open again.
In years past, Heron was a popular destination for sailboats and boaters from all over the state could moor their boats at the Willow Creek Marina. Low water levels forced the closure of the marina and low water levels made the launching of sail boats difficult.
The heavy snowpack this past winter and subsequent heavy spring runoff has raised the water level at Heron Lake an impressive 45 feet and the marina was able to reopen recently. Sail boats will once again dot the waters of Heron. The big bathtub ring of dry land from the low water levels is much smaller now and the lake looks a lot better than it has for the last several years.
These increased water levels should also benefit the fishing, although maybe not this year. Heron at one time had some of the best, if not the best, kokanee salmon fishing in the state. In addition to trolling for the tasty salmon during the summer, anglers would flock to Heron in the fall for the annual snagging season, when the snagging of salmon was permitted and bag limits increased to encourage the harvest of the spawning salmon, which would die soon after spawning.
During the low water conditions of recent years, the spawning run of salmon has been just a shadow of what it used to be and snagging has been slow. With the higher water levels this year, it is hoped that this popular fishery can bounce back. It may take a few years to really tell if this is true. It takes the salmon three-to-four years to mature and spawn. Salmon stocked this year as small fry should mature by then and we’ll be able to see if they benefitted from the higher water levels.
Currently, the fishing at Heron Lake is slow, but it should pick up later this fall for stocked rainbow trout. These fish should also benefit from the higher water levels, as should the naturally-reproducing lake trout that also inhabit Heron.
Nearby El Vado Lake is also experiencing higher water levels this year. The best fishing at El Vado has been for bass.
The Chama River both below El Vado Dam and above El Vado Lake is also fishing well right now. The streamflow below El Vado Dam was 136 cubic-feet-per-second, which is a prime level for fishing. It has been good for stocked rainbow trout and wild brown trout below El Vado Dam. A number of big brown and rainbow trout were caught last week. Be aware that streamflows will increase over the weekend to accommodate recreational rafters and kayakers.
The Chama River above El Vado Lake is flowing at much-better levels than it was at this time last year. The streamflow at La Puente was 270 cubic-feet-per second thanks in part to recent rains. The stretch of river from El Vado Lake to the outlet at Heron Dam holds wild brown trout and wild rainbow trout. There are some seriously big fish in this part of the Chama. From the outlet at Heron Dam upstream 2.9 miles to the north boundary of the Rio Chama Wildlife Area is limited to artificial flies and lures with a single, barbless hook.
If you make a trip to the Chama area, be sure to check out the activities going on during Chama Days, which will be happening this weekend in Chama.
In contrast to this, water levels at Abiquiu Lake remain low. It is still difficult to launch boats at Abiquiu and a four-wheel drive vehicle is recommended. The fishing, however, is picking up. It’s been fair-to-good for walleye and smallmouth bass. Catfish are biting well in the mornings and evenings. I caught nice fish of all three species on a recent trip to Abiquiu.
The streamflow in the Chama River below Abiquiu Dam was 151 cubic-feet-per-second. This is a good level for fishing. The issue right now is water clarity. It is the color of chocolate milk. It needs to clear up a lot before the fishing will be good here.
The fishing has been fair-to-good at the Canjilon Lakes for stocked rainbow trout. Fishing at the Trout Lakes near Cebolla is still slow despite recent stockings. There were no reports from Laguna del Campo near Los Ojos, which has not been stocked in some time.
Hopewell Lake between Tierra Amarilla and Tres Piedras has been fair-to-good for stocked rainbow trout and wild brook trout. There are still some big rainbow trout left over from earlier stockings.
There was no report from the Rio de los Pinos near the Colrado border. Recent reports from local fly fishermen indicate good fishing for wild brown trout and stocked rainbow trout. Watch for caddis hatches.
Over in the Jemez Mountains, the streamflows have come up a bit thanks to recent rains. The Upper Rio San Antonio in the Valles Caldera National Preserve has been good. The fishing in the Rio Cebolla below Fenton Lake has been good. Fishing the small streams in the Jemez Mountains requires a stealthy approach as the fish are easily spooked.
Fenton Lake has been slow and weed growth here will just get heavier as the summer progresses.
The fishing at San Gregorio Lake has been good for stocked rainbow trout.
Weed growth at the Seven Springs Brood pond is getting heavier. The fishing is still fair-to-good for anglers under 12 years old.
The Rio Grande is slowly dropping and streamflow was 1,180 cubic-feet-per-second. Water clarity still remains an issue, as it is still pretty murky and the fishing is slow.
There were no reports from Santa Cruz Lake near Chimayo. The water here is likely getting warm and the trout have retreated to deeper water.
The Rio Pueblo near Penasco has a good streamflow of 27.8 cubic-feet-per-second. The fishing has been fair-to-good for stocked rainbow trout and wild brown trout.
The fishing has been good at the Red River. The streamflow here is at a healthy 97 cubic-feet-per-second.
Eagle Rock Lake near Questa has been fair-to-good for stocked rainbow trout. Anglers might want to give nearby Cabresto Lake a try. It is not stocked but holds wild brook trout and some cutthroat trout.
Still no reports on the Shuree Ponds on the Valle Vidal. Not many seem willing to make the long drive here. They have been stocked with good-sized rainbow trout.
In that same area, the Rio Costilla was stocked Aug. 1 with 750 Rio Grande cutthroat trout. Upper Comanche Creek was stocked with 1,080 Rio Grande cutthroat trout.
The trout fishing has been fair-to-good at Eagle Nest Lake. The perch fishing has been good with worms and a few northern pike are being caught. Weed growth is getting heavier here and anglers should look for pockets of open water.
The Cimarron River in Cimarron Canyon State Park has been good for stocked rainbow trout and wild brown trout. You can also wet a line at the Gravel Pit Lakes near Maverick Campground. They are stocked with rainbow trout.
The fishing at Maxwell Lake 13 picked up last week and has been fair-to-good using flies. A 23-inch rainbow trout was caught last week using worms.
Lake Maloya at Sugarite Canyon State Park near Raton has been good for trout. No report from Lake Alice.
Clayton Lake has been fair for trout and catfish. The boat ramp is closed.
Most of the lakes in Northeastern New Mexico did not report on conditions and they were not stocked last week.
The streamflow in the Pecos River was 116 cubic-feet-per-second. This is much better than last year, when fish dieoffs were being reported. The fishing has been good for brown and rainbow trout.
No reports on Monastery Lake or from the Cowles Ponds.
The water level at Conchas Lake is dropping and boaters are cautioned to watch for rocks. The fishing is still good for bluegill, largemouth bass, white bass and catfish.
The fishing for bass has been fair at Santa Rosa Lake. Night fishing for catfish has been good.
Fishing has been fair at Sumner Lake for white bass and catfish
Over in the Four Corners, the streamflow in the San Juan River below Navajo Dam was 1,030 cubic-feet-per-second. The fishing in the Quality Waters was good with a variety of fly patterns. The Bait Waters below the Quality Waters was stocked three times last week with a total of 56,782 small rainbow trout and 3,540 catchable-size rainbow trout. The fishing should be good.
The fishing at Navajo Lake for kokanee salmon continues to be good trolling spinners tipped with corn at 35-to-50 feet deep. The fishing has been fair-to-good for largemouth and smallmouth bass. The fishing has been good for bluegill.
Cochiti Lake has been slow-to-fair for largemouth bass and catfish.
Tingley Beach in Albuquerque has been good for catfish. It was stocked July 31 with 491 channel catfish averaging 18 inches in size. Bass fishing has been reported as good in the Albuquerque area drainage canals.
Channel catfish averaging 18 inches in size were stocked last week in the small municipal lakes and ponds throughout Southern New Mexico.
The fishing at Elephant Butte Lake has been good for white bass and catfish. It has been fair-to-good for largemouth and smallmouth bass. Fishing in the Rio Grande below Elephant Butte Dam has been good for catfish and fair for walleye and white bass. Caballo Lake has been very good for white bass and good for catfish.
Lake Roberts near Silver City has been good for trout, largemouth bass and catfish. The best area has been the northwest portion of the lake.
Grindstone Reservoir near Ruidoso has been fair for trout.