Outdoors At Laguna del Campo

by Staff Reporter / Jun 02, 2017 / comments
Canada geese at Laguna del Campo. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

Outdoors At Laguna del Campo

By George Morse Sports and Outdoors

The drive north on US Highway 84 from Espanola to Tierra Amarilla reveals just how much moisture we’ve had this year, particularly when you go past Echo Canyon Amphitheater and climb towards Canjilon. The grass is thick along the sides of the highway and the pastures are a vibrant green . The cattle, sheep and elk are eating well this spring. Stock tanks have plenty of water. It’s not every year that the land looks like this. Take a drive just to see how green it is. After too many years of drought, it’s great to see the landscape looking so healthy.

Topping out on the hill just before you get to Tierra Amarilla, I could see the Brazos Cliffs. Brazos Falls is still running. Most of the snow from 10,000 feet on down looks to be gone. Above 10,000 feet, there appears to be a lot of snow left.

Ospreys, also known as fish hawks, circled and fished around the lake, Laguna del Campo. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

My destination was Laguna del Campo near Los Ojos.  Getting there requires some directions. Heading north on Highway 84 (now 84/64) through Tierra Amarilla, go past Henry’s True Value Store and look for a sign for a left turn to Los Ojos (State Road 112). Immediately after making the turn on to 112, turn right on to 514 and take a winding road into the village of Los Ojos. In the middle of town, before you get to the Tierra Wools store, there is a left hand turn onto County Road 340.

While driving on 340 the Chama River will be on your right. The day I was there (Sunday (5/28), the river was flowing very high. The runoff this year is very heavy

Head south on 340, go past the turn to the Los Ojos Fish Hatchery. Watch your speed as 340 is a narrow, winding road and the left turn to Laguna del Campo will come up very abruptly as you start to go down a hill. Turn onto the dirt road that leads to the lake.

Western Garter Snake at Laguna del Campo. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

Laguna del Campo is a small, 10-acre lake that was formerly known as Burns Canyon Lake. There are special regulations. Fishing is reserved for anglers 14 years of age or younger, anglers 65 years of age or older and anglers with disabilities. Up to two adult anglers in direct supervision of young anglers may also fish. The season is May 1-Oct. 31. Fishing is allowed 30 minutes before sunrise until sunset. Any method of angling may be used and the limit is three fish per day.

Because it is so close to the Los Ojos Fish Hatchery, Laguna del Campo is well-stocked with rainbow trout. During the season, there will occasionally be stockings of bigger-than-average trout. The lake is fertile and some trout will grow and carry over into the next season if they are not caught right away. Ther are some big fish in the lake.

There used to be brown trout in Laguna del Campo, but I haven’t heard of any being caught recently. There may still be some left in there.

I was hoping that I’d be able to find an angler with a big fish that I could take a picture of. After parking and unloading my gear, I took out my camera. I was not disappointed. One of the first things I saw was a young angler carrying a big rainbow trout. Asking him if I could take a picture, he said it was 24 inches long and he had caught it on a bobber and a worm. It was a healthy, well-colored trout. Possibly a carryover from last year’s stockings. Walking down the shoreline, there were plenty of other anglers and it looked like most of them were using the worm-and-bobber technique. Some of them had fish, but none as big as that first one.

 Trason Garcia of Rio Rancho caught this 24 inch rainbow trout at Laguna del Campo on May 28. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

One of the great things that day was there was a pair of ospreys, also known as fish hawks, circling around the lake. They were having luck. Several times, one would swoop down, hit the water and then take off with a fish firmly grasped in its talons. It was quite likely a breeding pair that needed to feed a nest full of chicks at nearby Heron Lake, where many ospreys build nests. It was cool to see them. I wasn’t quick enough with the camera to get a picture of them catching the fish, but got some pictures of them flying away with them.

This osprey at Laguna del Campo caught a trout and is carrying it as it flies away. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post
There was also a flock of Canada geese using the lake and coming ashore to graze on the grass around the lake. I even got a picture of a curious western garter snake that was swimming along the bank.

I had arrived late in the afternoon and after taking pictures I fished for an hour or so. Bobber and a worm, of course. I missed one bite, then had a big fish break my line. Probably a weak spot or bad knot where the line connected to the bobber. When I reeled in my line, the bobber was still there but the leader and the bait were gone.

I did catch one nice rainbow trout of about 13-14 inches that put up a good fight. It looked like it might be a holdover so I kept it for a future fish dinner.

The weather was warm and most of the time I fished with just a T-shirt on. It was nice watching families enjoy the day.

On the drive back I spotted a few elk grazing on that lush grass just off the highway south of Tierra Amarilla. A great day to be out in the beautiful high country of Northern New Mexico.