Walleye And Bass At Abiquiu Lake

by Staff Reporter / Sep 01, 2017 / comments
Setting sun shines on Abiquiu Lake. Photo by George Morse

Walleye And Bass At Abiquiu Lake

By GEORGE MORSE Sports And Outdoors

A Sunday morning one month ago a hunch that I had was confirmed. I’d been noticing that one of our hummingbird feeders that I usually end up refilling every day was not getting drained out as quickly. I suspected that a little rufous hummingbird had staked this feeder out and was chasing all others away.

Sure enough, Sunday I spotted the little rufous chasing other hummingbirds away. The little fireball would perch on a nearby elm tree or on a chain link fence. When another hummingbird showed up at the feeder, it would dive bomb them away.

Rufous are cool little birds. They have colorful orange-red throats. Despite being smaller than other species of hummingbirds, they make up for it in aggressiveness. Their wings beat at an astonishing 60-times-a-second. They have the longest migration of any hummingbird, flying each spring north from Mexico to the southern tip of Alaska. In the fall, they return to Mexico to spend the winter.

Later that afternoon, I decided to see if another hunch I had would pay off. There’s a spot at Abiquiu Lake where there’s a large area that’s relatively flat promotes a lot of weed growth. I had a feeling that there would be a lot of smallmouth bass in this area because weeds promote the growth of a lot of food for fish. That should attract fish to that area. I also hoped I could catch a few walleye, which I would keep to eat.
Walleye are a large member of the perch family. They are native to the Mississippi River drainage. They have been introduced all over the United States, including New Mexico. They grow to fairly large sizes (world record 25 pounds from Tennessee).

Walleye are among the finest-eating freshwater fish. They have firm, white meat. In Minnesota, where the walleye is the most sought-after gamefish, you’ll find walleye featured on many restaurant menus.  Most walleye-fishing is done from boats, but you can catch them from the bank in favorable locations that they are attracted to.

Walleyes get their name from their large, glassy eyes. They are very sensitive to light and fishing for them is best under low-light conditions. I was hoping that we’d get an afternoon rainstorm that would trigger the walleye into biting that afternoon.

If you haven’t eaten lunch, Bode’s General Store in Abiqiuiu serves a very good green chile cheeseburger. Even the ones I grab to go wrapped in foil are excellent. The other items on the menu may be just as good, but I always get the green chile cheeseburger.

Bode’s General Store in Abiquiu serves green chile cheeseburgers and other items. Photo by George Morse

Next to Bode’s is the Frosty Cow ice cream stand if you’re in the mood for a cool treat on a hot summer day.

Frosty Cow ice cream stand in Abiquiu serves up cool treats on hot summer days. Photo by George Morse

It’s a bit of a hike down to the lake to the area I wanted to fish. Upon arriving, I rigged up a nightcrawler beneath a bobber. I began to get bites. Sure enough, there were plenty of smallmouth bass in the area, but they were small. I didn’t want to use up all my nightcrawlers and since I wanted to release the bass, I decided to rig up a bobber with a small, lead-headed jig with a chartreuse, plastic curly tail.

Abiquiu Lake is one of the most beautiful lakes in New Mexico. Photo by George Morse

This worked like a charm and I was soon catching and releasing smallmouth bass with regularity. Small mouth bass are well-known for their fighting ability. They pull hard, make strong runs and often leap clear of the water. On my ultralight rod, I had a lot of fun.

Some of the bass I released may have been of legal size (12 inches) to keep. I had already decided that unless I hooked a real big one, I was going to release all the bass I caught.

The weather didn’t cooperate and stayed warm and sunny all afternoon, so I wasn’t catching any walleye. As the sun got lower on the horizon, I finally hooked a fish that had me thinking “This might be a walleye.”

Walleye may be great to eat, but their fighting abilities leave something to be desired. Basically, they just pull hard. Even then not as hard as smallmouths.

Sure enough, this fish turned out to be a keeper-size (14 inches) walleye. Since walleye tend to hang out together, I was hoping to catch another one. Unfortunately, walleye have sharp teeth and this one had torn my curly to pieces.

However, my other rod was still rigged up with a bobber and a hook. Threading on a nightcrawler, I caught another walleye a little bigger than the first. Walleyes really like nightcrawlers.

It was getting late and since it takes a lot longer to walk up from the lake than it does going down, I decided to call it a day.

I likely could have caught a few more walleye had I stayed later. I had two eating-size fish that would yield four nice filets. I wanted to get back to my truck before sundown.

One of the great things about fishing at Abiquiu is the beauty of the setting.

With Pedernal Peak looming over it and surrounded by the red rock cliffs and pinnacles that define Abiquiu, it’s one of the most beautiful lakes in our state.

On the walk out, I took my time and often glanced back at the setting sun.