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Fishing in New Mexico

-provided by High
Desert Angler

New Mexico provides a great variety of fishing opportunitites
and we list just a few here to whet your appetite. At
different times of the year, you may fish the Rio Grande
among prickly pear cactuses at 6000 feet elevation or
among ponderosa pines at 11,000 feet in mountain lakes
of the Pecos Wilderness.

From June to early September, elevations above 8000
feet are delightful places. Daily summer rains keep
the higher mountain streams cool, but the same rain
murks lower elevation rivers. When the weather begins
to cool and summer monsoons end, fishing gradually shifts
to lower elevations. By Halloween, elevations above
8000 feet are beginning to receive snow and fishing
the larger, lower streams begins in earnest. Spring
run off can begin as early as March, but is more typical
in April and May, depending on the particular stream.

Most fishable miles are in smaller, high-elevation streams
(4- 20-feet across), many on Santa Fe or Carson National
Forest lands. Although there are some delightful meadow
sections, most streams are higher gradient, freestone
streams lined with alder and spruce and host smaller
fish and a variety of summer insect hatches. Accurate
15-foot casts with dry flies are the usual tickets to
success. Examples are the Pecos, East Fork of the Jemez,
Rio San Antonio, and Rio Santa Barbara.

Lower elevation rivers like the Rio Grande and Rio Chama
fish best fall through the beginning of run off. Large
basalt boulders and canyon stretches provide places
for bigger fish to live. Subsurface nymphs and streamer
patterns are typically the best choices.

The famous San Juan River is a tailwater below Navajo
Reservoir near Bloomfield, NM. The first four miles
of river contain upwards of 20,000 trout per mile with
an average size of 17 inches. For those who can fool
the very well educated rainbows, it fishes well for
ten months of the year (harder during high Spring releases).
The San Juan is 3-1/2 hours drive from Santa Fe.

Fishing Lakes
Both high- and lower-elevation lakes also provide good
fishing. In spring and fall, McAllister Lake and the
lakes of the Jicarilla Apache Reservation offer the
chance at large trout on nymphs and streamers. In summer,
hike-in lakes in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains provide
a challenge for careful fly fishers.

Current state fishing regulations may be obtained from
the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. Non-resident
short-term licenses for one day are $14 or five days
for $22. Fishing on Tribal lands is done by permit from
individual tribes. High Desert Angler sells New Mexico
and Jicarilla Apache permits.

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