Fishing New Mexico
The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish has put forth a HUGE effort to actively maintaining the state’s fisheries in the last several years. These efforts are really starting to pay off in a big way. From the huge reservoirs to the lakes, streams and creeks in the high mountains, the populations of largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, walleye, white bass, catfish, bluegill, perch, northern pike, and various species of trout are growing at an incredible rate, making New Mexico fisheries some of the best in the southwest.
The NMDGF has noted that they “raise and stock more than 2 million fish each year to provide recreational fishing in many of the state’s most popular waters.” Some of the more recent species that have seen reintroduction into the waters are cutthroat trout, gila trout, kokanee salmon, and tiger muskie. This is fantastic news as it shows that tax dollars are being well spent!
Due to the location of this state to the equator, most bodies of water in New Mexico provide fishing year-round. Even in the higher elevation lakes, like Bluewater Lake (7,400 foot elevation), you can fish all year as long as you don’t mind ice fishing.
New Mexico also has a couple bodies of water that are labeled as “Special Trout Waters” (aka “Quality Waters”) where anglers are required to use only artificial baits (flies and lures) with single barbless hooks. The list of these “Special Trout Waters” can be found here, on the NMDGF website.
For a list of licenses, fees and where to buy, see our New Mexico Fishing License page.
The locations below are listed alphabetically in the region of the state and just a sampling of the many places to go fishing and some of the species you can catch in New Mexico.
Places To Go Fishing In New Mexico
Northeast New Mexico
Ute Reservoir: This reservoir is about 8,200 acres and is located about 60 miles from the city of Santa Rosa. The Ute Reservoir is 13 miles long, making it one of the longest reservoirs (lakes) in New Mexico. It has close to 45 miles of shoreline, so there is plenty of room to spread out and enjoy fishing for (and catching) the many different species that call Ute Lake home. Unfortunately, in order to enjoy fishing on the shoreline here, you’ll have to put on your hiking books because there are very few “easy” access points to the shore. However, if you have a boat, that’ll be much easier as there are 5 boat launch ramps and docks around the lake. Ute Lake does have a very healthy and stable population of bass, walleye, crappie, white bass and more. Best bait to use for the bass bite here are worms and various styles of topwater baits. The walleye typically go after live minnows, Berkley® Gulp® Minnows, and various grubs. As always, catfish will take you for a ride on nightcrawlers and just about anything that smells bad.
Popular Species To Catch: Largemouth Bass, Smallmouth Bass, Channel Catfish, Black Crappie, White Crappie, Walleye, Bluegill, Whitebass
Northwest New Mexico
Bluewater Lake: Located about 25 miles west of Grants, you will find Bluewater Lake. The lake is approximately 1,200 acres in size and is up in the higher elevation at around 7,400 feet, allowing for some pretty decent ice fishing during the winter months. The lake is regularly stocked with rainbow trout, cutthroat trout and catfish, however, it is best know as one of the premier lakes in New Mexico for catching giant tiger muskie. The average length of these beautiful tiger muskie is a decent 30 inches. But, as great of a catch as that sounds, 30 inches is still not a legal keeper at Bluewater Lake. The keeper length for tiger muskie here is a whopping 40 inches!
Popular Species To Catch: Tiger Muskie, Rainbow Trout, Cutthroat Trout, Catfish, Smallmouth Bass
Central New Mexico
Elephant Butte Reservoir (Lake): Located in west central New Mexico, Elephant Butte Reservoir, or better known as Elephant Butte Lake, is the largest body of water in the state. It has a acreage size of about 40,000. Any angler that you speak to will let you know that this is the best lake in the state for catching trophy-sized black, white and striped bass. However, it isn’t just the great bass fishing that keeps anglers from over the country coming back, the crappie and bluegill fishing is close to world-class. If you have a boat, there are 3 marinas at this reservoir. There are also over 360 miles of shoreline here and about a dozen easy-access points around the lake, so not having a boat is not a problem.
Popular Species To Catch: Black Bass, White Bass, Striped Bass, Largemouth Bass, Smallmouth Bass, Channel Catfish, Flathead Catfish, Black Crappie, White Crappie, Bluegill, Walleye
Southeast New Mexico
Brantley Lake: Brantley Lake is located about 12 miles north of Carlsbad in the southeast section of New Mexico. The lake is about 3,000 acres in size, but not year-round. The lake relies on the flow of the Pecos River, so water level can fluctuate a lot, especially during the dry months of the year. The lake is frequently stocked with bass, walleye, catfish, and bluegill. Government officials did detect higher than acceptable levels of DDT (a pesticide) in the fish back in 2005 and put in place a policy restricting the taking of any fish from the lake. However, that policy was rescinded back in April 2018 as test showed the levels of DDT were no longer a threat and the fish were safe to eat.
Popular Species To Catch: Largemouth Bass, Walleye, Channel Catfish, Lake Trout, Sunfish, White Bass, Bluegill, Crappie
Many more locations to come. If you have any favorite spots or bodies of water that you think should definitely be on this page, please send us a note.
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