Anglers looking for some real fishing thrills need go no further than Eagle Nest Lake where the angling for big bad pike is great!
“And now’s the time to have at it,” said Eric Frey, Northeast Area Fisheries Biologist for the state Department of Game and Fish (NMDGF) in the days prior to 2012 Memorial Day weekend.” They’re spawning up in the shallows, right off the banks, and they’ll take just about anything right now.”
Anglers are free to catch and keep as many pike as they want from Eagle Nest Lake as the department is trying to reduce the predatory fish’s population at the popular trout and Kokanee salmon fishery.
Someone illegally planted pike in the lake several years ago and their population is now growing.
Pike prey upon and compete with other more favorable sport fish for resources and their presence in the lake is having a negative impact on the trout population, Frey says.
Now the NMDGF is asking licensed anglers to put their skills to work at helping get a grip on the situation by visiting the lake and catching as many of the feisty fish as possible.
Anglers should arm themselves with a stout rod and reel loaded with at least 10-pound test.
A steel leader should be used to keep the fish’s sharp teeth or gills from cutting the line.
Pike will chase and attack all sorts of lures that imitate smaller fish including large metal spoons especially in silver, white or yellow colors.
Anglers in the spring need only fish from the shoreline and can cast out at various angles and retrieve at different speeds and depths to initiate a strike.
Anglers can control a captured pike by firmly gripping it by its neck well back behind the gills which are very sharp, as are the teeth.
But with pike at the lake are being found in the lengths exceeding 30 inches, dragging it up on the bank and clubbing it over the head might be the preferred method of subduing them, Frey says.
Pike make for good eating and can be fried, baked, poached or grilled just like any other fish, although they have more bones.
A recent pike fishing contest sponsored by Dos Amigos Fly shop in Eagle Nest drew about 65 anglers who caught over 100 pike but also lost a similar amount, says the owner, Wayne Thurber.
Another pike derby is scheduled for Labor Day weekend at the end of the summer, he says.
Thurber says he’s new to pike fishing as are many anglers at the lake but that fishing for the species is growing, along with its population.
Preliminary results from the NMDGF’s annual survey of fish populations at the lake conducted in the May of 2012 indicate that the pike population is increasing while trout numbers are apparently in decline.
The survey in 2011 netted only seven pike, while in 2012 department personnel hauled in 60 with the biggest pike measuring about 34 inches and weighing in at about ten pounds, Frey says.
Samples of stomach contents from captured pike indicate that the fish are primarily consuming white sucker fish and Kokanee salmon and to a lesser degree, trout.
Ironically, perch are the predominant fish in the lake but the pike captured during recent sampling did not contain any of those fish, Frey said.
Frey speculates that pike may be passing up the perch due to the protective, spiny fin along a perch’s back.
The 2012 survey also revealed that the pike were not yet out in deeper water but were instead up in the shallow water just off the banks with most fish captured at the south end of the lake.
A large population of 28- to 31-inch, four-year-old pike is now reaching breeding age and is currently spawning, Frey says.
The more of these spawning fish that can be caught now will help reduce pike numbers in the future, Frey says.
“The time’s ripe to get after them,” he says.
Under new regulations instituted in the winter by the state game commission, anglers are required to keep any pike they catch from the lake and the bag limit has been lifted.
Anglers venturing to Eagle Nest Lake over the long weekend that traditionally marks the start of summer might still find campsites available at the state park on the lake or along the river in the canyon below the dam. Call the state park at 575-377-1594 for updated conditions.
Fishing supplies are available in Eagle Nest at the marina and fly shop in town.
If You Go: Take U.S. 84/285 North to Espanola and through town. Proceed on State Road 68 to Taos and at the intersection of US 64 head east to Eagle Nest. For a scenic return trip take NM 434 through Angel Fire. At Mora turn right on NM 518 and follow to NM 75 to Pensaco. Follow through town to NM 76 and the turn off to Truchas and Espanola.