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Spring fishing should be good in 2018 despite return of drought

Posted by on March 18, 2018

Man fishing at Bear Canyon reservoir in New Mexico

Anglers planning on doing some fishing this season may want to get it done sooner rather than later while most of the state’s reservoirs are still full.

“Our lakes are in the best shape they’ve been in years,” says Eric Frey, sport fish program manager for the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish (NMDGF). “People should get out there and enjoy the fishing while they can.”

The state’s reservoirs stand at just over 70 percent of average storage which is about a 10-percent increase over last year, according to the latest Basin Outlook Report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NCRS) in Albuquerque.

But with the farm irrigation season commencing and continued municipal use much of the state’s reservoir storage is expected to be depleted over the spring and summer with little or no replenishment anticipated from snowpack runoff.

The NCRS monitors and reports on the state’s snowpack, precipitation and reservoir water storage data. The latest report can be downloaded from the service’s website at

According to the latest report the state’s overall snowpack levels have reached or are approaching historical lows and drought continues to expand across the state and into southwestern Colorado.

With above average temperatures and high winds expected to quickly dry out what little snowpack exists, spring runoff is probably going to be well below average statewide, says Chris Romero of the NCRS.

“Then we’ll be waiting on the monsoons to hopefully save us again,” he says.

In the meantime excellent fishing conditions at many of the state’s popular east side reservoirs such as Conchas, Sumner and Santa Rosa and Ute lakes will provide anglers with plenty of opportunities to catch bass, walleye and other warmwater species this spring, Frey says.

Conchas Lake dam in New Mexico

A long running drought that caused the walleye population at Santa Rosa to crash several years ago has since rebounded due to the lake refilling and the department’s restocking efforts, Frey says.

“I fished four or five times out there this time last year and it was amazingly good,” Frey says.

Frey’s tips and tricks to fishing for warmwater species can be found in a past issue of the department’s “New Mexico Wildlife” magazine that can be viewed online at

Stream and river anglers also can expect to enjoy good fishing conditions for trout this spring with little or no runoff to impede the action, Frey says.  The Rio Grande is expected to produce a fishable caddis hatch for the first time in years and some fishing guides are already booking trips in anticipation.

Man fishing on the Rio Grande in New Mexico.

Anglers are reminded to obtain a new fishing license before venturing out to their favorite fishing hole. Licenses are good for one year between April 1 and March 31. Anglers can purchase a new license this season beginning March 22. Licenses can be obtained online on the department’s website,, over the telephone with the department’s information center at (888) 248-6866 or through a vendor. The department’s information center will be open 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 31, to sell licenses and answer questions.

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