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A MESSAGE FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF GAME & FISH:
As COVID-19 continues to force all of us to make changes to our daily schedule, the department would like to remind you that together we can make a difference. To help minimize the spread of the virus:
•Practice social distancing.
•Wash your hands regularly.
•Avoid nonessential travel.
•Stay healthy and safe.
In this time of change, the department would like to encourage anglers to stay home, mend equipment and prepare for the upcoming fishing season. In the weekly fishing report, provided by Dustin Berg of Go Unlimited (supporting disabled anglers) and the Department of Game and Fish, we will be sharing tips and tricks to help you be ready to go on future adventures. Each week we will feature some different flies, lures, activities or cooking recipes that can be done at home:
This week, Berg recalls a couple of fond memories fishing for trout on the Red River with his dad. In the next section, since spring is in the air and the walleye are spawning, here are some tips to be ready after COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. Or, put it on your bucket list for next year.
Red River trout fishing with bait or fly
I’ve always enjoyed the winding scenic drive from Albuquerque to Red River. You never know if you will see elk, deer, bighorn sheep or bald eagles as you venture north from Santa Fe to Questa along the Rio Grande. On the south end of town (Questa) the Red River flows southwest out of the wild, steep Sangre de Cristo Mountains. If traveling north on N.M. 522 toward Questa, just before you reach the town there is a left turn onto N.M. 515 that will take you west to the Red River Fish Hatchery. I have found this boulder-laden section of river from the hatchery downstream to the confluence of the Red River and the Rio Grande to be an excellent place to hone your trout angling skills.
When I was young, my dad and I would visit Red River multiple times each summer. We’d park at the hatchery and fish our way down to the confluence of the Rio Grande. We fished with open spin casting reels that came with a basic rod/reel combo purchase. Our lure of choice was a Panther Martin spinner.
One day, we were fishing and met an older gentleman with a stringer full of trout. We had only caught a couple of small fish and were inquisitive as to what this man was doing that was so successful. He was on is way back to the parking lot but kindly took a moment to visit with us and share his angling technique.
His setup was extremely simple. It was just a small, size 8 hook baited with a single salmon egg and a No. 4 split shot weight crimped onto the line about a foot up from the hook.
The small hook, and the way in which this simple setup is fished, is the key to its success. With only about 6 feet of line extending from the tip of your rod, you carefully sneak along the river’s edge, subtly dipping about 2 to 4 feet of your salmon egg rig in the slack water behind each boulder. After dipping your line behind a boulder three or four times, you move on to the next boulder – fishing every bit of slack water that could potentially hold a trout protected from the main river current.
My dad and I caught a lot of fish using this technique on that day, and on many other future trips. We hiked a lot of miles along this stretch of river and have seen some incredible sights and beautiful fish. You just never know when you are going to drop your bait behind a rock holding a big hungry trout.
Spring walleye fishing
One of my favorite fish to eat is the walleye. They produce a soft, white, flaky meat that has a firm texture and a sweet, not-too-fishy taste.
In the springtime, fishing for walleye can be fast and furious as the fish rise from the deep water they inhabit during the winter in search of gravel rock beds for spawning. During the spring, you can find walleye anywhere from 5 to 25 feet deep, with most fish typically being shallower in the mornings and evenings. Casting and trolling around gravel banks are both popular methods for catching walleye. I will describe two methods that I have used with great success at Ute Lake, Santa Rosa Lake, Conchas Lake, Fort Sumner Lake, Abiquiu Lake and Elephant Butte Lake.
When casting lures for walleye, I love to use a one-eighth-ounce chartreuse jig head rigged with a 4-inch chartreuse curly tail jig. I cast my curly tail jig then count to ten or so, giving it time to sink to my desired depth, before slowing reeling my line back in. If chartreuse is not working, I will try this same setup but in the color white. When a fish bites, you will feel your lure stop or a slight tug, and that is when you must make a firm hook-set. Walleyes’ mouths are hard and can resist a hook setting, so that is why you must put a little muscle into ensuring your hook is firmly planted in their mouth.
Trolling for walleye is less demanding than casting and another great technique for catching many fish. A key to success is identifying main lake points that have rocky ledges and gravel banks. This is where the fish will be schooling. You want to troll in 15 to 25 feet of water, moving parallel to the shore. Ideally your trolling speed will be one to two miles per hour. One of my favorite trolling lures for walleye is the Berkley Flicker Shad or Berkley Flicker Minnow. The Flicker Shad is the shorter one.
Be careful when removing a hook from a walleye’s mouth; their mouths are full of needle-sharp teeth. This is a good time to put your pliers to use.
Enjoy the relaxation of trolling for fish or get some exercise casting. Either way, have a great day and a delicious fish dinner.
If you have personal tips and tricks that you would like to share with your fellow anglers as we wait out the current restrictions, please email Berg at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Social distancing is a challenge for all anglers; the itch to go fishing just keeps growing. But this is a time for all New Mexicans to pull together for the overall health of all our citizens and stay home. The department reminds anglers it is their responsibility to be aware of closures and contact land managers for properties of interest when restrictions are lifted.
Bureau of Land Management – blm.gov/new-mexico
U.S. Forest Service – fs.usda.gov/about-agency/covid19-updates
New Mexico State Lands – nmstatelands.org/resources/recreational-access
New Mexico State Parks – emnrd.state.nm.us/SPD/
New Mexico Open Gate properties – wildlife.state.nm.us/hunting/maps/open-gate-program
New Mexico Wildlife Management Areas – wildlife.state.nm.us/conservation/state-game-commission-lands
Angler and outdoor recreationists should consult their local government’s website for information regarding specific city and town fishing access.