DIPPING A LINE
Fishing the rivers and creeks of Taos County
by Rick Romancito
FISHING IS ONE OF THOSE SPORTS that is just as satisfying when shared with friends and family as it is all by yourself.
Most fisherfolk even secretly hold the belief it’s almost as fun whether you catch anything or not — although some will never admit that. And, with catch-and-release becoming more prevalent these days, there is no longer the onus of feeling bad about killing a creature of the wild.
Taos County has an abundance of great fishing spots. From the rushing waters of the Río Grande cutting through the county as one of our latest national monuments, to lakes such as Cabresto and Stone near Questa, to lots of small streams splashing their ways down from the Sangre de Cristo Mountain highlands, there are plenty of ways to wet your line and give you the joy of a “fish-on.”
What will you catch? Well, the most common fish in Taos County’s waters are varieties of trout. New Mexico Game and Fish often stocks rainbows, but you may also find cutthroats, brook, brown and lake trout. In addition, along the Río Grande you may be surprised to catch a northern pike or two.
While not in Taos County, at nearby Eagle Nest Lake in the Moreno Valley, you’ll find rainbow trout, brown trout, cutthroat trout, kokanee salmon, smallmouth bass, yellow perch, common carp, white sucker, channel catfish, sunfish and northern pike. Here, you can fish from the bank or by boat, and in winter there’s quite an ice fishing community that turns out.
New Mexico now has a tier of regulations for its Special Trout Waters that have a connection to our favorite dish. These designations are Red Chile Water (catch-and-release with tackle restrictions), Green Chile Water (two-trout daily bag limit with tackle restrictions), and Christmas Chile Water (two-trout daily bag limit with any legal tackle).
In Taos County, you’ll find Red Chile Water at the Río Costilla, up near the Colorado border. Tackle restrictions include artificial flies or lures with a single barbless hook, and catch-and-release only. Red Chile Water also includes the Cimarrón River, east of Eagle Nest in Colfax County.
Local Red Chile Water (Native Trout Conservation) includes Cabresto Creek, Canada Tio Grande, Frijoles Creek, Gavilan Creek, Italianos Creek, Leadro Creek, Río Santa Barbara, South Fork Río Hondo and Yerba Creek. In these waters, there is catch-and-release only for Río Grande cutthroat trout and Gila trout, but an unlimited bag limit for rainbow trout, brown trout and brook trout.
Green Chile Water includes the Red River (from its confluence with Goose Creek 1.1 miles upstream to the Carson National Forest boundary), Shuree Ponds and the Río Grande from the Colorado state line to the Taos Junction Bridge north of Pilar. Tackle restrictions include artificial fly or lure with a single barbless hook.
Christmas Chile Water includes the Red River from its confluence with the Río Grande upstream to the lower walking bridge at the Red River Fish Hatchery, and the Río Grande from the Colorado state line to the Taos Junction Bridge north of Pilar. For this designation, you can use any legal tackle and there is a bag limit of two trout daily.
An abundance of information, including maps, descriptions, laws and regulations for licensing, can be found at the state’s Game and Fish website (wildlife.state.nm.us/fishing). If you need hands-on, experienced advice, check out taosflyshop.com or ask that kid with a pole walking down the stream bank.
Whether you fish for fun or a delicious meal, Taos County has what you need.