Get Outside, Catch a Fish

It’s not hard to catch a fish. Bait a hook or cast a fly or spinner and if something is downstream watching the flow it’s probably going to bite if the thing looks interesting enough to eat.

By Rick Romancito

But, that’s the simple part. What isn’t is less easy to describe and even harder to admit for some fisherfolk.

In Taos County and the Moreno Valley we’re blessed with beautiful high mountain natural streams and a few crystalline lakes. Here, you can find a variety of trout, from little protected brookies to stocked rainbows in streams rushing down from high mountain springs and placid lakes and let’s not forget the big river, the Río Grande.

U.S. Marine Corps Veteran Ruben Roybal fishes for trout in Agua Piedra Creek in Sipapu. Through fly fishing and spending time outside in the mountains, he finds peace. ‘When you’re out here there are no cars, no horns, it’s peace and quiet … all the different hues of light through these trees and the colors of meadows with flowers, I’m in heaven.’ Morgan Timms/Taos News

Over Palo Flechado Pass, east of Taos, is Eagle Nest Lake, a manmade body of water where you can fish for Kokanee salmon, lake trout and even northern pike. Boating is permitted or you can fish from the shore. Make a stop at the Eagle Nest Fly Shack for some expert advice on what works best.

North of Taos, nestled in the mountains above Questa, is Cabresto Lake, a prime spot for trout fishing, and along the road to Red River from Questa is Stone Lake, where stocked rainbows can be caught from the shore. Great fishing can be had everywhere from the special trout waters of the Río Costilla near the Colorado border to the Río Pueblo flowing through Peñasco in southern Taos County.

Special trout waters

While conventional bait and tackle is permitted, be aware that several rivers and streams are designated “special trout waters.” This means you can only use barbless hooks and employ catch-and-release techniques. Plus, other waters have specific bag limits.

Rio Grande cutthroat trout acclimatise inside an oxygen-infused bag of water before volunteers release them into the Río Grande. Morgan Timms/Taos News

Now, about that elusive quality: Fishing these waters is often one of the greatest pleasures for people who love the outdoors. There is the abundant sunshine, gorgeous scenery and solitude. The latter is hard to find these days, but in Taos County you can hike down to beautiful little fishing holes where the noise and busy-ness of the world seems to melt away amid the music of a babbling brook.


Fishing is also a sport you can enjoy by yourself, with friends and certainly with family. Make sure to take a kid fishing. They’ll love it, especially as they learn from you how to read the water, use the tackle, how to land a fish and safely let it go. It is one of the most direct ways to teach wildlife conservation and respect for the bounty of nature.

Lastly, be sure to read carefully the state Fish and Game regulations and make sure you have a current fishing license in-hand before gathering your gear and heading out. You can find pretty much everything you need to know at including the latest news, regulations, water access maps, a weekly fishing and stocking report and more. As of this writing, many if not all fish and wildlife offices remain closed due to the pandemic.

You can even purchase a fishing license online at the website listed above. They are valid from April 1 through March 31 of the following year. Fees for resident anglers are $25 annually, $56 for nonresidents. You can also purchase licenses for one-day ($12), five days ($24), and for juniors and seniors. A fishing licenses is free if you’re older than 70 years of age. There are also special fees for game and hunting, disabled veterans and handicapped persons.

Courtesy Taos Fly Shop


According to the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, it is illegal to:

  • Pollute streams, lakes, banks and other waters.
  • Fish, hunt or trap on private land without possessing valid written permission from the landowner.
  • Fish without possessing a license if 12 years of age or older.
  • Use a license that has been issued to another person.
  • Fish with more than one rod without a Second Rod Validation if 12 years of age or older or fish with more than two rods at any time.
  • Sell, offer for sale, or purchase game fish or parts in New Mexico.
  • Possess game fish without a valid license, possession (donation) certificate or other evidence the fish were legally taken.
  • Stock fish or fish eggs in any waters without a permit from NMDGF.
  • Import live fish or fish eggs into New Mexico without a permit from NMDGF.
  • Possess or transport any live game fish away from the water where they were caught.
  • Take game fish by net, seine, trap, grappling or other means not permitted by regulations.
  • Use mechanical or electrical devices capable of catching or killing game fish, except as permitted by regulation.
  • Take game fish by snagging, except kokanee salmon during Special Kokanee Snagging Season.
  • Fish with more than two flies on a single line when fishing the Special Trout Water of the San Juan River.
  • Fail to return and release immediately all threatened and endangered species of fish, except Gila trout, in waters where designated.
  • Disturb the bottom to attract fish in Special Trout Water.
  • Leave a fire unattended or improperly handle fire.
  • Further information and complete laws of New Mexico for hunting and fishing are available online: nmcpr state nm us/nmac/_title19/title19 htm