NMDGF Fisheries Management 

The Fisheries Management Division is responsible for the management of New Mexico’s aquatic resources.  We have a very dedicated staff that is in the field year round managing both sport and native fish species.  Their efforts improve fishing and ensure the long term sustainability of several aquatic species.

Icon of New Mexico Fisheries Management Plan 2016 New Mexico Fisheries Management Plan 2016 Approved by the New Mexico State Game Commission on April 14, 2016.

Below are a few ongoing management and research projects conducted by the Fisheries Management Division.

2015 Statewide Fisheries Management Plan - New Mexico Department of Game and Fish

Tiger Muskie Management

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The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish uses tiger muskies to control undesirable fish species in Bluewater and Quemado reservoirs. Tiger muskies are extremely piscivorous (fish eating) and have significantly decreased populations of unwanted goldfish and white suckers in each reservoir. Tiger muskies also have provided a unique and popular fishing opportunity. Department fisheries biologists conduct tiger muskie surveys twice a year to monitor population levels, fish condition, diet, and stocking success to ensure successful long-term management of tiger muskies in New Mexico. Click here for more about fishing for tiger muskies.

Tiger Muskie Population Summary - Bluewater Resevoir 2015

Tiger Muskie Management Brief 2014

Tiger Muskies Brochure 2014

Fish Habitat Improvement Projects

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The Department has undertaken several large scale projects to improve fish habitat in streams throughout New Mexico. The purpose of these projects is to increase fish populations by improving habitat complexity and quality. Some recent projects include the Hammond Tract of the San Juan River, the State Wildlife Areas in the Upper Pecos Canyon, and the Eagle Rock Lake and Hatchery reaches of the Red River. These projects involve installing large boulders to increase pool habitat, constructing cobble point bars to increase channel sinuosity, and planting native riparian vegetation to stabilize stream banks and increase stream shading. Other project components include removal of non-native vegetation and increasing angler access.

Monitoring Fish Populations

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Department staff spend a significant portion of their time monitoring fish populations throughout New Mexico. Survey methods, times of year and locations vary highly and can include:

● night time electrofishing for largemouth bass in the spring
● dragging a seine in the lower Pecos River for small-bodied fishes
● floating down the San Juan River with an electrofishing raft for Colorado pikeminnow.

Biologists collect several pieces of information such as population numbers, species composition, fish size distribution, fish condition, and age. Monitoring populations allows biologists to evaluate fishing regulations, stocking strategies, recovery efforts, and attaining management objectives. Population monitoring is a corner stone to fisheries management.

Angler Surveys

Angler with nice sized smallmouth bass from Conchas Lake  - (New Mexico Game and Fish).

Angler with nice sized smallmouth bass from Conchas Lake

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Monitoring New Mexico anglers is just as important as monitoring fish populations. This information allows the Department to understand where anglers are fishing, how many fish they are catching/harvesting, how satisfied they are with their fishing experience, and what fish species they prefer to catch. Biologists use several methods to collect angler data including: telephone surveys, internet surveys, and personal interviews with anglers while fishing. Angler surveys also help identify any potential issues and trends and ultimately help manage the fish populations to meet angler needs.

Wild Fish Egg Collection-“Spawning”

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Department staff spawns wild fish from various populations throughout New Mexico annually. Some fish species such as walleye and kokanee salmon have very low reproductive success in the state. So, sustaining their populations and angling opportunity depends on egg collection and restocking with young fish. Spawns are conducted on other fish species such as Rio Grande cutthroat trout to capture genetics from relic populations into hatchery broodstock to be used for native fish restoration efforts. The spawning process is similar for all species which includes:

● collecting adult male and female fish during the appropriate spawning season (commonly spring and fall)
● gently squeezing eggs from the female and fertilizing with milt from the male
● hatching the fertilized eggs at the hatchery
● raising the fish to the desired size
● restocking the fish into the wild.

Catfish Stocking Evaluation by Mark and Recapture

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The Rock Lake State Fishery Hatchery successfully raises thousands of channel catfish annually. Most of the catfish are stocked as juveniles into several lakes statewide. Stocking success can vary highly and Department biologists have initiated a long-term stocking evaluation to determine appropriate stocking rates and sizes. Biologists have developed a marking method that involves freeze-branding juvenile channel catfish. The brand will allow biologists to determine stocking success and growth of a particular year class after the fish are recaptured during population monitoring surveys. The goal of this study is to increase catfish fishing opportunities for New Mexico’s anglers.

San Juan River Management

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The San Juan River is a unique and vital resource to New Mexico. The tailwater section below Navajo Dam provides world-class trout fishing that contributes millions of dollars to the state’s economy each year. The lower reaches provide habitat for federally listed fish species such as bonytail, razorback sucker, and the Colorado pikeminnow. Conservation of both these fisheries is paramount and Department staff spend a considerable amount of time monitoring, stocking, and enhancing habitat to ensuring the long-term persistence of this resource.

Golden Algae Monitoring and Mitigation

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Golden algae is a single cell microscopic organism that thrives in salty high nutrient water. It typically blooms during the winter months and produces fish toxins that can cause massive fish kills. Golden algae was first detected in New Mexico in 1988 along the lower Pecos River. Since that time it has caused several fish kills near Roswell and Carlsbad. The Department has worked cooperatively with New Mexico BASS Nation and Roswell schools on a golden algae mitigation research project. The project is investigating the use of aquatic plants to improve water quality so golden algae can be controlled. Biologists also monitor lakes and ponds for golden algae to determine if a water is suitable for fish stocking.

Sport Fish and Wildlife Restoration helps support Fisheres Management at New Mexico Game & FishSport Fish Restoration Act
A 10-percent federal excise tax on your purchase of fishing equipment and motor boat fuel helps states individually promote sport fisheries. This includes acquiring easements or leases for public fishing, funding hatchery and stocking programs, supporting aquatic education programs, and improving boating facilities for anglers.