Trout & Salmon Regulations

Trout & Salmon Regulations 2017-03-30T10:46:23+00:00

Trout and Salmon Regulations

Click the tab headings below to learn more about regular and winter trout and kokanee salmon fishing here in New Mexico.

Regular & Winter Trout and Kokanee Salmon

General Information

Catchable-size trout that have been reared at hatcheries are stocked in more heavily fished waters. Smaller trout and salmon are stocked where waters can better support their growth. Some waters suit native Rio Grande cutthroat populations, while other waters are better for naturally reproducing non-native brown trout, and still others that may be too warm during summer are cool enough in winter to be stocked with hatchery-raised rainbow trout.

License Information

To fish in New Mexico, all persons 12 years and older must possess a valid New Mexico Fishing License or Game Hunting & Fishing License. For resident anglers 70 years and older free Fishing Licenses are available online, at NMDGF offices or license vendors.

In addition to a valid license, a Habitat Management & Access Validation is required. This validation is not required for anglers 17 years or younger and residents 70 years or older or 100%-disabled veteran cardholders. Second Rod Validations are not required for residents 70 years and older, and 100%-disabled veteran cardholders. For BLM or U.S. Forest Service lands a Habitat Stamp is required.


Trotlines are not permitted in trout waters — with the following exceptions: Abiquiu Lake, Caballo Lake, Rio Chama (below the northern boundary of Christ in the Desert Monastery), Gila River (downstream from its confluence with its East Fork), Navajo Lake and the Rio Grande (downstream from its confluence with the Rio Chama.

Bag Limits for Regular and Winter Trout & Kokanee Salmon

Brown trout, brook trout, rainbow trout or kokanee salmon – 5 per day – 10 in possession

• Bag limit of 5 fish is considered any combination of trout and/or salmon with the exception that no more than 2 lake trout and/or 2 cutthroat trout may be included in the limit.
• Trout bag limit is 4 fish at the Tingley Beach Central Pond and the Children’s Pond.
• Possession of kokanee salmon not permitted at Heron Lake and Willow Creek during the closed season, October 1–November 10.

Lake trout – 2 per day – 4 in possession

Cutthroat trout – 2 per day – 2 in possession
• Any trout with red slash marks below the jaw is considered a cutthroat.

Gila trout

Black Canyon, Mogollon Creek: Catch-and-release only
Willow Creek, Gilita Creek: 2 per day – 2 in possession
All other locations, unless designated closed: 5 per day – 10 in possession


Use of baitfish in any trout waters (including Winter Trout Waters) is not permitted—with the following exceptions: Abiquiu Reservoir, Clayton Lake, Jackson Lake, Maxwell Lake 13, Navajo Lake, Caballo Lake, Rio Grande (downstream of the Taos Junction Bridge) and the Animas River. Dead baitfish (non-protected species) may be used in Eagle Nest Lake and Heron Lake. No live baitfish may be in possession while fishing Eagle Nest Lake or Heron Lake.

Goldfish as bait are not permitted at any time in any waters of New Mexico.

Release of any baitfish is illegal and not permitted in fishing waters that contain game fish.

Winter Trout Waters

When water temperatures are cool, between November 1–March 31, Winter Trout Waters are stocked with hatchery-reared rainbow trout.

Streams and Rivers: Black River (1 mile upstream to 1 mile downstream of Higby Hole; Pecos River (from the southeast boundary of Villanueva State Park downstream to Santa Rosa Lake).

Lakes: Bataan, Bear Canyon, Bill Evans, Bosque Redondo, Bottomless Lakes State Park, Carlsbad Municipal, Carrizozo, Chaparral, Corona, Dennis Chavez, Escondida, Eunice, Green Acres, Green Meadow, Harry McAdams Ponds, Jal, Lake Van, Ned Houk, Oasis State Park, Sumner Lake Stilling Basin, Tingley Beach.

Drains: Albuquerque, Belen Riverside, Bernalillo, Corrales and Peralta.

Reference (2017-18 NM Fishing Rules & Info pg. 30-31)

Special Trout Waters

General Information

Special Trout Waters (STW) have reduced bag limits or catch-and-release restrictions. These regulations help to provide high-quality fishing experiences for anglers. Most Special Trout Waters require artificial flies and lures with single, barbless hooks (page 40). While fishing in Special Trout Waters, anglers may not disturb rocks, plants, or sediment to attract fish.

License Information

To fish in New Mexico, all persons 12 years or older must possess a valid New Mexico Fishing License or Game-hunting & Fishing License (see page 3). A Habitat Management & Access Validation (HMAV) is also required. An HMAV is not required for anglers under 18 years of age, New Mexico residents 70 years and older and 100%-disabled veteran cardholders. Second Rod Validations are not required for residents 70 years and older, and 100%-disabled veteran cardholders. For BLM or U.S. Forest Service lands a Habitat Stamp is required.

General Bag and Possession Limit Restrictions

All fishing in STWs must stop when the daily bag limit for that water has been taken. Anglers may not continue to fish another STW with a similar or lower bag limit, but may continue if another STW has a higher bag limit or if fishing in Regular Trout Waters. Anglers must count those STW fish toward their overall daily bag limit. If fishing STWs where the bag limit is zero, anglers must not possess fish from another state water and may not possess fish over the daily bag limit for that STW.

Free Gila Trout Fishing Permit

Gila Trout Permit Waters: A Gila Trout Fishing Permit is required to fish Black Canyon, Gilita Creek, Mineral Creek, Mogollon Creek, Sapillo Creek, West Fork Gila River (headwaters to East Fork confluence), Whitewater Creek, and Willow Creek (including tributaries). This permit is free and available online: and at local NMDGF offices. See also Gila Trout Recovery & Angling.

Catch & Release Tips

Many New Mexico game fish have restricted bag and/or size limits which require immediate live release back to the water where taken. To ensure healthy release, follow these suggestions:

1. Land the fish quickly and don’t play it to exhaustion.
2. Use a landing net whenever possible.
3. Keep the fish in the water.
4. Do not squeeze or grab any part of the fish. Wet your hands first if you must handle the fish.
5. Gently remove the hook (barbless hooks are easier).
6. If the hook is swallowed deeply, cut the leader. A fish’s body fluids will dissolve the hook in a matter of days.
7. Let a tired fish recover. Hold it by the tail in the water with one hand and gently support it from below and just behind the head until it swims away.
8. Never toss or throw a fish back into the water.

Catch-and-release only. All trout must be returned immediately to the water where taken.

Black Canyon upstream from waterfall barrier at Black Canyon Campground. Unlimited take of brown trout allowed upstream of fish barrier. Open from July 1–October 31. See Gila Trout Recovery & Angling
Cabresto Creek upstream from Cabresto Canyon to headwaters. Catch and release for cutthroat trout. Unlimited take for all other trout.
Capulin Creek on Bandelier National Monument and U.S. Forest Service property.
Doctor Creek upstream from 1/4 mile above its confluence with Holy Ghost Creek to its headwaters.
Jack’s Creek from the waterfalls located 0.25 miles downstream of N.M. Hwy. 63 crossing upstream to its headwaters.
Mogollon Creek from barrier at waterfalls near U.S. Forest Service Trail 153 to confluence of Trail Canyon. Open from July 1–October 31. See Gila Trout Recovery & Angling
Nabor Creek and Nabor Lake on the Sargent Wildlife Area.
Pecos River in the Pecos Wilderness above Pecos Falls.
Rio Cebolla upstream from the Seven Springs Day Use Area to the headwaters. *Unlimited take of brown trout allowed from McKinney Pond upstream to the headwaters.
Rio Chama from USGS gaging station located below Cooper’s Landing to the Rio Nutrias confluence.
Rio Costilla from Valle Vidal boundary 2.4 miles downstream to Latir Creek.
Rio Guadalupe from Porter Landing Bridge 1.3 miles downstream to Llano Loco Spring.
Rio Las Animas within Gila National Forest, Black Range District.
Rio Valdez in the Pecos Wilderness from 0.25 miles below Smith Cabin upstream to its headwaters.
San Antonio River from Valles Caldera Preserve boundary downstream 2.0 miles
San Juan River from Navajo Dam downstream 3.5 miles as posted. It is illegal to fish with more than 2 flies on a single line when fishing the Special Trout Water on the San Juan River.
Tingley Beach’s southernmost pond.
Valle Vidal all streams.


One trout only, at least 16 inches.

Cimarron River from the east end of Tolby Campground downstream 1.4 miles to the first U.S. Hwy. 64 bridge.

Two trout only, any length.

San Antonio River from Valles Caldera National Preserve boundary downstream 2.0 miles.

Valles Caldera National Preserve all waters within preserve.

Two trout only, at least 15 inches.

Shuree Ponds on Valle Vidal.

Two trout only, at least 12 inches.

Pecos River in the box canyon 0.5 miles above the confluence of the Mora River and Pecos River upstream 1.0 miles to 0.25 miles below Cowles Bridge.

Red River from the confluence of Goose Creek to 1 mile upstream as posted.

Two trout only, any length.

Rio Chama on posted portion of 2.9 miles within the Rio Chama Wildlife and Fishing Area.

Rio De Los Pinos from U.S. Forest Service Roads 284 and 87A, 2.5 miles upstream to the private land.

Rio Pueblo between the bridge at Mile Marker 55 on N.M. Hwy. 518 upstream 1 mile to the Cañon Tio Maes trailhead as posted.

Sargent Wildlife Management Area for all waters within the WMA including the Rio Chama, Rio Chamita and Sixto Creek, but excluding Nabor Creek and Nabor Lake.

Four trout only, any length.

Tingley Beach at central and kids pond.

Three trout only, any length.

Laguna del Campo

is open to anglers 14 years or younger and 65 years and older only.

Rio Chama

from Abiquiu Dam downstream 7 miles to U.S. Hwy. 84 bridge at Abiquiu.

Red River

from 0.5 miles below the walking bridge at Red River State Hatchery downstream to the confluence with Rio Grande.

Red River Hatchery Pond

is open to anglers under 12 years of age, 65 and older or anglers/ individuals with disabilities (Handicapped Fishing License) only.

Red River City Ponds

is open March 1–November 15 (page 11).

Rio Grande

from the Colorado stateline downstream to the Taos Junction Bridge.

Rio Grande

from Elephant Butte Dam downstream to and including Caballo Lake.

Rio Ruidoso

from the border of the Mescalero Reservation downstream to Friedenbloom Drive.


Two Gila trout, any length.

Gilita Creek and Willow Creek from the confluence of Snow Creek upstream to the headwaters. Unlimited brown trout.

Mineral Creek from its confluence with the San Francisco River to its headwaters.

Whitewater Creek from the Catwalk National Recreational Trail parking area upstream to headwaters including all tributaries.

Reference (2017-18 NM Fishing Rules & Info pg. 24-26)

Special Kokanee Salmon | Snagging Season


Kokanee Salmon

Kokanee are land-locked sockeye salmon. Although not native to the Southwest, kokanee thrive in some of New Mexico’s deeper and colder plankton-producing lakes. In late fall, large schools of four-year-old kokanee gather to spawn and die.

A popular method for catching kokanee is snagging, the intentional taking of fish by hooking the body rather than the mouth. Kokanee are the only fish that may be legally snagged, and only during Special Kokanee Snagging Season. If another species is caught by snagging, it must be immediately returned to the water.

Each autumn NMDGF collects millions of kokanee eggs and milt to fertilize eggs and hatch fry. The young fry are used to stock Heron Lake, Navajo Lake, Abiquiu Lake, El Vado Lake and Eagle Nest Lake. The success of these collection operations is essential to maintain vibrant and healthy fisheries for anglers to enjoy. As a result, Heron Lake, Willow Creek and designated no-wake areas at Navajo Lake are closed October 1–November 9, and no kokanee salmon may be in possession while fishing during these closures at Heron Lake and
Willow Creek.

Snagging Season Dates by Location

Please refer to the most current NM Fishing Rules and Regulation booklet.

Bag Limit
Kokanee salmon – 12 per day – 24 in possession

Reference (2017-18 NM Fishing Rules & Info pg. 32-33)