Warm Water Regulations

Warm waters include all streams, lakes, and ponds, except those designated as trout waters (map, page 9). To fish in New Mexico, all persons 12 years or older must possess a valid New Mexico Fishing License or Game-hunting & Fishing License. Resident anglers 70 years and older must possess free Fishing License. All anglers must have a Habitat Management & Access Validation, except anglers 17 years and younger, residents 70 years and older, and 100%-disabled veteran cardholders. A Second Rod Validation is not required for New Mexico residents 70 years of age and older and 100%-disabled veteran cardholders.

Click the tab headings below to learn more about limits, bait, and trotlines.

Bag and Possession Limits

Black Bass :
Largemouth and spotted: 14-inch minimum size limit. Smallmouth: 12-inch minimum size limit. Smallmouth at Conchas Reservoir and Ute Reservoir: 14-inch minimum size limit.
5 per day
Catfish (all species, except bullheads and Special Summer Catfish):
In the Animas River and San Juan River, San Juan County, there are no bag or possession limits.
15 per day
Crappie 20 per day
Striped Bass:
In the Animas and San Juan Rivers in San Juan County, there is no bag or possession limit.
1 per day
Northern Pike:
In Eagle Nest Lake, there are no bag or possession limits. Northern pike may not be returned intentionally to the lake.
10 per day
Tiger Muskie:
One fish 40 inches or longer. Found only in Bluewater Lake and Quemado Lake.
1 per day
14-inch minimum size limit
5 per day
White Bass 25 per day
Yellow Perch 30 per day
All other warm water game fish:
(bluegill, sunfish, bullheads)
20 per day
Possession Limit for each location is twice the daily bag limit, except tiger muskie which is one fish.

Bait and Baitfish

In any waters containing protected fish it is illegal to use as bait any of the following: live protected fish, gar, goldfish, common carp, river carpsucker, smallmouth buffalo and bullfrogs or bullfrog tadpoles. If used as dead bait only, it is legal to use the following: genus Lepomis (bluegills and sunfish), common carp, river carpsucker, smallmouth buffalo, bullfrogs or bullfrog tadpoles.

Exceptions: Fish of the genus Lepomis (bluegills and sunfish) taken legally by angling may be used as live bait in the water where taken. This applies only to: Abiquiu Reservoir, Cochiti Lake, Elephant Butte Reservoir, Caballo Reservoir, Stubblefield Lake, Maxwell Lake 13, Clayton Lake, Conchas Lake, Ute Lake, Santa Rosa Lake, Lake Sumner, Brantley Reservoir and Navajo Reservoir.

Roe, viscera and eyes of game fish taken legally may be used in all waters where the use of bait is legal.

Release of baitfish (dumping bait buckets) into fishing waters that contain game fish is illegal.

Goldfish may not be used as live bait or dead bait in any waters.

Baitfish may not be used in any trout waters, except fathead minnows and red shiners in the following: Abiquiu Reservoir, Clayton Lake, Jackson Lake, Maxwell Lake 13, Navajo Lake, Rio Grande downstream of the Taos Junction Bridge and the Animas River. Frozen tilapia is a baitfish and may not be used.

Baitfish may not be used in any winter trout waters (November 1–March 31).

Baitfish of any kind may not be used in Bottomless Lakes State Park.

Legal Baitfish Species listed by drainage: Gila River and San Francisco River drainages: fathead minnows only. Pecos River and San Juan River drainages: fathead minnows and red shiners only.

Rio Grande and Canadian River drainage: fathead minnows, red shiners and shad only. Elephant Butte Reservoir and Caballo Reservoir: fathead minnows, red shiners, shad and golden shiners only.

Dead baitfish 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.

Baitfish may be taken by angling, nets, traps and seines.

Taking Minnows

Minnows may be taken for personal use only by anglers currently licensed or 11 years of age or younger. Restrictions as noted above apply. Methods permitted for taking minnows include: angling, dip nets, cast nets, traps and seines. Seines may be no longer than 20 feet, and mesh size may be no larger than 3/8-inch square. All protected species of fish taken with seines, nets and traps, including endangered and threatened species, must immediately be returned to the water.

Trotline or Set Line Use

A trotline (throw line or set line) is a line without a rod or reel attached. It does not need to be handheld nor closely attended. Trotlines are limited to 25 hooks. Trotlines belonging to two or more people may not be joined or tied together. Every trotline must have attached an identification tag that is visible above the waterline. Tags must include the name, address, fishing license number and date when set. Anglers 11 years of age or younger (i.e. unlicensed) must include their age. One name only is permitted on each tag. Anglers may not fish with more than one trotline nor operate another’s trotline. Any person using a trotline must attend it personally at least once every calendar day.

Trotlines may be used to take fish in most warm waters, however, trotlines may not be used in any trout waters (including winter trout water), except: Abiquiu Lake; Rio Chama downstream from the northern boundary of Christ in the Desert Monastery; Gila River downstream from the junction with its east fork; Navajo Lake; Rio Grande downstream from its junction with the Rio Chama.

Reference (2018-19 NM Fishing Rules & Info pg. 23-24)