New Mexico Wildlife

New Mexico Department of Game and Fish

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Fishing Information  

Last Updated: 9/24/2008


Striped Bass
White Bass
Striped Bass
White Bass



New Mexico White/Striped Bass



White bass and striped bass are members of the temperate bass family: true basses, separate and distinct from largemouth and smallmouth bass which are actually members of the sunfish family. Temperate bass are found primarily in fresh waters, although there are anadramous species that spend part of their life cycle in the sea.


Both white bass and striped bass have so-called "false gills" on the inside of their gill covers and three anal fin spines. Both of these bass species feed almost exclusively, and with relentless voracity, on shad and other forage fish.



Also known as sand bass, sandies, and silvers, white bass were first stocked in New Mexico in 1959. Smaller and chunkier than their striper cousins, white bass typically weigh about 1 to 1.5 pounds; a white bass weighing more than 2.5 pounds is highly unusual. Other white bass characteristics include silvery-white sides, marked by a series of horizontal stripes, only one of which extends to the tail. Except during spawning, white bass stay on the move in a continual search for food, along shorelines in open water.



Striped bass were first introduced into New Mexico in 1972. Depending on available food, these bass may exceed 55 pounds, although most stripers caught in New Mexico range from 5 to 20 pounds. Striped bass are known by their elongated bodies, pale olive to blue backs, silvery sides, and seven-to-eight horizontal stripes, most extending to the tail. Locating striped bass is harder than catching them, because they're wanderers of open waters. Stripers are hearty eaters, most actively feeding in water temperatures between 70 and 72 degrees.



White Bass:

White bass are the most frequently caught, warm-water sport fish in New Mexico. These lively fish have a voracious appetite, strike eagerly at lures once waters warm, are relatively easy to catch, and make good eating.

As schooling fish, white bass tend to gather in high numbers, avoiding more turbid waters. Although white bass prefer deep, open water, they will surface to strike at a school of shad.

To catch white bass, use ultra-light spinning tackle on a 5- to 6-foot rod. Six pound test line works best. Try jigs and flashy spinner-jig combinations: white, yellow, silver, or chartreuse, with reflective tape on the spoons and polished spinners. Any small lure that looks like a shad will catch white bass when a school is located. Also try crankbait spoons, minnow imitation plugs, jigging spoons, and propellered surface lures. Topwater plugs that sputter are good to use when white bass feeding is in full force. In spring, shore fishing for white bass can be fantastic.

Striped Bass:

Look for stripers in Elephant Butte and Caballo Lakes at depths between 20 to 50 feet, sometimes suspended over much deeper water. They may locate over old creek beds or channels, near sunken islands, along ridges with adjacent drop-offs, or near bridges. In fall, stripers move into shallow flats and chase schools of shad near the surface. Fall can be an exciting time for striper fishing, compared with winter, when stripers tend to stay deep and roam less.

For best results, use a depth finder. As waters warm, try trolling with live-bait shad or bluegill. When using bait, always use a fresh specimen; replace lethargic bait frequently. Try still-fishing with live bait from an anchored boat or slowly adrift. Use 1-1/2 to 4 ounces of lead in a bead-chain weight to keep the bait at the proper depth. When you locate stripers holding in deep water, try jigging or trolling with a downrigger.



Striped Bass: Elephant Butte and Caballo Lakes.

White Bass: Elephant Butte, Caballo, and the Rio Grande between the two reservoirs; Cochiti, Brantley, Sumner, and Ute Lakes.



White Bass:

Although white bass spawn very successfully in New Mexico waters (particularly Elephant Butte Lake), 70 of every 100 white bass spawned each year are caught by fishermen or die of natural causes. The low egg hatching success and high mortality of adults means a great number of eggs must be spawned to ensure good fishing. During mid-April to mid-May, when water temperatures reach 54 to 73 degrees, white bass begin spawning in large reservoirs, where they seek out gravel or rocky bottoms in shallow water upon which to deposit eggs.

Striped Bass:

It is doubtful that striped bass successfully reproduce on their own in New Mexico waters. Because of this, young striped bass are frequently stocked by the Department of Game and Fish at Elephant Butte Lake and Caballo Lake to maintain a population of trophy-sized stripers for anglers.


Pointers from the Pros: White and Striped Bass Fishing

  • Watch the action of gulls or other fish-eating birds at a reservoir. Check out where they're surface feeding on small fish. Where gulls are feeding, there will be schools of white bass as well. Try 'jump fishing': get to the action area quickly, throttle back upwind, shut off the motor, and drift down through surfacing fish.
  • Once you make a catch at a school of surface-feeding bass, try again and again. Such feeding eruptions last only a short time, usually in late afternoon or early morning, especially in late summer and early fall.
  • Medium-to-light action spinning and baitcasting gear are good choices for white bass fishing.
  • Best times to fish for stripers and white bass: daytime from late fall through early spring; late evening through first light in summer.
  • Use jigs or crankbaits in spring and summer, baitfish in fall, using a heavy rod and line. Live shad is a good, all-around bait.
  • Striped bass that are near structure (submerged trees, formations) seem to be more active -- and willing to bite -- than stripers that are suspended in mid-depths.
  • To catch more than one bass at a time, place two or more reflective lures simultaneously on your line at 18-inch intervals. Try jigs or jigging spoons.
  • In reservoirs, look for riprap on shorelines, rocky points, just off islands, sudden drop-offs, old river channels or sand bars. In rivers, check out places where streams enter, bridge pilings disrupt current flow, above wing dams, or downstream from a lock and dam.
  • Use a depth finder to locate schools of bass. They prefer sandy or gravel lake bottoms. No matter where you find them, they aren't going to stay in one place long.


A 10 percent federal excise tax on your purchase of fishing equipment and motor boat fuel helps states indivi-dually 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.