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 & Kokanee

Reference (2022-23 NM Fishing Rules & Info, p. 14-16)

Regular & Winter Trout and Kokanee Salmon

General Information

In New Mexico cold water species include trout and salmon. 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 trout populations, while other waters are better suited 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.

Trout water areas are displayed on the New Mexico Fishing Waters map.

License Information

Free Gila Trout Fishing Permit

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:, by telephone: 1-888-248-6866 and at all license vendors and NMDGF offices. Please do not obtain this permit unless planning to fish in one of the waters listed above.

Bag Limits for Regular and Winter Trout & Kokanee Salmon

Brown trout, brook trout, rainbow trout, Gila 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 is 3 trout at Laguna del Campo.

➤ Possession of kokanee salmon is not permitted at Heron Lake and Willow Creek during the closed season, October 1–November 10.

➤ Bag limits may be different for Special Trout Waters.

Lake trout – 2 per day – 4 in possession

Cutthroat trout – 2 per day – 4 in possession

➤ Cutthroat bag limit is 5 cutthroat trout at Seven Springs Hatchery Kid’s Pond. No more than 5 trout, including cutthroat, may be harvested at Seven Springs Kid’s Pond.

➤ Any trout with red slash marks below the jaw is considered a cutthroat.

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); Rio Grande (Elephant Butte Reservoir to Caballo Lake).

Lakes: Alumni Pond, Bataan, Bear Canyon, Bill Evans, Bosque Redondo, Bottomless Lakes State Park, Carlsbad Municipal, Carrizozo, Chaparral, Corona, Dennis Chavez, Escondida, Eunice, Greene Acres, Grants Riverwalk Pond, Green Meadow, Harry McAdams Ponds, Jal, Lake Van, Liam Knight Pond, Ned Houk, Oasis State Park, Perch Lake, Rancho Grande Ponds, Sumner Lake Stilling Basin, Roswell Kid’s Pond (Spring River Park), Tingley Beach, Young Pond.

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

Special Trout Water

Reference (2022-23 NM Fishing Rules & Info, p. 15-18)

Special Trout Waters

General Information

Special Trout Waters (STW) are managed to enhance the unique angling opportunities available in New Mexico. Regulations vary for STWs — some are managed to produce trophy-size trout, some to improve conservation of native trout, and others to enhance the overall trout population structure and density. Regulations are tailored to each water and may include reduced bag limits, catch-and-release for native Gila trout and Rio Grande cutthroat trout or increased harvest for nonnative fish species. Many STWs require artificial flies and lures with a single, barbless hook. It is illegal to disturb rocks, plants, or sediment to attract fish. Chumming and baitfish use are not allowed in any STW. By following these regulations anglers help to conserve healthy fisheries in New Mexico and promote high-quality fishing experiences for everyone.

Designations of Special Trout Waters (STW)

The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish has established three designations for STWs: Red Chile Water, Green Chile Water and Xmas Chile Water. Each designation is easy to remember, and signs with symbols are posted at STWs with bag limits and tackle restrictions.

Red Chile Water: Catch-and-release with tackle restrictions (New Mexico Game and Fish - Special Trout Waters)

Red Chile Water
Catch-and-release with tackle restrictions

Green Chile Water: Two (2) trout daily bag limit with tackle restrictions (New Mexico Game and Fish - Special Trout Waters)

Green Chile Water
Two (2) trout daily bag limit with tackle restrictions

Xmas Chile Water: Two (2) trout daily bag limit with any legal tackle (New Mexico Game and Fish - Special Trout Waters)

Xmas Chile Water
Two (2) trout daily bag limit with any legal tackle

Native Trout Conservation Waters

Several STWs have been established to help protect and conserve Gila trout and Rio Grande cutthroat trout. Nonnative trout species can outcompete or hybridize with native trout species. In order to protect native trout species, unlimited bag limits in some waters have been established for nonnative trout species (rainbow, brown, and brook trout). These waters are listed on page 20 under Red Chile (Native Trout Conservation).

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 to fish in waters with a higher bag limit. 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 any trout.

Catch & Release Tips

Many game fish in New Mexico have restricted bag and/or size limits that require immediate live release back into 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.

Snagging Season

Reference (2022-23 NM Fishing Rules & Info, p. 17)

Special Kokanee Salmon Snagging Season

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, 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 have seasonal closings (see listing below), and no kokanee salmon may be in possession while fishing during these closures at Heron Lake and Willow Creek.

Snagging Season Dates by Location

October 1–December 31: Open at Rio Chama (El Vado Lake to west boundary of Rio Chama Wildlife and Fishing Area), Navajo Lake (excluding buoyed no-wake areas and shoreline within the no-wake areas at the Pine River Boat Ramp and Simms Boat Ramp), Pine River, El Vado Lake and Eagle Nest Lake.
October 1–November 10: Closed at Heron Lake and Willow Creek.
November 11–December 31: Open at Heron Lake and Willow Creek.

Bouyed no-wake areas and shoreline within the no-wake areas at the Pine River Boat Ramp and Simms Boat Ramp are closed to kokanee snagging throughout the snagging season.

Bag Limit (during Special Kokanee Salmon Snagging Season) Kokanee salmon – 12 per day – 24 in possession.