Hot Winter Fisheries

Rio Grande, New Mexico

Location: The Rio Grande runs for miles north to south out west of Questa and Taos.

Species: Rainbow, brown, cutthroat trout, pike.

Equipment: For trout, an 8½- to 9-foot rod for 5- or 6-weight lines. Anglers will want an 8- or 9-weight outfit for pike. Pack a daypack, first aid and some warm clothes. You won't need to wade so wear hiking boots with good ankle support. Allow plenty of time to get into the canyon and start hiking out early. Not for the faint of heart — some very steep trails.

Notes: Runoff in late May can be heavy, but the Rio Grande is productive year-round. You're in for a serious hike along rugged trails to reach many of the best and out-of-the-way spots. There are a number of trails leading to the river. Most are steep, many are unmarked, and many shouldn't be tried unless you are in good shape. It's a long way down, and a long way back out. If the water is off-color and high, fish to the edges and clearer water. No need to fish when the sun is off the water. Fish late and leave early. For light hiking, the best access to the Rio Grande is at the John Dunn Bridge, west of Arroyo Hondo, at the confluence of the Rio Hondo and Rio Grande. The river can also be reached at the confluence of the Red River and the Rio Grande at the Wild and Scenic River National Recreation Area. And you can always float the river.


This big river used to enjoy a reputation in the 1950s and 1960s as one of the top trout spots in the nation, but the river's trout population and the numbers of large fish declined in the 1970s and 1980s. To a large degree, the river has recovered.

The Rio Grande cuts a mighty path on its 70-mile southward course from Colorado, through the wide valleys of New Mexico. The Rio Grande is a wide freestone river with deep pools, wide glides, boulders, big pocket water, and riffles, inaccessible except in a few places due to the 600- 1,000-foot deep canyon. Various springs feed the river.

Pike have become the winter draw on the river. Look for deep, slow pools, fish rainbow trout streamers and hold on. Trout lovers can drop a line for big browns and fat rainbows and a decent population of cutthroat trout. Cast around rocks, along current edges, foam eddies, and at the head and tail of pools.

Published: 30 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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