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Fishing the Lakes and Rivers in Chama, New Mexico


Northern New Mexico has some fantastic fishing opportunities and the village of Chama is a perfect central location for getting to some of the best spots. If you’re looking to get out of the city and relax, a fishing weekend could be just the thing.

 Northern New Mexico is known for trout fishing and there are four main types you can expect to see. The Rio Grande Cutthroat, one of two species of trout native to the state of New Mexico, is the official state fish. You will also find brown trout, rainbow trout which tend to be a bit easier to catch, and brook trout. The area has plenty of fishing guides that can take you to spots known for a certain type if you’re looking for something specific. Brook trout are particularly beautiful though not often trophy size.

River Fishing

The Chama River is a diverse trout river originating in Colorado in the San Juan Mountains and is a tributary to the Rio Grande river. Also known as Rio Chama, it is known for brown and rainbow trout and in some sections, you’ll easily find brown trout over 20 inches! Though there are different areas of the river that offer different fishing experiences, if you’re not looking to drive too far, or at all, you can fish the Chama River from the backyard of the Elkhorn Lodge. Guests fish the river all year and we’ve seen some great catches! Spring, summer, and fall are great times to fish the river.

 The Brazos River begins in New Mexico and runs all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. Though the portion of the river in Texas is more well known, there is some excellent fly fishing on the Brazos in Northern New Mexico. For the most part, the Brazos River flows through private land, so it’s perfect if you’re looking to pay a little extra for a guide who can take you on a unique fishing experience on private water. You’ll see some amazing scenery and get to fish sections of a river many don’t get the chance to.

Lake Fishing

Chama is also close to a couple of great fishing lakes. Heron Lake State Park is a short drive from the village of Chama, less than half an hour, and makes a perfect day trip if you’re staying in town. Known for kokanee salmon and trout fishing, Heron is a “quiet-lake” so boats must operate below wake speeds. It’s a great place to relax and unwind, and if you’ve got family it’s safe and fun for kids to paddle around.

El Vado Lake State Park is also a short drive from Chama. There’s a five-mile scenic trail along the Rio Chama that connects El Vado and Heron Lake. In the winter the park is a haven for bald eagles and other birds. El Vado is a designated cold-water fishery and you’ll find salmon, brown trout, lake trout, and largemouth bass.  

Northern New Mexico offers some world-class fishing in an idyllic setting. Whether you’re looking for trophy fishing led by a guide on private water or just looking to throw a rod in the Chama River and cook a couple of trout for dinner you’ll find your type of fishing in the Chama Valley.

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