The 6 Best Fish to Catch in New Mexico This Summer

seven to sixteen inches long

Written by Crystal

Published: August 19, 2022

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New Mexico is most known for its diverse landscape; it’s also a popular fishing spot. There’s the Rio Grande River, bountiful lakes, and plenty of quaint fishing ponds. The waters are teeming with a variety of fish. However, certain species are more abundant in summer than any other time of year.

We’ve put together this guide to help you know what fish to target. We’ll also give you the latest tips for enticing them to bite! Here are the 6 best fish to catch in New Mexico this summer.

1. Bluegill

Bluegill underwater in the St. Lawrence River in Canada. The bluegill has a bluish tinge of scales on its face.

Bluegills swim in schools.

©RLS Photo/

Bream, sunny, and brim are all names for bluegill fish. They belong on our list of the best fish to catch in New Mexico this summer because they’re so abundant. They taste surprisingly good and are similar to cod. The thin fillets go well with all sorts of seasoning.

While not all bluegill behave precisely the same, they tend to stay in schools. As freshwater species, they love swimming around rivers, ponds, lakes, and streams. Bluegill usually grows to be around 6-8 inches long. However, it is possible to catch one that’s over a foot long.

For a successful day of fishing, try targeting smaller rivers and streams. You’ll want to use a clear line so it’s invisible to the fish. Cast slowly, and retrieve the line even slower. Soon you’ll have bluegill hooked and ready to be reeled in. There’s about a 4-hour fishing window for bluegill. Start fishing at about 4:30 p.m and keep going until sunset.

2. White Crappie

White Crappie

White crappies have vertical bars on their sides and long dorsal spines.

©Jennifer White Maxwell/

Have fun targeting another North American freshwater fish, the white crappie. It’s one of the 2 species of crappies. There are so many crappies in New Mexico; studies show even excessive angling doesn’t negatively impact their population rates.

White crappies are easy to identify. They have vertical bars on their sides and long dorsal spines. They also have slightly longer and thinner bodies when compared to black crappie. White crappies are carnivorous, eating a diet of small fish. They’re known for eating fathead minnows, shad, crawfish, and insects. However, their favorite food is minnows, so using minnows as bait works great.

For the best results, start by picking a large pond or lake with downed trees and stumps—crappies like swimming around submerged trees, weeds, and brush. Try casting a cork under a jig or flip a jig with a long pole.

They prefer shallow waters. It would help if you didn’t search waters deeper than 4 feet to find crappies. The best day to catch these fish is at dawn or dusk.

3. Yellow Perch

Yellow Perch

Yellow perch earn their name thanks to their distinctive gold-yellow coloring.

©RLS Photo/

Another easy fish to target are yellow perch. They are the perfect species to target when you want to be comfortable and stay in the same spot all day. Yellow perch earn their name thanks to their distinctive gold-yellow coloring. They also have stripes that are triangularly shaped. Sometimes you’ll hear these fish referred to as striped perch. They’re carnivorous fish that eats a diet consisting of crustaceans, aquatic insects, and other small fish.

How can you catch large perch? First, find a lake in New Mexico known for perch, like Perch Lake. You could also visit Santa Rosa Lake or Trees Lake. Bring a variety of bait for a full day of fishing. Perch go after lob worms, prawns, maggots, and earthworms. For fun, bring a little bread to feed to the ducks too.

4. Walleye

Walleye fish - catch and release.

Walleyes respond to nightcrawlers and minnows as bait.


If you want a challenge, walleyes are the best fish to catch in New Mexico this summer. Along with being fun game fish to target, walleyes are also delicious. Some of the most popular lakes for walleye include Caballo Lake, Ute Reservoir, and Elephant Butte Reservoir.

Even if you pick the perfect spot, there’s no way to make walleye fishing easy. However, you can give yourself an advantage when you know what bait to use. Live bait is the secret to bountiful walleye outings.

Always default to live bait such as nightcrawlers, leeches, and minnows. If you want to catch the largest walleyes, then use shiner minnows. If you’re targeting eater-sized walleyes, use flathead minnows. Jumbo-sized leeches also work great, but be careful. The perch, bass, or panfish might steal your leech if you’re fishing small lakes or ponds. The same is true for nightcrawlers. A good workaround is rigging the nightcrawlers to worm harness spinners.

Jigging is hands down one of the best techniques for targeting walleyes. You can buy unique walleye jig heads that don’t have a lead bar on the base. The hook shank is short and has a wide gap too. Walleye jigs help minimize the hook’s exposure, which makes the bait less suspicious to discerning fish.

5. Trout

What Do Trout Eat - Rainbow Trout Bursting from Surface

Rainbow trout are abundant in Heron Lake, New Mexico.


June is the perfect time to try fly-fishing for trout in Northern New Mexico. You can find brook, brown, lake, rainbow, and Gila trout. There are a lot of great hotspots too. For instance, Heron Lake is famous for housing some of the biggest trout. At the same time, Pecos River is known for having some of the best views while you fish.

What’s the trick to catching the most trout? It’s all about choosing a technique that matches the fishing conditions. You can start by picking the correct type of bait.

Nightcrawlers, earthworms, mealworms, and salmon eggs are all excellent trout bait. The best time of day is usually early morning. Trout will be active right before the sun rises and 2 hours after. They’ll also start to feed a few hours before sunset. Unlike carp and catfish, trout aren’t bottom feeders. However, you’ll still find them foraging for food.

To avoid spooking the fish, make slow, thoughtful movements. You’ll want to lower your body as you walk and be conscious of every footstep. Trout are smart. It’ll be up to you to do everything in your power to outwit them. Wear neutral or dark-colored clothes and camouflage clothes if available.

6. Catfish

Electric catfish close-up. The catfish can discharge a shock of up to 450 volts to defend itself and capture prey.

Catfish are the most active in the early morning.

©Pavaphon Supanantananont/

Another tasty and challenging fish to catch in New Mexico are catfish! The state’s home to blue, flathead, and channel catfish. They respond to different baits, but it helps to know their favorites.

White suckers, gizzard shad, and chicken livers are potent catfish baits. You’ll be able to entice the fish and pull in regular catches. However, make sure you head out at the right time.

The best time of day to catch catfish is just before sunrise until 10:30 a.m. This time window gives you the perfect water temperatures, and catfish will be actively feeding. Who knows, maybe while you’re there, you’ll catch a record-breaking catfish!

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About the Author

Crystal is a dedicated writer at A-Z Animals, focusing on topics related to mammals, insects, and travel. With over a decade of experience in the world of research and writing, she also fulfills the role of a skilled video and audio engineer. Residing in sunny Florida, alligators are Crystal's favorite animal.

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