Kayak Fishing Tips for New Mexico

I am happy to welcome Alex from KayakCritic.net who provides a great guest post this week.   Alex discusses New Mexico and a few kayak fishing tips to help you out next time you are down south.  Thanks Alex!

New Mexico is the 5th largest state in the country, located smack dab in the southwestern US. It’s a beautiful, serene, and peaceful place. There is tons of open land to explore in the area, and an amazing array of outdoor activities to enjoy.

For kayakers, New Mexico offers a few fun rivers and lakes, but it’s not really a destination state for whitewater enthusiasts. If peaceful cruises are what you’re after, from the scenic Rio Grande Gorge to the pristine clearwater lakes that dot the countryside, you will surely find an area that suits your preferences!

Me and my wife are both avid kayakers, and we both love New Mexico! We enjoy all ypes of kayaking, but if I’m being honest, as we get older our focus is definitely shifting away from whitewater runs and more towards peaceful cruises! And honestly, New Mexico doesn’t really offer great whitewater rivers, so we’re not missing out on much here. Lately, I’ve also been trying my hand at kayak fishing, although I’ve yet to get my wife on board…In this article I will introduce you to our favorite places to kayak in the “Land of Enchantment”!

One note before we begin – the state of New Mexico, given its geographical location and climate, is very prone to drought. In a drought year, many places that are usually great for kayaking may be significantly worse or even completely inaccessible. If you’re planning a trip, we recommend researching the drought conditions and checking the water levels before committing to anything.

Kayaking the Peaceful Rio Grande

The Rio Grande River is one of most beautiful rivers in the state in my opinion. No matter where you put in on this river, you’re in for a very scenic ride. The river snakes slowly and peacefully through the countryside, flowing through the beautiful Rio Grande Gorge. It’s a big enough river that even in drought years, it’s still accessible and deep enough for a fun cruise.

The Rio Grande is a peaceful, slow-moving river. There are small sections of rapids, but most years there’s nothing above a class II. So, for you whitewater fiends out there, the Rio might seem a bit boring! In my opinion the Rio Grande is perfect for families and beginner kayakers looking for a peaceful and beautiful cruise.

This river does offer pretty good fishing, although there are definitely better spots in New Mexico. Kayak fishing on the Rio Grande is difficult, but possible. Fly fishing can yield good results, but in my experience the Rio Grande is one of those rivers with many big, hard-to-catch wild fish, namely trout and catfish.

If you want to visit the Rio Grande, I recommend going in the fall. The immense number of cottonwood trees that line the water put on quite a show of autumn colors in the months of September, October and early November. Plus, the temperatures at this time of the year will be quite pleasant – still warm, but not too hot like the summers can be.

Kayak Fishing Tips and the Scenic Rio Chama

The Rio Chama which is one of the major tributaries of the Rio Grande, is another great choice for a scenic and serene river cruise. This river flows through a beautiful multicolored sandstone canyon, with walls sometimes stretching up to 1500 feet! It can feel quite surreal to cruise through this canyon, although it’s always a peaceful and enjoyable ride.

When it comes to New Mexico, the Rio Chama is my favorite place to fish. I enjoy kayak fishing, but a lot of the time I just cruise down until I find a spot that feels good, then tie up my yak and grab my fly fishing gear. The Rio Chama is home to a huge population of wild brown trout and rainbow trout. My last full day out on the river I netted 8 trout over 12”!

Unlike the Rio Grande, the Chama is quite remote and it’s not uncommon to not see any signs of life for many miles. Because of this, there’s a good chance you will spot wildlife along the way! And because of it’s remote nature, if one section of the river is not providing good fishing, chances are good that conditions will improve just a short jaunt downstream!

And if you’re not a fan of fishing (or your wife isn’t!), you can still have a great time on the Chama. There’s enough to see and explore in the area that it’s a great place for a 2 or 3 day camping trip, or just a relaxing day cruise. It’s also very family-friendly. Most years there’s no rapids above a class II, and it’s clean waters provide a welcome escape from the heat of the sun. Check it out – I really can’t recommend the Rio Chama enough!

As you can see, this is a fairly short list! There are many other rivers and lakes in New Mexico that are decent places to kayak, but the the Rio Grande and the Rio Chama are my favorites by a long shot. These two rivers are also the least prone to drought conditions, so they are the most accessible year-round. If you have any favorite spots in New Mexico or other kayak fishing tips, I’d love to hear about them! Just write them in the comments below.


  1. Doug Stewart
    • Dave
  2. hunt
    • Dave

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