Enthusiastic anglers partnered with New Mexico Department of Game and Fish to release almost 300,000 feisty bass into Ute Lake and nearby waters on Wednesday, Aug. 14.
“This bass stocking is part of our efforts to ensure consistent, quality fishing for New Mexicans, now and in the future. These fingerlings will grow to become the next generation of trophy bass,” said Department Fisheries Chief Mike Sloane.
Two species of black bass, largemouth and smallmouth, will be stocked by the department and volunteers from New Mexico B.A.S.S. Nation and Ruf-Nec Tackle. Pound for pound, bass are unequaled in their fighting ability and many anglers come prepared with special bass lures, rods, boats, and techniques for a chance to hook the fish. Although largemouth bass can grow to a greater size, smallmouth bass are capable of hitting hard, leaping into the air, and putting up a memorable fight when hooked.
“We want to encourage people to come out and enjoy fishing, and bring their children along. If you don’t get out and use these resources, we will eventually lose them. We need everyone’s support to maintain access to quality fisheries,” said New Mexico B.A.S.S. Nation Conservation Director Earl Conway. Angler’s dollars, through the sale of fishing licenses and equipment, pay for fisheries conservation.
Black bass live in and around cover such as docks or submerged rocks and eat almost anything they can catch, including small fish, worms, insects, mice, and even small birds. Anglers attract the fish in a variety of ways including spinners, artificial lures, live bait, and flies.
When taken to the table bass are eaten filleted, but to be legally harvested in New Mexico they must grow to a certain size. The State Game Commission adopted a 14” minimum size limit for smallmouth bass at Conchas and Ute Lakes several years ago, and a 12” size limit at most other fisheries. Largemouth bass must exceed 14” to be harvested. Minimum size limits allow fish to become larger over time, creating the excellent bass fishing opportunities now available in New Mexico.
The department has made a long term commitment to bass fishing and its fan’s, and is now growing largemouth bass at their Rock Lake hatchery. These fish will eventually be stocked in warm water reservoirs across the state, including Ute, Conchas, Navajo, Elephant Butte, and small urban fisheries.
Ute Lake is a popular destination year round for fishing, boating, and water sports. Located on the Canadian River, the reservoirs nearly 13 miles of warm water provide habitat for walleye, crappie, and catfish, as well as largemouth and smallmouth bass. Sport fishing draws visitors, and their dollars, to many reservoir communities, and increases the vitality of their economies.
Logo courtesy New Mexico Department of Game and Fish