New Mexico Fishing License Guide: Bait, Lures & Regulations

Before casting your line in the enchanting waters of New Mexico, it’s essential to understand the state’s fishing license requirements. Obtaining the proper license not only ensures compliance with regulations but also contributes to the conservation efforts that sustain the region’s diverse aquatic ecosystems.

Who Needs a New Mexico Fishing License?

In New Mexico, all anglers aged 12 and older are required to possess a valid fishing license to legally fish in the state’s waters. This applies to both residents and non-residents alike. However, there are a few exceptions:

  • Anglers under 12 years old: Children under the age of 12 can enjoy fishing without a license, as long as they are accompanied by a licensed adult angler.
  • Fishing on tribal reservations or Class-A lakes: A New Mexico fishing license is not required when fishing on tribal reservation lands or designated Class-A lakes within the state.

Types of Fishing Licenses and Fees

New Mexico offers various fishing license options to cater to different angler needs and residency statuses. Here’s an overview of the available licenses and their associated fees:

Annual Licenses

License TypeResident FeeNon-Resident Fee
Annual (12+)$25$56
Junior (12-17)$5$15
Senior (65-69)$8N/A
Disabled VeteranFREEN/A

Short-Term Licenses

License TypeFee

Additional Permits and Validations

Second Rod$4Allows 2 rods for anglers 12-69
Habitat Stamp$10Required for USFS/BLM lands
Habitat Access$4Required for anglers 18+
Gila TroutFREERequired for certain waters

How to Purchase a New Mexico Fishing License

New Mexico fishing licenses, stamps, and permits can be conveniently obtained through the following channels:

  • Online: Visit the official New Mexico Department of Game & Fish website for 24/7 online sales.
  • Phone: Call 1-888-248-6866 to purchase your license over the phone.
  • NMDGF Offices: Visit any New Mexico Department of Game & Fish office in person.
  • Local Vendors: Many tackle shops and retailers across the state are authorized license vendors (a $1 transaction fee may apply).

New Mexico Fishing Regulations

In addition to obtaining the proper license, it’s crucial for anglers to familiarize themselves with the state’s fishing regulations. These rules are designed to promote sustainable fishing practices and ensure the long-term health of New Mexico’s aquatic ecosystems.

Bag and Possession Limits

The statewide bag and possession limits for trout and kokanee salmon are as follows:

  • Trout and Kokanee Salmon: 5 per day, 10 in possession. Up to 2 cutthroat trout may be included in the limit.
  • Cutthroat Trout: 2 per day, 2 in possession.

It’s important to note that some waters may have specific regulations that differ from the statewide limits. Always check the regulations for the particular body of water you plan to fish.

Bait and Lure Restrictions

While New Mexico offers a diverse array of fishing opportunities, certain bait and lure restrictions may apply in specific waters. Here are some general guidelines:

  • Bait: In most waters, anglers are permitted to use live or prepared baits such as worms, salmon eggs, PowerBait, and dough baits. However, some waters may have restrictions on the use of certain baits, so it’s essential to check the regulations for your intended fishing location.
  • Lures: Artificial lures, including spinners, spoons, crankbaits, and flies, are generally allowed in New Mexico waters. However, some designated “Special Trout Waters” may require the use of single, barbless hooks or specific lure types.

Special Regulations and Designated Waters

New Mexico has implemented special regulations for certain bodies of water to enhance the fishing experience and protect specific fish species. Here are a few examples:

  • Special Trout Waters: These designated waters often have reduced bag limits, catch-and-release requirements, or restrictions on the use of bait or lures. Anglers must follow the specific regulations outlined for each Special Trout Water.
  • Gila Trout Recovery Areas: To protect the endangered Gila trout, some waters are closed to fishing or require a free Gila Trout Fishing Permit. It is illegal to possess Gila trout in these designated areas.
  • Kokanee Salmon Snagging Season: During a specific season, anglers are permitted to snag (hook the body instead of the mouth) kokanee salmon in designated waters like Heron Lake and Willow Creek. Snagging is generally prohibited for other fish species.

Best Bait and Lures for New Mexico Fishing

New Mexico’s diverse waterways offer anglers a wide range of fishing opportunities, from pursuing elusive trout in mountain streams to battling feisty bass in sun-drenched reservoirs. To maximize your chances of success, it’s essential to choose the right bait and lures for the target species and conditions.

Trout Fishing

For trout fishing in New Mexico, popular baits include:

  • Corn
  • Salmon eggs
  • PowerBait
  • Worms
  • Roe sacks
  • Dough bait

Artificial lures such as in-line spinners, plastic worms, spoons, and a variety of fly patterns can also be effective for catching trout. Fly anglers should come prepared with a selection of nymphs, dry flies, and streamers to match the hatch and water conditions.

Bass Fishing

When targeting bass species like largemouth, smallmouth, and striped bass, consider using the following lures and baits:

  • Crankbaits
  • Jigs
  • Spinnerbaits
  • Topwater lures
  • Live bait (shad, bluegill)

For striped bass, in particular, live shad or baitfish can be highly effective, especially when fishing deeper waters or during the fall season when stripers chase schools of baitfish.

Panfish and Catfish

For panfish like crappie, bluegill, and sunfish, small jigs, curly-tailed grubs, and live bait (worms, crickets) can be productive choices. When fishing for catfish, try using prepared baits like chicken liver, shrimp, or cut bait, as well as live bait like bluegills or nightcrawlers.

Remember, it’s always a good idea to check the specific regulations for the body of water you plan to fish, as certain bait or lure restrictions may apply.

Responsible Fishing in New Mexico

While enjoying the incredible fishing opportunities in New Mexico, it’s essential to practice responsible and sustainable angling practices. Here are some tips to help you become a responsible angler:

  • Obtain the proper licenses and permits before fishing.
  • Familiarize yourself with and adhere to all fishing regulations, including bag limits, size limits, and gear restrictions.
  • Practice catch-and-release techniques when appropriate, handling fish carefully and minimizing time out of the water.
  • Respect the environment by properly disposing of any litter or waste.
  • Support conservation efforts by purchasing the required habitat stamps and validations.
  • Consider joining local fishing clubs or organizations that promote responsible angling and environmental stewardship.

By following these guidelines, you can help ensure that New Mexico’s diverse and vibrant fishing opportunities remain available for generations to come.

For the most up-to-date information on fishing licenses, regulations, and resources in New Mexico, visit the official website of the New Mexico Department of Game & Fish at

What is the best time of day to fish in New Mexico?

Generally, early morning and late evening are the best times to fish, especially during the summer months when temperatures are cooler.

Do I need a fishing license to fish in New Mexico?

Yes, anglers aged 12 and older must have a valid New Mexico fishing license. You can purchase licenses online or at various locations throughout the state.

What are the bag limits for different fish species in New Mexico?

Bag limits vary depending on the fish species and the specific water body. Always consult the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish website for the most up-to-date regulations.

Can I use live bait in all New Mexico waters?

While live bait is permitted in most waters, there are some restrictions in certain areas to prevent the spread of invasive species. Check the regulations for the specific water body you plan to fish.

What should I do if I catch a fish that is out of season or undersized?

If you catch a fish that is out of season or does not meet the size requirements, you must release it immediately. Handle the fish gently and minimize its time out of the water to increase its chances of survival.

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