QCS Senior Writer
The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, volunteers and fishing enthusiasts released almost 300,000 bass on Wednesday into New Mexico lakes including Ute Lake State Park in Logan and Conchas State Park.
“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 Mike Sloane department of fisheries chief.
Volunteers from New Mexico B.A.S.S. Nation and Ruf-Nec Tackle in Logan helped department officials release two species of black, largemouth and smallmouth bass to stock Ute Lake.
“I have helped with stocking projects like this for many years and this helps to boost area fishing that in turns helps the local economy when fishers make the trip to Ute Lake,” said Ben Newton, owner Ruf-Nec Tackle.
Newton said the fish are taken out on boats and scattered into various areas to increase their chances of survival, considering they are released at a young age.
Bass must grow to a certain size to be legally harvested in New Mexico; the State Game Commission adopted a 14-inch minimum size limit for smallmouth bass at Conchas and Ute Lakes several years ago. Largemouth bass must exceed 14 inches to be harvested; minimum size limits allow fish to become larger over time, creating the excellent bass fishing opportunities.
Ute Lake is a nearly 13-mile reservoir of warm water that provides habitat for walleye, crappie, and catfish, as well as largemouth and smallmouth bass. It is one of the state’s popular destinations year round for fishing, boating, and water sports.
Sport fishing draws visitors to many reservoir communities in the state and increases the vitality of their economies. The sale of fishing licenses and equipment to Anglers helps to pay for continued fisheries conservation.
“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 Earl Conway, conservation director NM B.A.S.S. Nation.
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.
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.
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.