Ron Loehman, Conservation Chairman
The New Mexico Game and Fish Commission (NMG&F) approved catch and release regulations on a portion of the Rio Chama at its November 17, 2016 meeting in Grants. The new regulation, as written by NM Game and Fish Department staff, applies to a three-mile stretch of the Chama that starts 1.3 miles below the El Vado dam. That 1.3-mile part was left out of the proposal because it includes the Coopers El Vado Ranch and areas upstream that are extremely popular with some locals and who were vocal in their desire to continue catch-and-keep fishing on the Chama.
The approval of any catch and release water on the Chama was due in large part to the dedicated, tireless efforts of Noah Parker over several years. Noah owns Land of Enchantment Guides and is a long time supporter of New Mexico Trout. At the Grants meeting the Game and Fish Department staff initially proposed that the Commission delay approval of the Department’s own proposal pending holding more public hearings on the issue. After a number of statements by supporters and lots of discussion among the Commissioners the catch and release proposal seemed to be stalled, with the possibility that the NMG&F Department request for a delay might be approved. Noah asked to address the Commission and delivered an impassioned defense of the catch and release regulations while calling attention to the many hundreds of petitions, letters, and other expressions of support that he had solicited and delivered to the Commission. That seemed to sway the Commissioners and shortly afterwards they voted to approve the new regulation.
Catch and keep regulations will still apply to the area below the El Vado dam that is easily accessible by vehicle. However, anglers willing to walk a moderate distance downstream should have the opportunity for larger, stream-bred trout, similar to the case with the San Juan tailwater below Navajo Dam.
New Mexico Trout has written the NMG&F Department offering to support them in any of their efforts to educate the public about the new regulations or to otherwise implement them.
Photograph of the Rio Chama overlook, clipped from Pinterest.