On Stands Now
June 2024

Questa  •  Red River  •  Cerro  •  Costilla  •  Amalia  •  Lama  •  San Cristobal

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Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout Stocking Event set for April 19

Photo by E. Wilde Baby Rio Grande Cutthroat trout ready for stocking from last year’s event in April

It’s become an institution, Questa’s annual remembrance of the Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout, as a bow to northern New Mexico’s natural heritage. With the exception of a period during Covid, volunteers from far and wide have gathered for years at the rim trails of the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument to carry plastic bags full of water and precious cargoes of baby Cutthroat Trout into the gorge for release into the river. The day is usually in spring, the air full of birdsong and optimism. This year, the stocking will take place on Friday, April 19.

As in past years, there should be hundreds of attendees, and like last year, participants will have the options of hiking to the Rio Grande from several trailheads along the rim or, for those seeking a less strenuous adventure, stocking the Red River near Eagle Rock Lake.

Gorge participants will meet at 10 a.m. at the Wild Rivers Visitor Center, where representatives from the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish will provide background information on our state fish, as well as logistics for stocking the fingerlings safely and effectively. Bureau of Land Management staff will provide additional logistical information, including guidance on minimizing impact on the monument’s natural resources. Eagle Rock participants will meet at the lake at 11 a.m.. If you have questions, please direct them to Coldwater Biologist from the Department of Game and Fish John Smith at john.smith@dgf.gov; (505) 469-9718.

Like most New Mexico outings, a day that’s most fun is the one that’s most safe. The gorge hike is a challenge to even the heartiest individuals. Bring more water than you think you will need. Wear a wide-brimmed hat, don long sleeves and breathable pants to protect against the energy-sapping sun. Down by the riverside, soak your feet as you listen to the river churn, and if you bring fishing gear, don’t forget your license.

Prepare to go as slowly as you need to, especially on the way out. Understand, however, that the fish you will be carrying are on a ticking clock, so some awareness of time will be necessary. Game and Fish staff will fill up your bag with cold, oxygenated water, drop some fish in, and give it another shot of oxygen before handing it to you. You should be ready to begin hiking at that moment, not after. Don’t get your fish, return to your car for your lunch and fishing gear or rearrange your pack. Do that stuff before—get your fish and go. The quicker your trip down, the greater the chances that your trout will survive in the big river.

And in case you’re wondering, the cutthroats we’ve put in the Rio do indeed survive. The babies we put in measure from two to four inches in length. Over the years, I have caught cutthroats in the Rio as long as 14 inches, more than once. I’ve caught them near the Colorado state line and as far down as Pilar, which suggests that the fish stocked during these annual events have not only survived and grown but have traveled for distances of over 20 miles! This is one tough fish, if given half a chance.