You haven’t fished in the Southwest until you cast your like in New Mexico’s waters. My dad used to say this statement every time we were in the Southwest. And it didn’t make sense to me until I caught a trophy-sized trout at San Juan River a decade ago. I learned later that San Juan is one of the best New Mexico waters that offer some of the best fishing opportunities in the state.
But before you cast your line in New Mexico’s waters, you need to understand that you have to follow a few rules and regulations. And some of the main requirements for fishing in New Mexico are getting a fishing license and the right gear. Remember, some fishing methods are prohibited in some waters. For more details on the fishing licenses in New Mexico, please read on.
- Annual resident fishing license: $25.00
- Annual non-residents fishing license: $56.00
- One-day residents fishing license: $12.00
- One-day non-residents fishing license: $12.00
- Five-day resident license: $24.00
- Five-day non-resident: $25.00
- Senior Annual fishing license (age 65 to 69): $8.00
- Junior annual resident fishing license (age 12 to 17): $5.00
- Junior annual non-resident fishing license: $15.00
To learn more, here’s a link to the New Mexico website. (source)
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Does New Mexico Have Free Fishing?
Like most states in the Southwest, New Mexico has a free fishing day every year. The official free fishing day in New Mexico is the last Saturday of September. In New Mexico, anglers can fish for free as they celebrate National Hunting and Fishing Day. During this day you can take part in the many water sports in the public waters.
Anyone can fish in the state’s public waters on September 25, 2023, but you must observe the bag limits. You also have to adhere to the state’s fishing rules and regulations. The free fishing day also serves as a perfect opportunity to try all the popular fishing spots in New Mexico for free before booking your license. (source)
Can Non-residents Fish for Free on a Free Fishing Day?
Yes, during National Hunting and Fishing Day, the public waters are open to everyone in New Mexico, which includes non-residents. Therefore, if you plan on trying fishing in the Southwest, but are wondering if it’s worth it, then you should try the free fishing day. The incredible fishing might convince you to purchase a license and spend more than a weekend in some of New Mexico’s beautiful fishing spots.
TYpes of Fishing License in New Mexico
Besides free fishing days, all adults need a fishing license in New Mexico. Being found without one can result in a hefty penalty. And in the worst-case scenario, authorities may permanently cancel your fishing license privileges. Fortunately, the wildlife department has created perfect licenses for different age groups, including residents and non-residents.
Therefore, you must purchase the proper license for your age group and duration. For instance, you can buy an annual license when visiting the region for a week. But anyone over 12 years old must possess a valid fishing license. Plus, you may have to purchase a stamp and validation to be allowed to fish in New Mexico. Some of the most common fishing licenses in New Mexico include the following:
Annual Fishing License
As aforementioned, anyone over 12 must purchase a license, and the annual fishing license is ideal for adults. The state has prepared this package for adults over 17 years old; for residents, the annual fishing license is perfect for folks between 17 and 64 years old. For non-residents, anyone over 17 years old must purchase a yearly fishing license.
Adults can also get a short-term license if they wish to fish for a few days in New Mexico. You can get either a 1-day or 5-day fishing license. And you can even get an extension after your license expires and plan on staying in New Mexico for a few more days.
Junior Annual Fishing License
Unlike the annual fishing license, this option works for anyone between 12 and 16. Kids below 11 years old can fish for free in New Mexico, but they have to be under the supervision of an experienced adult. Even the kids must adhere to strict fishing rules and regulations despite their age. Remember, the state does set a bag limit even for kids below 11 years old.
Habitat Management and Access Validation (HMAV)
On top of the hunting and fishing license, anglers must purchase an HMAV every year between April 1 and March 31. But all anglers below 17 years and over 70 don’t need an HMAV to fish in New Mexico. It’s usually automatically added to your cart when you purchase your first fishing license.
A habitat stamp is mandatory for anyone over 12 years to fish in the BLM lands and U.S. Forest Service in this state. These stamps are optional for kids below 11 years, even if they have a free fishing license. Generally, the funds are collected using the habitat stamp fund for several improvement projects. Some of these projects include:
- Restoring streams and lakes
- Preventing soil erosion
- Improving water quality
- Removing the sediments from the ponds and reservoirs
- Building fish cover
Generally, anglers can only legally use one rod at a time. But anyone over 12 years who wants to use more than one needs to purchase the second-rod verification. Even with two rods, you must follow the possession and bag limits set by the different fishing spots in New Mexico. The two rods only improve your likelihood of catching a fish and don’t increase your bag limit.
Table of licenses (source)
|Type of license||Resident||Non-resident|
|Annual fishing license||$25.00||$56.00|
|Senior annual fishing (65-69 years)||$8.00||N/A|
|Junior Annual fishing (12-17 years old)||$5.00||$15.00|
Where Can I Buy a Fishing License in New Mexico?
Before visiting the public fishing spots in New Mexico, you must purchase a license. Fortunately, the fishing and hunting department understands the demand for these licenses. Therefore, they have opened several locations where you can purchase your license. So anglers can purchase their fishing licenses online or physically in their offices. Several authorized dealers sell these fishing licenses.
You can purchase your license online if you’re away from New Mexico. All you need is your passport or driver’s license and visa card. All you have to do is visit their official page and create an account using the following link. (source) Next, fill out your form and pay with your visa or credit card. Remember, you need to have it physically when fishing, so print your license as soon as you get it.
But if you’re already in New Mexico, you can purchase them in person through the license agents and NMDFG offices. You can access the list of authorized agents online, find their location, and make your purchase. (source) You can find a few authorized vendors in your hometown if you’re lucky.
How Much Is a New Mexico Fishing License at Walmart?
If you can’t find an authorized agent, you can purchase your license at the sports department in many stores in the country. Unfortunately, these licenses go for different prices; their prices fluctuate depending on several factors. Some of these factors include your age, type of license, and duration of fishing.
The difference in price between the Walmart fishing license and the ones purchased online is relatively small. And that’s because Walmart does charge processing fees. In most cases, the processing fee may be about 50 cents.
Where Can I Get the Fishing Regulations in New Mexico?
Even though anyone under 11 years can fish for free in New Mexico, we all still need to follow the fishing rules and regulations. Every fishing region has some unique fishing requirements everyone has to follow. These places have a set possession and bag limit; some fishing techniques are not allowed. So before visiting New Mexico, you can download the fishing handbook and the official website. (3)
These regulations are updated annually, so you must download the current handbook and go through it. The handbook even stipulates the right bait and fishing method to use in every fishing spot. Remember, some fishing destinations are usually partially open, and knowing this information before leaving your home can save you time and cash.
What Is the Fishing License Age Requirement for New Mexico?
Anyone over 12 years must pay for a fishing license to cast their line in New Mexico’s waters. Kids under 12 must apply for a free fishing license. For residents, anglers must be between 12 and 69 years to pay for a license in New Mexico. But the state doesn’t have a senior’s license for non-residents between 65 and 69 years old. Therefore, all non-residents over 12 years old must apply for a license to fish in this state.
When Do New Mexico Fishing Licenses Expire?
Generally, all the annual fishing licenses are valid from April 1 to the end of March of the following year. The yearly licenses include adult, junior, and senior fishing licenses for residents and non-residents. Therefore, if you plan on enjoying the full benefits of the fishing license in New Mexico in 2023, you should purchase it in April.
On the other hand, short-term licenses have a fixed expiry date. For instance, the 5-day licenses are valid for the given time. Fortunately, you can renew the license as soon as it expires.
Can You Fish Without a License in New Mexico?
Yes, everyone can fish without a license on the free fishing day, but you need one to cast your line on the other days. On the other hand, kids below 12 years old and residents over 69 can fish for free in New Mexico. Unfortunately, non-resident seniors don’t enjoy the same benefits as the residents. They still have to purchase a license to fish in the region.
Can You Fish on Private Property Without a License?
No, you don’t need a fishing license to explore the ponds and streams on private properties. But you have to get permission from the property owner or manager. Written permission can come in handy and can protect you from a lawsuit. But most importantly, you must follow the rules and regulations set by the owners.
What Is the Fine for Fishing Without a License in New Mexico?
Generally, fishing without a license, validation or proper stamp is illegal in New Mexico. And if caught without a license, you may end up paying a fine of about $75. If found fishing without the HMAV, second-rod validation, or habitat stamp, you can pay a fine of about $50. (source) The penalty varies with the offense; in the worst-case scenario, you may receive a ban from fishing in New Mexico.
What Is the Fishing Season in New Mexico?
Like in most states, the fishing season in this state is open to anglers all year round. So you can find a fishing spot available at any given point. These waterways have length and bag limits that everyone has to follow. Unfortunately, some fishing destinations are partially open to the public; they’re open for a particular duration every year. Fishing is split into several groups, with the most common ones being:
Cold Water Game Fishing
If you’re looking for cold-water game fish, you need to know when to fish. Some of the most common cold-water fishes include brown, rainbow, Gila, brook trout, kokanee, and lake trout.
You can fish all these species during the cold season but need a free Gila trout permit to catch them. For instance, Kokanee fishing is closed at Willow Creek and Heron Lake between October and November 10. The special kokanee salmon fishing season is open in the above-water bodies between November 11 and December 31.
Special Trout Waters
The game and fish department has split the STW waters into Xmas Chile water, Green Chile water, and Red Chile water. Unfortunately, you’re only allowed a bag limit of two trout at the Xmas Chile water and Green Chile water. But if you are okay with catch-and-release, you should try the Red Chile water.
Red Chile Water
At the native trout conservative, the black canyon is open to fishing between July 1 and October 31. On the other hand, Leandro Creek is open from July 1 to December 31. At the Green and Shuree Ponds is open between July 1 and December 31.
|Fish species||Opening date||Closed date|
|General fishing||January 1||December 31|
|Salmon||October 1||December 31|
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Frequently Asked Questions
Where Can I Fish in New Mexico?
New Mexico is a perfect fishing haven, with even the best-seasoned anglers grinning from ear to ear. So, whether you prefer rivers, creeks, artificial reservoirs, or mountain lakes, this state has everything you’ll ever need for your trip. Some of the best fishing destinations in New Mexico include:
Navajo Lake State Park
If you’re looking for a memorable fishing experience, you should try Navajo Lake state park, which is also one of the second biggest lakes in the region. This destination is situated in Navajo Dam and has several boat launches for boat owners. It also has a vast camping ground, so you can turn a simple fishing trip into a camping trip and finally get to fish at dawn or dusk. This lake is suitable for smallmouth bass, crappie, and brown trout.
San Juan River
Situated below Navajo Dam, the San Juan is a popular fishing destination that’s loved by anglers worldwide. Unfortunately, fishing here in June can be pretty challenging since your upper temperature will be over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, while below, it will be 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Therefore, you should get a guide to show you where to cast your line. And if you’ve never been here before, you should know that some experienced anglers need one.
Another incredible fishing destination is River Chama which has numerous distinct sections. But its uppermost section is usually prime in June. The water typically finds use for irrigation in mid-July, creating a perfect fishing spot at the nearby Brazos.
Another exceptional fishing spot for beginners is the Cimarron River. River Cimarron is a rich small tailwater stream that creates a perfect fishing spot in springtime. And that’s because it’s not affected by the malign snow. While there, you should also try and visit its source for pike, yellow perch, and trout.
For more details on fishing in New Mexico, click here.
Can I Fish at Night in New Mexico?
Yes, there is no law against fishing at night in New Mexico, so if the lake is accessible at night, then you can try night fishing. And one of the best destinations for night fishing is Navajo Lake. But make sure you prepare for the darkness and cold weather. If you’re using your boat, make sure it’s well-lit.
How Many Fishing Poles Can I Have?
You can have a single line and rod when fishing in New Mexico. But if you need to use more than one rod, you should purchase the two-rod validation. You can buy this validation together with your fishing license.
Do You Need a Fishing License in New Mexico if You’re Over 65?
Yes, all seniors over 65 need a license, but after 70, they get a free one. Plus, at 70 years old, you don’t need a habitat stamp.
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- New Mexico Game and Fish staff, Fishing license requirements and fees, https://www.wildlife.state.nm.us/fishing/licenses-permits/requirements-fees/ accessed January 13, 2023.
- New Mexico Game and Fish staff, National Hunting and Fishing Day 2022, https://www.wildlife.state.nm.us/event/national-hunting-and-fishing-day-2022/ accessed January 13, 2023.
- New Mexico Game and Fish staff, 2022-2023 New Mexico Fishing, https://www.wildlife.state.nm.us/download/publications/rib/2022/fishing/2022_2023-New-Mexico-Fishing-Rules-and-Info.pdf/ accessed January 13, 2023.
- New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, Online Licensing System Recommendation, https://onlinesales.wildlife.state.nm.us/ accessed January 13, 2023.
- New Mexico Game and Fish staff, License Vendor List, https://www.wildlife.state.nm.us/fishing/licenses-permits/fishing-license-vendor-list/ accessed January 13, 2023.
- FindLaw Staff, New Mexico Statutes Chapter 17, https://codes.findlaw.com/nm/chapter-17-game-and-fish-and-outdoor-recreation/nm-st-sect-17-2-10-1/ accessed January 13, 2023.