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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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Best Time for White Bass Fishing Just Around the Corner

LAS CRUCES -- Anglers may start putting up their "gone fishing" signs soon and head for rivers, lakes and reservoirs as the peak season to catch white bass nears in New Mexico.


"A very productive time to fish for white bass in the state is from mid-April to mid-May," said Jon Boren, wildlife specialist with New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service. "White bass begin to spawn in large reservoirs when water temperatures vary between 54 degrees and 74 degrees. The fish seek out gravel bottoms in shallow water to deposit their eggs. They school up and chase shad to the surface to feed."

White Bass, also known as sand bass, were first stocked in New Mexico waters around 1959, Boren said. Prime spots to catch white bass in New Mexico include Elephant Butte, Caballo and the Rio Grande between the two reservoirs. Brantley, Sumner and Ute lakes also are good waters to fish for white bass.

The largest white bass ever caught in the state was pulled out of Bill Evans Lake in 1983, he said. It weighed 4 pounds and 13 ounces and was more than 19 inches long. White bass normally weigh about 1 pound and are around 10 inches long.

"The neat thing about fishing is that it's a sport that anyone can do, from the very young to the old," Boren said. "It makes a good family trip, and the experience can be enjoyed for the rest of your life."

New Mexicans 12 and older must have a license to fish, he said. Fishing licenses can be purchased from the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish and some sporting good stores throughout the state. The bag limit for white bass is 25 per day.

The key to catching white bass is having the right equipment, Boren said. An ultra-lite spinning tackle with a rod between 5 and 6 feet long and 6-pound test line is a good choice. The best bait to use is live shad, but flashy spinner jig combinations yellow, silver or chartreuse in color also work well, he advised.

"When schools are found, small lures that look like shad can be used to catch white bass," he said. "Crankbaits and minnow imitation and top water plugs also attract fish when they're feeding."

Anglers can increase their chances of catching white bass by watching fish-eating birds such as gulls, Boren said. Schools of white bass often are found where gulls feed on shad.

"Once you make a catch at a school of white bass feeding on the surface, don't stop. Keep fishing," he said. "Such feeding eruptions last only a short time, and usually happen in the late afternoon and early morning."

Fish that are caught should be stored in a live well or on a stringer in the water, Boren said. Immediately after they're removed from the water, fish should be cleaned and stored safely because they spoil easily.