New Mexico’s Red River Loaded with Big Rainbows

By: Chris Shaffer

In New Mexico catching five-fish limits of trout that weigh more than 12 pounds isn’t common. In fact, it’s rare. Meanwhile, that feat can be achieved at the Red River, as long as you arrive soon. The river is stuffed with large trout now. It’s something we’ve never seen in the Land of Enchantment.

We caught all our trout in roughly a two-hour span in the town of Red River. To be honest, the best five-fish limit probably was closer to 14 pounds, but we didn’t weigh each fish because we released them all, unharmed. All those fish, and many more, are still in the river. The largest trout we caught pushed four pounds. All were rainbows. We didn’t catch a single other species.


Our day didn’t start out well. We started at the Red River behind Eagle Rock Lake and only caught one small 10-inch trout. This section was ranging, almost too fast for most to fish. We then drove upriver to Fawn Lakes Campground in hopes of finding slower moving water. Spending 15 minutes fishing from the campground on downriver for a quarter-mile we didn’t see a single trout. After this, we drove upriver and past the town of Red River (along 578) and caught a handful of typical New Mexico Fish & Game planters. It wasn’t until we tried the section in town that the size ramped up.


Keep in mind, this was the first time we’d ever fished in town. We didn’t have a clue they stocked big trout or where to fish. We parked next to cars from Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and California, walked to the bank and started casting. In fewer than two hours (a storm pushed us off the river for an hour) we had caught and released more than a dozen rainbows that were greater than two pounds, some larger, and another dozen that were traditional 10-inch planters.


It was an epic day, all of which will be cataloged in an episode of Pautzke Outdoors. Our trout were caught on four baits: Peach Garlic & Feed Pellet Brown Fire Bait, Silver Label and our new Fire Balls (that will be in stores in July). Our mainline was six-pound test, but we used four-pound leader and employed a Trout Magnet float to keep our size 10 and 12 Eagle Claw single salmon egg hooks from getting hung up on the bottom.


We started each hole with the eggs and as soon as the trout became conditioned to them we switched to Fire Bait and the bite continued. The key was keeping the eggs and FireBait flowing naturally in the current without getting snagged. And, when fishing the Fire Bait we rolled it up like a worm, rather than in a ball. We couldn’t stop catching trout. Meanwhile, I pulled the plug at 4:30pm because we needed to drive to Hopewell Lake to film an evening show there.


For those of you who have fished the Red River before you know finding large pools to focus on isn’t a chore. They stand out and are easy to fish. We caught fish in every pool, but also found large trout hanging tight to the bank in less than a foot of water. Try not to overlook undercut banks. The largest trout we caught came from those areas.


Editor’s Note: Pautzke Fire Bait and Silver Label eggs are available in all New Mexico Walmart stores and various tackle shops in Red River. For more information on fishing in Red River please visit or New Mexico Game & Fish