How's Fishing at Elephant Butte?

I talked to Elephant Butte local fishing guide Frank Vilorio. He's been a fishing guide there for 20 years. He says the fishing continues to be very good despite the drought and water levels being low.

The New Mexico Game and Fish Department periodically stock the lake with strippers, walleyes and large mouth bass. Vilorio says the lake was stocked with 750,000 striper frys (young fish about 1 inch long) last year. New Mexico fish biologists' claim thirty-six thousand will make it to 5-8 lbs in about five years. The average striper caught in the lake is around 8-12 lbs. Trophies (the largest) range from 30-40 lbs.

If you're wondering what kind of fish swim the lake, Vilorio says there are quite a few. You can expect catching anything from Stripers, Walleye, Smallmouth and Largemouth Bass, Crappies, Perch, Bream, Catfish, White Drum and occasionally Rainbow Trout if they can make it down river.

State record fish from Elephant Butte: (Courtesy of fishing guide Frank Vilorio)

Striped Bass: 54 lbs, 8 ounces

Flathead Catfish: 78 pounds

Smallmouth Bass: 6 lbs, 7 ounces

Green Sunfish: 1 lb 6 ounces

Vilorio says that determining when the fish bite the best is based on a lot of different aspects. He says some of these factors include "water temperature, moon cycle, barometric pressure (affected by frontal weather systems), wind and the direction it's coming from, lake boat traffic, angle of the sun and water clarity." Vilorio says fish seem to bite the best when water temperatures are on the rise such as winter to spring and spring to summer. "The bite slows down mid-summer, so we fish at night with lights." Weather frontal systems that come in with wind blowing from the north affects the fishing the most. Vilorio says the fish seem to get lock jaw and go deeper in the water and fishing seems to be less productive. Most fishermen agree that before the approach of a cold front fishing can be good.

Most fishermen I talked to over the years put a lot of effort into fishing "the cycle of the moon." Vilorio believes the new moon cycle (no moon) is best especially a few days before or a few days after. "It seems that on full moon periods fish tend to bite less often, especially during the daytime."

If you would like to schedule a fishing trip with Frank Vilorio, you can reach him at or call 575-744-4346.

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