Sunday, September 14, 2014

Conchas, Sumner and Santa Rosa Lakes Bounce Back in 2014

The dam at Conchas Lake on the eastern plains of New Mexico during the late summer of 2014.
Conchas, Sumner and Santa Rosa lakes are all full again thanks to abundant monsoon rains this summer and now is a great time to visit as the weather cools and the crowds fade.

“It’s just been terrific,” says Mary Sena of the Fisherman’s Hideaway at Sumner Lake out on the eastern plains. “The lake hasn’t looked this good in years.”

All three lakes have suffered from extremely low water levels in recent years due to the long running drought but things began to change late last summer when heavy rains fell for a couple of days.

Then this year it’s been one good summer rain after another out on the plains to help bring the popular but parched reservoirs back up to normal.

These three northeast area lakes all benefit greatly from rainstorm runoff collected over a vast watershed area while other reservoirs around the state still remain low because they are more dependent on ample mountain snows to refill.

“We haven’t seen great conditions like this since 2007,” said Steve Peterson, Conchas Lake Manager for the US Army Corps of Engineers.

Steve Peterson, Conchas Lake Manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Conchas Lake’s level is just a few feet short of its historical average and all boat ramps and campgrounds are open again and the fishing is reported to be just fine.

“That’s where I’d be,” Eric Frey, Sportfish Program Manager for the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish said of Conchas Lake. “It’s really bounced back well and is just chock full of large and smallmouth bass.”

Smallmouth Bass like this one are thriving at Conchas Lake despite years of drought and low water levels.
Repairs have also been made to the dam to reduce leakage while the park’s historic Adobe Belle rental cottages are also being restored and might even be back in business by next season, Peterson said.

Those visiting Conchas Lake will find beer, ice and fishing supplies at the marina on the north side of the lake and while gas and groceries can be had from the 104 Store on the lake’s south side.

Just down the road at Santa Rosa Lake those familiar with its plight over the past few years during which the once mighty walleye fishery suffered heavily may be surprised to see how full it is again.

“We’ve planted walleye fry and hope to see it recover quickly,” Frey said.

The tower at Santa Rosa Lake in August 2014 after abundant summer monsoon rains.
The Santa Rosa tower in April 2013 after years of drought.
In the meantime anglers at the lake have reported the fishing for crappie, smallmouth bass, catfish and the occasional walleye has only been fair at the lake.

But those seeking quiet camping, a refreshing swim and fantastic scenery may find the lake a good option as others choose to pass it up for more active fishing spots.

The boat ramp at Santa Rosa in late summer 2014.
The Santa Rosa boat ramp in April 2013.
Supplies can be found in the nearby town of Santa Rosa which also boasts some of the best roadhouse restaurants in the state.

Santa Rosa Lake last in spring 2013.

Santa Rosa lake has bounced back and is full again in 2014 after good summer rains over the last two years.
At Sumner Lake the fishing has been good and getting better as the monsoon rains have slowed and the water is settling down, Sena said.

Due to heavy rains in this summer dam operators had been releasing the overflow downstream into the Pecos River which has helped keep it thriving too.

The peaceful lake between Santa Rosa and Fort Sumner boasts a couple of nice shady campgrounds, open boat ramps and an attractive recreation area on the river just below the dam.

The Pecos River below the dam at Sumner Lake late summer 2014.
The big pool below the dam has a reputation for giving up the occasional lunker to some lucky angler smart enough to have fished it while visiting the lake.

Visitors will find cold beer, bait, tackle, ice and groceries at Sena’s longtime, lakefront business which also features a full bar and restaurant that looks out over the water.

Sumner Lake late summer 2014.
Visit the state park’s online website at for more information about each park and to make campground reservations.

This story was originally published in the Albuquerque Journal North and Las Vegas Optic newspapers and is reprinted here with permission.

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