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—Jacoba Jane

Lots of small things

—Evan Belknap

Today, for work, I took six kids to a nearby canyon and looked at flowers. We picked our way down scree slopes, through juniper and pinion, until we emerged in the lush meadow valley of Blue Water Canyon, near Thoreau, New Mexico. With all the recent rain, Blue Water Creek was flowing strong and pooling in front of beaver dams and around red-and-white sandstone bends. We were up to our waists in yellow-and-white sweet clover, bergemot, golden beard penstemon, wild geranium, blood red Mexican hat, and tiny purple hippopotamus-mouthed mint flowers. As we walked upstream, we burrowed our way through Coyote and Arroyo Willows, jumping back and forth across the stream. Bees and hummingbirds filled the air with their buzzing and whistles. Saturated in the smell of mint and water, the sun beat down, and I regretted not making the kids bring swimsuits; one perfect swimming hole followed another.

After about an hour of hiking and identifying plants and bugs and whatever else we found, I asked them all to find a quiet personal spot, to get comfortable, be alone for a while and just sit, journal if they wanted to, but to simply sit still and take in as many details as they could. I found my own spot somewhere in the middle of all of them and disappeared into the tall grasses. For a while, I stared at the clouds, drifting softly by, and then I closed my eyes and listened, to all the bird and insect sounds, and then to the sounds made by my trekkers—the breaking of sticks and someone throwing rocks into a pool, and then I lost myself in my own thoughts. I wanted to see how long they could sit before getting antsy.

Twenty-five minutes went by, and I poked my head out of the grass and began to watch them. One girl was deeply enveloped in something she was writing, cross-legged on top a boulder in the creek. Another boy was watching a fish, his head propped on his knees above the water. A turkey vulture caught his attention briefly, then he went back to his fish. Another boy was sharpening yet another stick with his pocketknife.

I watched and, as happens often, was struck by the remarkable fact that my job is to facilitate self-discovery for young people. I pondered what that really meant. I watched and imagined all those individual “I”s having all those individual “I” thoughts—each one of them on their own little existential morning of adventure, off alone with themselves. After about forty-five minutes, I brought them all back together, and we sat in the grass and talked about what we had seen, heard, or thought about.

Back at Cottonwood Gulch for lunch, where I work, there were even more “I”s around, way more, and my brain started to ache a little, trying to conclude this thought I’d been having in the canyon: what with the self being so important to all of us, how can so many of us be around each other without feeling our very   “I”-ness threatened? In the presence of so many unique and beautiful butterflies, how was I supposed to take my own personal struggle seriously? I ate my chicken salad sandwich quietly at the head of a table of ten of them—all these tiny little fuzzy humans in the early, awkward stages of self-awareness, spilling food everywhere and talking with their mouths full.

And without any sort of real conclusion, all I could think was that I sure was glad that that canyon was there for us in the morning—how important it was to find that space, and to have a secret place to go to. And I thought about how I’m super psyched for labyrinthine mountains, dry stretches of empty space, and arroyos in the backyard that no one else knows about. For little pockets of time, tucked away in a tent far away. For moments of silence and all the sounds that comfort me, like water trickling by or the voices of my friends. For having flowers be so vibrantly fascinating, and rock walls so tall and clean and alluring. I’m happy that I can have all these little things, and have them be mine just because I love them.

Josh Anspach Hanson, 34, of Albuquerque caught this 23-inch stocked rainbow trout in the below the Red River Fish Hatchery last fall using a Poundmeister fly.

Alexa Lucero, 10, of Albuquerque caught this 18.5-inch stocked rainbow trout at the Seven Springs Fish Hatchery brood pond June 21 using a Pistol Pete fly.

Big fish program

—Karl Moffatt, New Mexico Department of Game and Fish

Anglers should be catching fatter fish this summer because the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish is growing them bigger than ever.

“I don’t know what they’re feeding them down at the hatchery, but they need to keep it up,” says Josh Anspach Hanson, 34, of Albuquerque. “It’s sure made my fishing really exciting again.”

While fly-fishing below the Red River Fish Hatchery last fall, Hanson hooked into something much larger than the average-size, stocked rainbow trout he’d been catching all day.

“I thought it was one of those big, wild browns like I caught there last year,” says Hanson, who grew up in Montana where he learned to fish on renowned rivers like the Big Horn and Gallatin. “Then this monster just exploded out of the water.”

At more than twenty inches, the silver-sided, stocked rainbow trout put up a great fight. After landing and releasing it, Hanson thought she was going to be his “big fish” of the day. That was until he caught three more big, stocked rainbows that afternoon. He lost two, but landed the last just yards shy of the hatchery parking lot. Lucky for him, a couple of fellow anglers on the bank were watching his battle and took a picture of him with his 23-inch trout. Hanson later posted it on the Department’s Facebook page.

“Man, that was exciting catching those big trout in that little stream,” Hanson says. “That was the best day I’ve had fishing since moving here.”

Hanson, a pathologist at the University of New Mexico Hospital, moved to Albuquerque in July 2012. He and his wife Jennifer, a speech pathologist, have a three-year-old son, Parker, who is just learning to fish. Because of the big fish program, Hanson says he can’t wait to take his son fishing.

That’s just what the Department had in mind when it created a new program to grow larger trout at several of its hatcheries: to keep anglers excited about the sport. Anglers can check the Department’s website at for the latest report showing where the big fish are stocked.

The idea for the program grew from the tremendous positive responses the department has received from anglers who had caught big trout, stocked in numerous fishing areas during the past few seasons.

Many of those fat trout were the first generation raised at the Los Ojos Fish Hatchery after it had been closed for decontamination to eliminate whirling disease a few years ago. About one thousand fish had to be held over at the facility to ensure they were free of the disease. They grew to around 17 inches each before being stocked in nearby Hopewell and Canjilon Lakes and the Chama River, said Eric Frey, the department’s sport fish program manager.

Those hefty trout got the big fish program rolling and the drought kept them coming.

Large trout raised at the Red River fish hatchery and usually stocked in Shuree Ponds on the Valle Vidal had to be diverted to other waters because of low levels in the ponds the last several years, Frey said.

Some of those big trout were caught by anglers on the Rio Costilla or Red River while kids were pulling them out of fish hatchery ponds and places like Tingley Beach. Even remote Charette Lakes, far out on the plains of eastern New Mexico, got a load of the big fish.

And the response from anglers couldn’t have been better, Frey said.

“People all over were telling us they were thrilled with what they were catching,” he said.

So a plan was hatched to continue growing bigger fish at several northern New Mexico hatcheries to augment regular loads of catchable-size, stocked rainbows. This year, fish hatcheries at Red River and Los Ojos will raise thousands of fish in the fifteen- to 17-inch range for stocking in about twenty selected lakes and ponds.

Frey said kids’ fishing ponds at hatcheries and lakes that disabled and senior anglers frequent most will get the bulk of the fish at first. Tiger Lake near Aztec, Tingley Beach in Albuquerque, Cowles Pond and Monastery Lake on the Pecos River, Morphy Lake near Las Vegas, and Canjilon Lakes are just some places that will receive them. 

Hatchery managers have discovered that it’s easier to grow bigger trout because they’ve switched to using only sterile, female, “triploid” trout eggs, says Scott Bernard, manager of the Lisboa Springs Fish Hatchery in Pecos.

The Department started stocking sterile trout to reduce the possibility of crossbreeding with native cutthroats that are being reintroduced to many waters across the state.

Sterile trout grow bigger and faster because they are not spending as much energy on achieving sexual maturity and reproduction, said Bernard who holds a master’s degree in fisheries and aquaculture from Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, Kansas.

Triploid trout also grow up to be very aggressive feeders, which is sure to please anglers.

Trout eggs gathered for hatchery rearing are subjected to a heat or pressure process following fertilization that causes the eggs to retain a third chromosome, hence the name “triploid.” The extra chromosome renders the resulting fish incapable of reproduction but it is normal in all other features.

Bernard, who has been with the Department for nine years, says raising bigger fish requires a group of trout to remain on site longer and eat more than a typical supply of “catchables.” Most trout reach catchable size of about ten inches in a little under a year, while the big 17-inch trout require another six months, said Bernard.

New Mexico has six hatcheries cranking out an estimated 16 million fish annually, including trout, bass, catfish, bluegill, walleye, and salmon. The state hosts an estimated 160,000 resident and nonresident anglers who spend $268 million dollars annually on fishing, according to a recent study commissioned by the Department. Anglers help support more than 7,900 outdoor recreational jobs in New Mexico and contribute about $51 million dollars in state and local tax revenues, according to the study.

Karl Moffatt is a writer, photographer and media relations coordinator for the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. Contact at or (505)476-8007.

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