Fishing improving in the San Juan River despite murky water

Hannah Grover
Farmington Daily Times
Thom Chacon, a guide with Duranglers, prepares a fishing pole for clients Thursday at Texas Hole below Navajo Dam.

COMMUNITY OF NAVAJO DAM — The wet winter had an unanticipated consequence — cooling the San Juan River quality waters and increasing the levels of sediment.

The quality waters are a world-famous trout fishing area just below Navajo Dam on the San Juan River. The dam tends to regulate water conditions such as temperature, which allows people to fish year-round.

The water in Navajo Lake today also had a murky appearance and sediment was visible in the river below the dam.

These water conditions have impacted fishing and hurt businesses that rely on anglers.

“We had cancellations, but we also had some brave souls who wanted to try it anyways,” said Thom Chacon, a guide with Colorado-based Duranglers.

While the water is still murky, guides and anglers say the fishing has improved.

Chacon said the water was still murky today, but anglers were catching fish. He took a couple clients onto the river.

“To me it seems that the fish have adjusted to their new situation,” said Chacon of the murky water and temperatures a couple of degrees colder than normal.

David Israel works in Abe’s Fly Shop in the community of Navajo Dam. He said the water became murky about three or four weeks ago.

Anglers fish on the San Juan River Thursday at Texas Hole.

“People were getting skunked, which is rare on the San Juan River,” Israel said.

He said the fishing economy usually picks up after Presidents Day, and this year has been unusual because of the murky water. He said it has not been a good spring for the guides and businesses.

“The fishing’s improving more than the water’s improving,” he said.

Israel said fish are biting on bright colored eggs and leeches.

In addition, the dam provides hydropower for local communities, including the city of Farmington and provides water storage.

The San Juan River runs under New Mexico Highway 173 in the community of Navajo Dam.

The hydropower plant at the dam was taken out of use about six months ago for some maintenance. Early in April, Farmington Electric Utility System tried to turn on the hydropower plant. The sediment in the water tripped the hydropower plant twice, according to Farmington Electric Utility System Director Hank Adair.

“We won’t run that unit unless we can get clean water to our bearings,” Adair said during a Public Utility Commission meeting on April 10.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at