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Fenton Lake

By Bill Dyroff, Journal Correspondent, from Albuquerque Journal, 1996

Fenton Lake is almost 50 years old. Much of it is silted in and shallow. But there’s new hope for this popular lake in the Jemez Mountains.

Fenton is being rejuvenated, and some Rio Rancho citizens are directly involved. The activities at the lake highlight the success of the Rio Rancho Meadowlark Senior Center Fishing Club.

Fenton is about 30 surface acres, some 60 miles northwest of Albuquerque in the Jemez Mountains. It has brown trout and is stocked with rainbows by the Game and Fish Department. Close to the state’s major populations, Fenton is heavily fished.

However, a major problem occurs each summer as the lake stratifies into warm and cool levels. The warm water remains atop the cool water, and there is little or no circulation between the sections. The lower, cooler water required by trout is subsequently low in oxygen.

With about 60 percent of the lake 5 feet or less in depth, there’s lots of plant growth, according to Jack Kelly, fisheries manager for the department’s northwest area.

It’s obviously tough to fish through the thick plant growth. But, the photosynthesis process with the plants and sunlight raises the pH level (indicator of the acid and alkaline condition) to the point where the department can’t plant fish.

“In the four years I’ve been here,” Kelly said, “Fenton has not been stocked from late June through August. And even if fish are in the lake, with a high pH level, they stop feeding.”

That’s in the past. Two air diffusers (commonly called aerators) were installed this month. Kelly said, “These will destratify the lake…not allow it to stratify in the summer.”

Game and Fish officer Jack Kelly and T.J. Jimerson lower a diffuser into the depths of Fenton Lake in the Jemez Mountains. Photo by Bill Dyroff/Journal

Game and Fish officer Jack Kelly and T.J. Jimerson lower a diffuser into the depths of Fenton Lake in the Jemez Mountains. Photo by Bill Dyroff/Journal

Grass carp will soon be introduced to consume large quantities of the bottom growth, too.

That’s the two-pronged approach Kelly is working on. Both actions will help maintain favorable pH conditions for the trout. Kelly expects the changes will allow plantings of rainbows in Fenton through the summer.

“The Rio Rancho Senior Center Fishing Club got the ball rolling on this,” Kelly said. “And they supported it financially.”

Just eight years ago, that club had only four members. Now they have about 100. “And we’re still growing,” said Joe Klein, past-president and the club’s top officer for six years.

“We started in 1986 to work for an improvement at Fenton,” Klein said. “We brought the problem to Gov. Carruthers. He promised to look into this, and asked (Natural Resources Secretary) Tom Barr to investigate our complaint.”

Two weeks ago, Kelly, assisted by volunteer T.J. Jimerson, anchored two diffusers in the middle of the lake, some 150 to 200 feet apart, not far from the dam and boat ramp. The pair also anchored a conduit leading from the compressor on shore and then splitting to the diffusers. The anchors were bricks secured to the conduit with plastic ties at intervals of a couple feet.

The system was fully tested, but not set in operation for lack of a secure storage for the compressor. The storage problem has been solved, said park manager Orlando Herrera.

The project had vital financial help from New Mexico Trout. This organization contributed close to $500 for the purchase of the compressor and diffuser manifold. Kelly also received volunteer advice and assistance from Jerry Mohrmann, of Mohrmann Electric in Albuquerque, with final preparation of conduit and electrical connections. Kelly said, “Mohrmann offered to help just because he likes to fish Fenton.”

Visitors will readily see a large “boil” above each of the diffusers. As described by the manufacturer, Aquatic Eco-Systems, the diffuser releases very small bubbles from a 4-square-foot area…expanding as they rise, the bubbles also spread away from each other to a maximum of about 10 square feet. The column of water moves 2,000 gallons a minute from the vicinity of the diffuser and approximately 4,000 gallons a minute near the surface.

The price the diffuser system is about $2,000, and the grass carp cost about $1,100.

From Albuquerque Journal, December 8, 1984

Photo by Alexandria King/Journal Photo

Photo by Alexandria King/Journal Photo

A sport usually associated with the icy and snowbound North, dog sled racing is gaining popularity in New Mexico, which has about 20 teams of three to eight dogs each. Some trainers have found that they can work out their dogs and at the same time get some exercise themselves, as bicycle-riding Karen Cummings has discovered. These Siberian huskies are making a practice run to get in shape for upcoming races while Miss Cummings pedals to keep up. In some instances she finds that she’s going faster then her team. Later, at the New Mexico Sled Dog Racing Association’s fun and training race in La Queva, on Dec. 29 and 30, and the state championship race at Lake Fenton in the Jemez mountains in January, the dogs will be pulling sleds over snow. For now, though, they’re training at Cutter Field in Albuquerque for the next two weekends.