Understanding Where Warm Waters Halt in New Mexico (Updated on June 22, 2018)

I have assumed that the Fenn’s treasure chest is hidden in New Mexico. I’ve explained why in an earlier entry. While that decision could be criticized, it cannot be debated. It’s my assumption, and I cling to it like a grizzly bear does to a chubby, tasty flatlander.

I have also assumed that “warm waters” as used in the first clue of Fenn’s Poem (Begin it where warm waters halt…) is Fenn’s gracious, poetic, and pretty damned transparent nod to the the New Mexico State Game and Fish Department Fishing Rules and Information pamphlet. He is, after all, a lifelong, devout and dedicated fisherman, and would be familiar with them.

When I first started searching for the treasure Forrest Fenn hid somewhere in the mountains north of Santa Fe, like everyone else, I used Google search to help me. At that time, when I searched “warm waters” the first entry on the results list was the reference to the phrase “warm waters” in the New Mexico Fishing Regulations. Perform the same search today, and you’ll get everything that has been written since. By anyone.

Since I’m about to jump into them, you can download a copy (in Adobe Acrobat) format of the 2018-2019 Fishing Proclamation (as the Rules are referred to) here. (I update this information annually.)

First, the phrase “warm waters,” (the plural) in the context of fishing, is unique to New Mexico. No other Rocky Mountain state uses the phrase in the context of fishing.

Second, while it is common knowledge that trout thrive in waters just either side of 55 degrees, there is nothing in anything the NMG&FD publishes that defines hot, warm, cool or cold waters in terms of temperatures in degrees Fahrenheit or Celsius. You will, on the other hand, find lists, with appropriate images, of warm water species and cold water species on the NMG&FD website without any reference to water temperatures.

CaptureaThird, you can find the definition of warm waters on page 16 of the above referred to publication. In the first paragraph it says, “Warm waters include all streams, lakes, and ponds, except those designated as trout waters (pages 24–25, 31).

Thus, the distinction, in the context of New Mexico fishing, is not between warm waters and cool waters, or warm water species and cool water species. It’s between warm waters and Trout Waters, irrespective of temperature or specie. (Special Trout Waters are a subset of Trout Waters, and reside within them._

The following has been edited (on June 22, 2018) to correct our understanding of warm waters in New Mexico.

That difference is documented in the map below. Click on the map to enlarge. A copy of this map is included in the annual New Mexico Fishing Rules and Info pamphlet. <===== You can download the current pamphlet with the link.

Simply put, warm waters in New Mexico are in the white areas of the map, and trout waters in the pink areas. Warm waters halt at the transition points between the two. For even more detail you can download this map:

New-Mexico-Public-Fishing-Waters-Map-Higher-Quality (1)


2 thoughts on “Understanding Where Warm Waters Halt in New Mexico (Updated on June 22, 2018)

  1. Toby, you definitely have presented a good case and certainly could be right; and if I lived in New Mexico I would feel the same way if for no other reason than its accessibility.

    A good case can also be made for Yellowstone and Wyoming.

    Some say the last place a hustler like Fenn would hide the chest is in a place that he has spoken of or has obvious attachments to.

    I’ve always liked the area around Salida Colorado (which happens to be just above the 7,000 foot elevation) for one of my spots. Some of the best trout fishing on the planet is in the Arkansas River around Salida. Lots of places with interesting names around there like “Texas Creek” which just happens to have a small landing strip.

    One of my favorite sayings is “The greatest obstacle to discovering the truth is being convinced you already know it…….I just can’t make a good enough case for one place to rule out all the other places.

  2. Toby,
    I am also in the NM camp and used to cling to WW being the state fishing designation as well.
    I have had to drop that line of reasoning because some basic facts finally sunk into my brain.
    First, if you’ll get a map of the NM area and begin to mark off all waterways that would fit the WWWH designation you are suddenly confronted with so many possibilities to check out that
    it just does not make sense in light of Forrest’s description of the poem. If the poem is the map and will take you straight to the chest with no guess work and nothing accidental about it, as f has said, then the clues will not be taking you to hundreds of different possible locations – but rather just one.
    I realize that you can narrow down the possible WW halt location a bunch by eliminating the areas you cannot drive to but there are still a lot of possibilities. At one time I had them all marked out on a map with pushpins. Then I realized this attack was a wild goose chase.
    I think I have WWWH figured out and it is indeed only one unmistakable location (close to Taos). Forrest is deeper with his words than I originally thought. Even though “where warm waters halt” means what it says, I think you’ll find that it is also a way of saying something else as well. Therein lies the solution I feel I have discovered.
    Why don’t I have the chest then? Well I live in Taos and think I am pretty close to finding it.
    Late this fall (just before the snow) I even thought I might have gotten as far as the darn blaze
    but its location does not fit the clues as far as I can tell. Anyway, once you start down the canyon the rest of the clues (or at least some of them) may not be as simple as a first blush reading would indicate and may need to be looked at much closer, as was WWWH, for a clearer interpretation.
    So, I have great hopes for the Spring hunting season!

    I also agree with you on the point of being too old to fool around with solutions that don’t stick with the basics. So many people are so far out with their ideas that its just plain foolhardy.

    Happy Thanksgiving!
    Don’t Overthink It!

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