If you’ve been receiving the Department Fishing Report every Tuesday, you may have noticed a new name. Earlier this July, avid outdoorsman Dustin Berg was named author of the fishing report, taking over the role from Bill Dunn, who became a familiar name among New Mexico’s anglers for decades.
An Albuquerque native, Dustin began chasing outdoor pursuits at the age of four, loaded with a fishing pole. Through his teenage years and into his twenties he learned to hunt big game with bow and gun. A motorcycle accident in 2003 instantly paralyzed Dustin Berg from the waist down, yet his love for the outdoors and sports was not compromised. He adapted equipment and worked with friends and experts in outdoor adventure to overcome barriers that existed for his new physicality and use of a wheelchair.
His passion for life and esteem for fellow wheelchair users inspirited ideas of access, opportunity and adventure. As a result, he founded GO Unlimited ( www.gounlimited.org), an organization that over the past 14 years has created access to outdoor opportunities for people with disabilities, and in doing so, has improved the quality of life for thousands of people of all ages and abilities.
In an interview with New Mexico Wildlife editor Alexa J. Henry, Dustin offers some tips for taking kids fishing, shares his favorite angling spots in our state and his most memorable fishing experience.
That is a tough question. As I get older, I love taking people fishing and like to see other people, especially kids, catch fish more than catching fish myself.
If I had to pick one personal experience, it would have to be from a trip to the San Juan River with my dad. I must have been about 11 years old and just learning how to fly fish. We hiked up to E.T. Rock early in the morning. While navigating the dirt path wearing waders, felt sole boots and carrying a fly pole I lost my footing and fell into a cactus. Disgruntled but too stubborn to give up I sat frustratedly pulling cactus pins from my hand for what seemed like at least an hour. After that, my dad and I proceeded to fish around E.T. Rock and just upstream where a nice eddy had piled up a bunch of large trout feeding on the surface. I caught at least a dozen fish including my biggest fish ever, 24”, using top water flies.
I’ll never forget that trip. It was a good lesson in perseverance and a truly amazing experience watching trout rise to sip the flies I tied onto the end of my line.?What advice do you have for someone fishing for the first time?
Whatever happens is the experience you get. Go prepared to have fun whether you catch fish or not. Rain, clouds, catching fish, seeing the beautiful country, wildlife encounters, etc… whatever happens is what makes it an adventure. Catching fish can certainly make it more fun, so do your due diligence and talk to local fishermen or shops that can help set you up for success. ?What are some of your favorite fishing spots around the state?
I like Navajo Lake fishing because you have a great variety of fish species, especially bass, pike, salmon and trout. I like the Jemez Mountains because they offer a lot of nice mountain streams. I like Ute Lake because the walleye fishing can be great, and walleye is delicious to eat. At Elephant Butte I like to night fish and have had times where my friends and I have caught well over 100 fish. Any body of water around Chama and Tierra Amarilla is beautiful and I love fishing up there. Red River and Angel Fire is also a mountain favorite of mine. I’ve had some great camping/fishing trips on the Rio Costilla. I am sure I missed a spot or two, but these are all awesome places to go. ?Do you have any tips for introducing a child to fishing?
Make it fun and have lots of snacks. Start with a place where the fishing is fairly easy like a kids’ pond. I taught my son a lot about fishing at the Seven Springs Kids Pond in the Jemez Mountains. It can be good to make the trip not all about fishing in the event you’re not catching any fish. Camping, hiking, barbequing and playing in the streams are some things that can make the outing fun with or without catching fish. Get the kids outdoors and having fun – the fishing will work itself out if the kids are developing an interest in the great outdoors. ?What is your favorite lure and/or fly?
Lake fishing, I really like crankbaits such as the Berkley Flicker Shad in white/chartreuse and natural colors. River and fly fishing, I like elk hair caddis, black flies and pheasant tail nymphs as a general starting place knowing that picking the right fly is so dependent on what is hatching at that time. But generally speaking, usually there is a bug where you’re fishing that looks like one of the above. ?What do you use to fish (rod, reel, fly vest, boat)?
I like to use traditional spin casting rods with a bail casting reel and 8-pound test line. I like 9-foot-long fly rods fishing 4-pound test leader. I like to bank, river and boat fish. I use tons of different gear including tackle boxes and fly vests. I like to use rubber nets to land fish because it is healthier for the fish and much easier for me since my hooks don’t get caught in that old nylon netting. I like to buy gear including rods and reels in the mid-price range. The $50 beginner fly fishing combos usually work great for getting started and then some. I use polarized sunglasses that cost around $30 because I’ve sunk or broke enough expensive pairs that hurt when lost. Polarized glasses are important for seeing into the water. Having a wide brimmed hat to keep cool and from getting sunburned. ?Do you have any favorite recipes for the fish you catch?
I like fresh caught kokanee salmon gutted and stuffed with butter, garlic, onion, salt, pepper and lemon – wrapped in tinfoil – and cooked either on a bbq grill or in the coals on the edge of a fire – hot for about 3 minutes on each side. If the meat is nice and flaky it is cooked.