Many anglers abandon the water and place their tackle in hibernation mode when the days turn cool, but for some die-hard anglers, the best time of year to catch trout is just getting started.
Tom Bly, district fisheries supervisor in the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Mayflower office, works closely with trout biologists to manage the fishery on the Little Red River below Greers Ferry Dam. He also enjoys his fair share of angling when the work day is done.
Bly said most of the crowds vacate the tailwaters once hunting seasons begin to open and the warm days of summer begin to wane. The smaller crowd allows anglers to visit more areas without any competition and use boat ramps without lines or parking issues. It also relieves some fishing pressure, which can mean a little more cooperation from the fish.
Some pretty major changes are happening under the water to make for uncrowded conditions as well.
“Ambient temperatures are dropping, so the water downstream will be cooler,” Bly said. “Trout that are there won’t be as stressed from the high temperatures of summer. You have a little more area to cover, but that means more area to spread out and fish.”
And unlike Arkansas’ warm-water species that spawn in spring, the prime time to find a spawning fish is just beginning.
“Trout are fall and winter spawners,” Bly said. “So our wild brown trout will begin staging and spawning. The rainbows in the system will follow them to feed on eggs, so you have aggressive rainbows and aggressive browns, many of which are heavier than they will be all year.”
Bly said the brown trout will spawn from late October all the way through the middle of January. Because the water is coming from the bottom of
Greers Ferry, water temperatures in the tailwater remain fairly constant, even during short periods of extremely cold or warm weather, especially near the dam. This means a reliable progression of trout throughout each spawning season for anglers to target.
“Anglers looking for trout during the fall should look for the same sorts of cover and structure as normal,” Bly said. “Living in a stream means finding areas that are sheltered from the current while being close enough to let that same current bring food to you. There they can save the energy of fighting the constant flow and still eat well.”
Bly’s favorite areas to target are bottom structure like holes, drop offs and humps. Any places where deep water comes up into a shoal-like area creates an unseen eddy fitting Bly’s definition of a prime trout lie.
Pockets and seams in aquatic vegetation create another type of current break favored by trout. In addition to the slower water, vegetation and the substrate where it grows offer many aquatic insects and crustaceans for fish to eat.