Fishing Warmwater Rivers in Western New York
The Allegheny River, with its headwaters in Pennsylvania, flows into New York through southern Cattaraugus County for 48 miles before entering Pennsylvania again. The river corridor in places is agricultural, residential, and industrial, but is largely undeveloped. The Allegheny River is generally shallow in nature, with gravel and clay banks and bottom. There are many shallow riffles throughout its length, making boat travel difficult. The Allegheny River has one of the most diverse fish communities of any water in the state, as 71 different species of fish have been collected here.
The Allegheny River provides a warmwater fishery. Sportfish include smallmouth bass, walleye, northern pike and muskellunge. Local anglers also enjoy the catch rates and sport that an abundant carp population provides. Panfish are generally scarce although one may find localized populations of rock bass or yellow perch. Forage in the river consists of numerous species of shiners, minnows and suckers.
Access is considered good although everyone must remember that the majority of the River lies on private land and permission should be sought. There are numerous bridges and parallel roads throughout the River's length, as well as public flood control dikes in Portville, Olean, Allegany and Salamanca. An unimproved small boat launch is maintained by the DEC on River Road just west of the village of Allegany underneath the I-86 Interstate bridge that crosses the river. Canoes can be put in at most bridges as well as small boats with electric motors. Also a section of the river is on the Seneca Nation of Indians property in the Salamanca area and anglers should make sure to obtain a Seneca Nation fishing license when fishing this section of river.
In the Allegheny River, smallmouth bass are the most abundant gamefish species. Although average to slow growing, there are many in the 12-15 inch range with occasional fish up to 18 inches. Fish any available habitat such as deep pools, downed trees in the water, or the multitude of pilings driven into the river's bottom - a remnant of bygone logging days. Popular baits include spinner baits, crank baits and jigs, while live crayfish or minnows work just as well.
Walleye are fairly common in the Allegheny River, but anglers are more likely to target them specifically in the spring and the fall. The population seems to be dependent on how well they are doing in the Allegheny Reservoir. When that population is high, good numbers seem to move out of the Reservoir and spend time in the river, although there is a resident population in the river all the time. Spinner baits and jerk baits are popular, although perhaps the preferred method is either bouncing a jig tipped with a minnow through riffle areas or the old stand by use of live shiners.
Northern pike were introduced in the 1970s in the Allegheny Reservoir. They are now abundant throughout the Reservoir and the Allegheny River, as well as many mid-size tributaries such as Olean Creek, Conewango Creek, Tununguant Creek and the Oswayo Creek. In fact, fisheries surveys in the 1970s showed that only muskellunge were captured. Today, northern pike outnumber muskies 9:1. Northern pike simply out-compete the musky in every way - reproduction, survival, feeding. Although pike can be taken on surface plugs and large spinners, live shiners or suckers remain most popular.
Although native to the Allegheny River, muskellunge have historically been stocked in the river to bolster the population. DEC continues to stock the Allegheny River annually with fingerling muskellunge. Monsters up to 50 inches are occasionally caught by those anglers with persistence and a little know-how. Large, live chubs, shiners and suckers are a popular bait, while some prefer top water plugs or large spinner baits.
Conewango Creek starts in northwest Cattaraugus County and flows for 59 miles southwesterly through Cattaraugus and Chautauqua Counties before entering Pennsylvania, where it ultimately flows into the Allegheny River. Land use in the stream corridor is over 44% agriculture, 47% forested, with less than 4% developed. For a stream of its size, it generally has a somewhat narrow channel, but with steep sides and deep water. The bottom is mostly mud and the water is usually turbid. The average gradient is only about one foot per mile, the average depth is about 8 feet, however one pool was found to be 32 feet deep! Conewango Creek has one of the most diverse fish communities of any water in the state, as 55 different species of fish have been collected here.
Conewango Creek provides a warmwater fishery. Sportfish include smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, walleye, northern pike and muskellunge. Panfish are not abundant but include white crappie, black crappie, bluegill, rock bass and yellow perch. Local anglers also enjoy the catch rates and sport that an abundant carp population provides. Forage in the river consists of numerous species of shiners, minnows and suckers.
Although both smallmouth and largemouth bass can be found in Conewango Creek, one is likely to catch a few more smallmouth bass. Fish any available habitat such as the deep pools or any downed trees or branches in the water. Because of the constant turbidity, anglers prefer topwater plugs or shallow running spinner baits or crank baits. Live crayfish or minnows are also popular.
Walleye are present in Conewango Creek and occasionally a big one is caught, but catch rates are generally low. Although a walleye's eyes are made to see with very little light and they often feed at dusk or early morning, this happens in clear water. Walleye do not feed or function very well in the turbid water of Conewango Creek despite their specialized eyes.
The northern pike population is increasing, with fish up to 40 inches being caught. Since their appearance 30 years ago from an unknown source, the pike are more common now than the native muskellunge. Northern pike simply out-compete the muskie in every way - reproduction, survival, feeding. Surface plugs in the turbid water seem to work the best, but live bait remains popular with anglers.
Although native to Conewango Creek, muskellunge have historically been stocked in the stream to bolster the population. DEC continues to stock Conewango Creek annually with fingerling muskies. Monsters up to 50 inches are occasionally caught by those with persistence and a little know-how, and perhaps a little luck. Large live chubs, shiners and suckers are a popular bait, while some prefer top water plugs or large spinner baits.
Genesee River (warmwater section)
The Genesee River is managed as both a cold water fishery and a warm water fishery. The cold water section runs from the dam in the village of Belmont upstream to the Pennsylvania state line (Link to Genesee River PFR brochure). The warm water section starts at the Belmont Dam and goes downstream (north) to Rochester and Lake Ontario. Approximately 40 miles of the warm water section of the Genesee River are in DEC Region 9.
The main land use around the Genesee River is agriculture, although most of the watershed is rural and undeveloped. The bottom is mostly gravel, silt and clay, with a small amount of cobble. Due to the amount of silt and clay in the streambanks, the river is often turbid even during low flows. The river averages 100 feet wide but is relatively shallow in most places with many shallow riffles, making boating difficult. However, at high flows, canoeing is very popular.
Access is considered good although everyone must remember that the majority of the river lies on private land and permission should be sought. There are numerous bridges and parallel roads throughout the river's length. Canoes can be put in at most bridges as well as car top boats with electric motors.
Smallmouth bass are the main sportfish. Although relatively slow growing, they are abundant and catch rates tend to be higher than the state average. As it can take 6-7 years for smallmouth bass to reach the legal size of 12 inches, do not expect to catch trophy fish in this water. However, taking a 2-3 hour canoe ride while casting spinners can provide a lot of action.
Rock bass are present in the river and one may occasional see a bluegill, yellow perch or brown bullhead. No panfish species is very abundant and they tend to be caught by accident when fishing for smallmouth bass.