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Where to Fish: Rivers and Streams

Fishing in streams and rivers offers different challenges than fishing in lakes and ponds because you have to deal with moving water. River and stream fishing means knowing where the water is moving and how fish behave in it.

The first thing you need to know is where fish hide in streams and rivers. Undercut banks, eddies, sunken trees, rocks and overhanging trees and bushes provide protection from the current and above-water predators (such as birds).

Feeding places include the outside of bends, merging currents, drop-offs, feeder brooks and springs. These are places where the current slows and food collects or sinks. When you have a hiding place next to a feeding place, you have a really good fishing spot!

Outside Bend

Graphic of fish along the outside of a stream bend.

When the river or stream curves, the faster water (which carries the food) moves to the outside of the bend. Fish look for food in these bends. Sometimes the outside of the bend also contains a rock or fallen tree. This slows down the food-carrying current and provides shelter, making it an even better place to catch fish.

Rocks (Pocket Water)

Graphic of fish behind rocks in a stream.

When flowing water hits a rock, the current splits around the rock. This creates a quiet "pocket" of water for fish to rest in. Since the current is next to the pockets, fish can dart out to grab food as it drifts by. While these quiet pockets are usually small, a well placed cast can often land you a nice fish.


Graphic of fish positioned in a stream eddy.

Eddies form when flowing water hits an obstruction, such as a rock or a log, and slows down. As the water slows down, it creates a mini whirlpool. Fish feed in this "whirlpool" because it collects a lot of food. Cast into the slow water of the eddy and along the edge where the faster current meets the eddy to catch fish.

Merging Currents

Graphic of fish positioned where stream currents merge.

Flowing water (currents) carries food. When two currents meet, there is twice the food...a good place to feed if you are a fish! Plus, where the currents meet, the water actually slows down in what is called a seam. Fish sit in the seam to feed...which is exactly where you should cast!


Graphic of fish sitting behind a drop-off

When water flows over a drop-off, it slows down and sinks, taking the food it carries with it. A drop-off is a great river fishing spot because it has food, deeper water and it's away from the current.

Dams and Waterfalls

Graphic of fish sitting below a dam.

When water drops off a dam or falls, it digs out a big hole in the stream bottom. Fish will sit in this hole to feed on the food coming over the dam or falls. The falling water also creates a "bubble curtain" which hides fish from above water predators. When fish move upstream, these dams or falls can prevent them from moving further upstream. This can concentrate fish, making dams and waterfalls great places to fish.

Undercut Banks

Graphic of fish positioned under an undercut bank.

Undercut banks are perfect hiding spots on the river. They occur when the river current has cut out a cave like hole in the bank. They provide overhead cover and easy access to deeper water for feeding or escape. The largest fish in a river often live in undercut banks!

Overhanging Trees and Brushes

Graphic of fish sitting under an overhanging tree.

Overhanging trees provide great overhead cover for fish and shade on sunny days. They are good resting areas for fish if the water isn't too shallow. The deeper the water under an overhanging tree, the better place it is to fish.

Public Fishing Rights

Public Fishing Rights (PFR) are are permanent easements purchased by the NYSDEC from willing landowners, giving anglers the right to fish and walk along the bank (usually a 33' strip on one or both banks of the stream). PDF maps of New York's Public Fishing Rights are available online.


Information on this page has been adapted from information found on