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.