by Waterways Conservation Officer Bill Martin, Warren County

 Allegheny River Diary  Diary illustration
I kept this Allegheny River diary throughout 1998 mainly because I was new to the area, and I wanted to absorb as much seasonal information about the area as possible in the shortest time. I also was eager to highlight the fishing opportunities. I believe that the Allegheny River is the finest, most diversified fishery I have ever seen.

PA map with Warren County highlighted


New trout regulation into effect. On January 3, checked a fisherman from St. Mary's who landed a 44-inch musky below Hemlock Eddy. He also had two muskies follow that day. An outdoor writer from a southwest PA newspaper called, requesting information on the new trout regulation and fishing in general. Over the next several months he printed many articles about the new regulation and fishing conditions on the river. Commission officers pass the word of new regulations by public contact and ask for voluntary compliance. Reception to the regulation is generally good.


Mild weather brought many out-of-towners in for weekend fishing in the new special regs area. We checked many brown trout in the 20-inch class. Surprisingly, many of these fishermen are driving up from the Pittsburgh area and back in one day, not staying overnight. Walleye fishing was not its best, but trout fishing was excellent, and we received many compliments. Voluntary compliance to the new regulation was also excellent. Another angler caught three legal muskies in one day downstream from the mouth of Conewango Creek.

Kinzua Dam photo-Jeri Bleech
 Kinzua Dam


Trout fishing was superb! Many brown trout 20 inches and bigger were checked. These fish have girths of about 14 inches, all in the 4- to 5-pound range. Stable river conditions were providing fantastic trout fishing. Occasional catches of northern pike were up, and one angler caught two over 30 inches in one day at the mouth of Conewango Creek. Mild weather at the end of the month brought the water temperature up. Last weekend of the month an angler and partner caught and released over 60 smallmouth bass in the old dredge hole behind the refinery. Some really nice fish. We received new posters for special regs area and posted them accordingly.


A Pittsburgh-area outdoor writer carried several articles about the river. Interest is high, and numbers of fishermen were very good because of the nice weather and stable river flow. A trio of anglers caught over 160 smallmouth bass in the dredge hole behind the refinery the weekend before trout season. Over 50 percent of the fish exceeded 15 inches! On opening day of the trout season I checked more than a half-dozen trout fishermen in the special regs area. On April 22, Tionesta hatchery personnel stocked over a million walleye fry in the Warren County portion of the river.


Opening night of walleye season we checked fishermen and found nearly all with some trout, about 10 percent of those fishermen had a creel limit of two trout over 14 inches, including some rainbows. On May 27, we stocked 75,000 brown and 75,000 rainbow trout fingerlings in the river from the dam to Conewango Creek at five stocking points. The rainbow fingerlings were exceptional, most about 5 inches long. River conditions were low and stable, perfect for stocking. Memorial Day weekend I checked a 17-inch rainbow taken at Shipman's Eddy.


First week of June, fly fishermen in the special regs area were having a ball catching small rainbows on dry flies. Fishing pressure was high, with up to 10 persons at a time fly fishing the pipeline crossing behind Dari Delite. Musky fishing was hot, with two guys catching and releasing five legal muskies in one evening near Starbrick. Northern pike fishing was good behind the refinery. One regular reported that he and friends did a spotlighting float from the dam to Glade Run and saw an uncountable number of trout and muskies. River level was low and stable, and anytime flow drops below 1,500 cfs, the fly fishermen come out of the woodwork! On June 18 we checked a nice rainbow trout caught in the special reg area. We checked fishermen in every riffle area from the dam to Glade Bridge that evening. Walleye fishing, however, was poor, which is normal under low river conditions.


Trout fishing behind the refinery was excellent with many people catching and releasing rainbows under the 14-inch limit. A local tackle shop reported many people fishing and catching trout in the special regs area. On July 7, a weekday, we saw over a dozen fishermen from the dam to Glade Bridge, and more than half were fly fishing. We were surprised to find three guys fishing for smallmouths in this stretch, and they reported they had a decent day. On July 8, a weekday, there was a fisherman in every riffle from the dam to Starbrick! On July 18 I watched an angler land and release the third legal musky he had caught that one day in the area from the Glade Bridge to Dunns Eddy. He also had a 6-pound freshwater drum (sheepshead) he caught near Starbrick. We noticed that there appeared to be a very good spawn of smallmouth bass this summer, probably attributed to the low, stable water conditions. We checked good catches of 2- to 3-pound smallmouths during the latter part of the month. A local taxidermist told me that the trout fishing in the river this year has been good for his business.


Many catches of 3- and 4-pound smallmouths from the dam to Brokenstraw Creek. A regular told me that northern pike have been caught and released on every outing behind the refinery. Trout fishing, especially for big browns, has been exceptional in the area around the Glade Bridge. People catching the big browns were excited about the fighting ability of these big fish. The fishing activity was higher than at this time last year, particularly from Putnam's Eddy to Buckaloons. River conditions were perfect for fishing, and the number of musky fishermen on the water suggested they were catching some. On August 18 I stocked 400 musky fingerlings in the river in the Starbrick area, using a boat, and placing the fingerlings in weedbeds. They were 6 inches to 7 inches long and looked to be in excellent condition. The baitfish population looked excellent all along the river. The week of August 23, a good white fly hatch occurred from downstream of Conewango through Dunn's Eddy (at least). On August 30 my wife and I floated the section of the river from the dam to Glade Bridge. We caught six smallmouths and had a couple of trout follow. I noticed that one regular was fishing this section of the river for muskies; he got a couple of walleyes, too, while I watched him in Hemlock Eddy. This month I prosecuted four stream encroachment cases involving excavation and/or fill along the river from Starbrick to Cobham.


While patrolling at Tidioute on September 5, an excellent hatch of what appeared to be caddises came off from 10 am until about 1 pm. Fish were rising all along the river. On the 6th, I checked three successful fly fishermen just downstream from Dixon Island; all had caught rainbows in the 14-inch range. Again I noticed that the musky guides were fishing the special regs trout area more than the usual musky hotspots farther downstream. A reporter from the local newspaper told me that a person landed a 9-pound drum at the mouth of Conewango Creek the first week of the month. Weed growth has been heavy this year, but there are benefits to this. Large numbers of baitfish use the weeds for cover and catches of pike and smallmouths were really good on the weed edges. River conditions have been very stable and the water very clear after mid-month, and the fishing remained excellent. Patrolling during the Tidioute tournament, I checked a 20-pound musky caught in the special regs area, a 32-incher near Starbrick, plus two northerns about 8 pounds each around Shipman's Eddy. I checked a lot of walleyes in the special regs area during the tournament. The two largest trout from the tournament I saw were caught in Conewango Creek, but a couple of nice rainbows were taken near Brokenstraw Creek as well. Again, in the special regs area, I checked several smallmouths over 3 pounds.


No rain early in the month, clear water, and lots of 3- to 4-pound smallmouths all along the river. A tremendous hatch of tan caddises from October 3 until the 8th. Some nice walleyes were taken just above the Glade Bridge on the 3rd. On the 16th, the first day water temperatures were below 60 degrees downstream from Conewango Creek, my wife and I took three walleyes near Starbrick late in the afternoon, two of which were legal size. The third week of October some rainbow trout in the 12-inch to 16-inch class were taken on minnows fairly consistently. A few white bass were also checked in the tailrace. Below Dixon Island there was little fishing pressure this month. Even the tailrace has had few fishermen during the daylight hours, even on weekends. On October 25, a Sunday, it was 65 degrees, sunny, and between 1 and 3 in the afternoon there was not one fisherman between the dam and Dixon Island. We began a survey of fishermen in the tailrace this month to get a better handle on public opinion on the new trout regulations.


Angler with bassStarted the same as October ended. On November 7, I checked a boat and some fly fishermen wading behind the refinery. They reported catching many smallmouths over 18 inches, but they were really here to catch trout. They were from New Kensington, and have been coming here for years. One of the anglers had some good news. He said he had been catching small rainbows all year behind Metzgar Industrial Park and in the riffle above Conewango Creek. He said these fish were only about 7 inches long in the spring, and he got so many that they were actually a nuisance at times. But now these same fish were around 10 inches and 11 inches long, healthy, and more fun to catch. He said he fly fished wet flies and streamers all year, and up until 2,700 cfs discharge it was safe and good fishing. Above that it was still okay fishing, but not safe to wade. He had attended a Keystone Coldwater Conference recently and had learned how to determine numbers and diversity of aquatic insects. His classroom had been Spring Creek, in Centre County, one of the state's more famous trout streams. He said that the Allegheny River from the dam to Starbrick was more diverse and had good numbers as well. This was all good news! He and his friends made day trips to the area, though, choosing not to stay overnight. One man from St. Mary's had one walleye of about 20 inches, and he said he released two smaller ones. He told me that from October 29 to December 29, 1997, he had creeled 37 walleyes over 20 inches from the tailrace; but this year the bite was not as good, probably due to low flow. He also said he had done well on white bass up to 18 inches last year. Because a 14-inch white bass is considered big, this is a good sign. On November 8, I talked to another angler who said he and a partner caught and released about 80 smallmouths behind the refinery on the previous weekend. Water temperature was 55 degrees, still warm enough for smallmouths to be active. On November 14, several boats and wading fishermen were behind the refinery. On the 15th, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (COE) cut the outflow to 600 cfs, and fly fishermen immediately showed up at the Glade Bridge.


A stretch of mild weather until the 17th­probably 8 to 12 fishermen per day in the special regs area. Again, few were targeting trout. Most were fishing for walleyes, and the fishing was poor and inconsistent. From the Glade Bridge to Starbrick, fishermen in the dredge holes have been getting a few legal walleyes­one per day here and there. One guy caught a 22-inch walleye at the Glade Bridge that had a 10-inch rainbow trout in its throat! Reports included a lot of 8-inch to 13-inch walleyes in the dredge holes, particularly at Starbrick. They have been such a nuisance that the guys were using larger bait to keep them off the hook. Some smallmouths, big ones, were still caught, but the low water conditions seemed to alter the normal fishing patterns. Warm weather on the weekend of the 19th brought out lots of boats on the dredge holes in and below Warren. A local angler reported a lot of 8-inch to 10-inch walleyes at Starbrick, but he did get a couple around 20 inches. On the 20th I watched two boats with five fishermen catch and release five muskies, all appearing to be near legal size. The fishermen were not happy; they wanted walleyes! After Christmas, ice plugged up the dredge holes, effectively stopping the fishing. The COE cut the flow to 600 cfs, but the week after Christmas I did not see anyone fishing the special regs area.

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