4 Great Places to Go Fishing For Smallmouth Bass in Rivers

An Angler enjoys smallmouth bass fishing in rivers by wading in front of a rocky shore.
Rob Streeter loves to go smallmouth bass fishing in rivers. He wades to fish an inviting pool.

Drift Fishing for Smallmouth Bass in Rivers

The great thing about a drift trip is that you never know what is around the next bend. On this voyage things were off to a slow start, but the sun was getting lower in the sky; and that is all it takes to turn the bass on.  After my kickboat drifted through the head of the pool, I quickly rowed over to the shore and grabbed my rod.  

There were a couple of big rocks on the bottom of the pool, and on the second cast I was right into a nice smallmouth.  The great thing was that he had a couple of buddies which made for some fast and furious fishing before they stopped hitting, this made for a great time fishing for smallmouth bass in rivers.  With a couple of miles left in the trip, there were plenty of pools with active fish on the ride downstream.

In the past few years I’ve had many opportunities to go fishing for smallmouth bass in rivers and to drift a couple of smallmouth bass streams. There is no better way for the average angler to have plenty of fun on trips like these.  It doesn’t matter if your favorite vessel is a canoe, kayak, or a kickboat, there are several amazing waters in New York where you can lazily drift along and catch smallmouths all along the way while you are fishing for smallmouth bass in rivers.    

Figuring Out the Trip Logistics


If you are going to drift a stream for bass or any other species, the hardest part is arranging transportation.  When I drift the Schoharie near home, I can have someone drop me off and pick me back up.  For waters farther from home, you need two cars, one to drop off and one at the take out point.

The Right Distance

Don’t pick off too much stream to drift.  We usually run about five miles or so on a trip.  If you try to run too much, you end up getting into your fishing then having too far to paddle to get to the vehicle.  

Wear your Waders

When we go fishing for smallmouth bass in rivers, we usually wear waders so we can pull over and jump out to fish wherever we want.  We do some fishing from the boat; but if there is a good pool, we pull the boats over and fish by wading.  On warm days a simple pair of wading booties will do.  

Allegheny River Boat Launches, Access, and Public Fishing Spots 

Home to Many Fish Species

The Allegheny River in Western New York is a prolific warm water fishery that includes good fishing for smallmouth bass.  In addition to some of the best smallmouth fishing, it is a great place to fish for walleye, northern pike, and is one of the best places in the state to catch a muskellunge out of a canoe or small boat.  The river gets its start in Pennsylvania and flows into New York through the southern portion of Cattaraugus County for about 50 miles before it drops back into the Commonwealth.  

Allegheny River Boat Launches

The Allegheny is fairly shallow with a mud or clay bottom in a lot of places and is a great stream for canoes and kayaks.  There are a number of bridges and roads along the river where access is available, including the public flood control dikes in Portville. 

Public Fishing on the Allegheny River

Part of the Allegheny River is located in Cattaraugus County along the Pennsylvania border west of Olean.  This section of the river is open to public fishing and has a boat launch near state Route 16 B. Anglers looking to enjoy smallmouth bass fishing here should be aware that a section flows through the Seneca Nation of Indians property owned by the Seneca Nation.  

Be Mindful

These waters are open for fishing with an access permit and fishing license from the Senecas.  Many of the sport shops in the Salamanca area have the permits available.  Anglers should also be aware of the rules for fishing these lands as they differ from the state regulations, and they should also be mindful while they are smallmouth bass fishing that the lands along the river are privately owned.

Bass Fishing Spots on the Allegheny

Most of the local anglers find the fishing is best as you get closer to the Allegheny Reservoir. Smallmouth are abundant in the river with the majority of them being in the 12 to 15 inch range plus the occasional fish up to 18 inches or more.  The best smallmouth bass fishing is near any structure like deep pools, downed trees or pilings as they all hold fish.

Susquehanna River Fishing

Smallmouth Bass Fishery on the Susquehanna

Susquehanna River fishing is great. It’s an excellent place to enjoy the drift while smallmouth bass fishing is the Susquehanna.  Starting near Otsego Lake in Cooperstown, the Susquehanna flows through Otsego, Chenango, Broome and Tioga counties on its way to Pennsylvania.  The upper portions of the Susquehanna have plenty of scenery, and some of the lower portions flow through urban areas.  It doesn’t matter where you choose to fish because the Susquehanna has plenty of smallmouths throughout its length.

Great Fishing Access

The Susquehanna is made for canoes and kayaks, and there is plentiful access all through the New York State section of the stream.  A full listing of the access sites is available at the following link:  http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/42299.html.  

Other Fish Species

In addition to the abundant smallmouths and walleye, there are parts of the river downstream of Great Bend, Pennsylvania, where more fish species are available, including both tiger muskies and muskellunge.  Anglers should be aware that Susquehanna River fishing tends to be flashy and will be difficult to navigate after heavy rains.

Fishing Raquette River NY

Adirondack Mountain Smallmouth Bass Fishing

Raquette River NY is another great venue to combine some paddling and smallmouth bass fishing.  The lower Raquette flows from Piercefield to where it meets the St. Lawrence east of Massena.  Most of the river is in St. Lawrence County and offers miles of great smallmouth water, including a number of impoundments.

The Upper River

The Raquette River NY can basically be divided into four sections.  The Upper River is 18.5 miles long and is composed of a large impoundment and a 17 mile section of whitewater.  The Piercefield Flow (pond section) offers flat water canoeing and fishing.  The whitewater section has some dangerous whitewater and isn’t a good place for the average canoe angler.  

The Upper Impoundments

The next 27 miles is called the Upper Impoundments and includes eight reservoirs with plenty of canoe access and camping areas. The Middle River is also divided by dams and impoundments.  This section is also about 27 miles long.  The Middle River doesn’t have much camping opportunity, but there are plenty of parks that offer day access. 

The Lower River

The Lower Raquette River NY does not have dams and impoundments; and while there are some rapids, it is easy to carry the canoe around them.  This section of the river is 15 miles long.  Water levels in this section can change quickly because it is used for power generation. A good map of the Raquette is available at the following link: http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/55378.html.  

Schoharie Creek

A man on a boat on the Schoharie Creek enjoying a smallmouth bass fishing drift trip.
Jim Kelso of Mexico, NY admires a nice catch while smallmouth bass fishing on a Schoharie Creek drift trip.

Past Flooding Leaves an Impact

My favorite place to take a drift trip while smallmouth bass fishing is the Schoharie Creek, which due to hurricanes in the 2010s was the site of some of the most horrific flooding that I’ve ever seen near my home.  Many properties were damaged or destroyed entirely, and the economic impact has long been felt by families and businesses.

Other Species in the Schoharie Creek

The Schoharie creek is a great stream for smallmouth bass fishing.  In addition to the bass the Schoharie is a great place for walleye in some sections; and in some places you can get a shot at a carp with a fly rod.  The Schoharie creek is a scenic stream and flows gently through farm country.

Boat Launch Sites

There are hand launch sites in Central Bridge off of Route 30A and Route 7.  There are launch sites at  Burtonville and at the Schoharie Historical Site in the Town of Glen.  There are also a number of bridges where you can get access for fishing for smallmouth bass in rivers.

Relax and Enjoy Fishing

One of my favorite aspects of drifting for smallmouths is that it is such a low-tech and relaxing way to fish.  We float along and fish at our own pace then enjoy a good cookout on each trip.  It’s hard not to have fun on a drift trip like this!  

Original Article By Robert W. Streeter

About The Author

Rob Streeter enjoys fishing for smallmouth bass in rivers, and fly fishing for many species, especially trout and salmon in the Lake Ontario tributaries. He is the outdoor columnist for the Albany Times Union and freelances for several publications. He is a member of the NYS Outdoor Writers’ Association and the Outdoor Writers’ Association of America.

  • Related Posts

  • Categories