With its deep pools and rapids, the Genesee River is a haven for anglers looking to catch a variety of fish, including smallmouths, rock bass, and steelhead. But not just the fish make the Genesee River a prime fishing destination. The scenery is breathtaking, with towering cliffs and lush vegetation. And the thrill of fishing in a river that has been flowing for millions of years is unmatched. It’s an experience you won’t forget.
The Genesee River originates near the New York-Pennsylvania border and meanders through 150 miles of Western New York before spilling into Lake Ontario. One of the few North American rivers to flow from south to north – though not the only one, as is commonly believed – the Genesee is roughly bisected by the dam in Letchworth State Park. The section of the river above the dam is primarily managed as a coldwater fishery by the DEC and offers outstanding bass fishing in addition to trout.
The area around the town of Shongo, New York, is one of the most accessible sections of the Genesee River. The river from Shongo upstream to the state line is one of the easiest areas to fish if you are new to the Genesee. Stocked brown trout in this section intermingle with smallmouth bass and native rainbows up to 16 inches in deep pools and shallow riffles.
The 2.5-mile section upstream from the Route 19 Bridge in Shongo is designated a no-kill zone. All trout must be released in this area, and baits are limited to artificial lures only. If you’d like to fly-fish the Genesee, this is the place to do it.
The town of Wellsville offers ample Genesee River access. The recreation area, commonly known as Island Park, is a good place to start, and a footbridge in the park allows access to both banks of the river. A deep pool immediately downstream of the bridge is a top spot for smallmouth bass and big suckers which, while underfished, can reach 20 inches or more and bite readily on live worms near the bottom. Holdover brown and rainbow trout can often be caught in the upper part of the pool on spinners and worms.
Farther downstream, access is available from the Tops and K-Mart parking lot just above the Route 417 Bridge. This area receives heavy spring stocking and can be highly productive for trout in April and May. Trout get scarcer as waters get lower and warmer in summer, but a few stick around all year.
The section just upstream from the bridge contains smallmouth bass along with the occasional largemouth; bullheads and carp are also around, though few anglers target them specifically.
A small park in Belmont offers access to the Genesee River both above and below the Belmont Dam. The deep holes below the dam can offer phenomenal multispecies fishing, with smallmouths, rock bass, trout, carp, and suckers mingling with the occasional bluegill, largemouth bass, and walleye.
The section of river below the dam also features a lot of shallow rocky flats, which are perfect spawning grounds for smallmouths. The sluggish feeder creek that enters the river just above the dam offers a hit-or-miss largemouth bass and sunfish fishery in spring and summer.
The Genesee itself is easily wadeable above the dam, and access is available from Black River Road along the river’s western bank.
An unofficial access site, referred to by locals as “Fillmore Beach,” is located off County Route 4 just outside the town of Fillmore. When the water is low in summer, you can drive right down to the riverside.
A popular spot to swim and launch canoes or kayaks, this area can actually become quite busy on summer weekends and holidays, but relatively few people come to fish. Deep holes under the Route 15 Bridge sometimes hold smallmouth bass, but the best fishing requires a short walk upstream.
The rocky rip-rap bank on the river bend is a picture-perfect smallmouth spot, and bass hangs out in deep water here all summer long. On an overcast day, they often come to the surface to smack poppers and floating Rapalas. When the sun is out, Senkos, tube jigs, and other more subtle baits work better. Fishing with live bait may yield the occasional sunfish, rock bass, or carp as well.
If you’re new to fishing, don’t worry. The Genesee River has plenty of opportunities for beginners, with easy access to the water and plenty of fish to catch. And if you’re a seasoned angler, you’ll appreciate the challenge of catching the elusive steelhead that calls the Genesee River home.
But fishing in the Genesee River isn’t just about catching fish. It’s about immersing yourself in nature and disconnecting from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. It’s a chance to relax, recharge, and spend time with friends and family.
So if you’re looking for a new fishing adventure, pack up your gear and head to the Genesee River. You won’t regret it. Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, the Genesee River has something for everyone.