Frye: Opportunities abound on 3 rivers
Your local hardware store may be the best place to shop for plywood and screws, but you wouldn't go there for office supplies. The pie shop is great for baked goods, not so hot for auto parts.
It's the same with Pittsburgh's three rivers.
The Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio all hold good numbers of game fish. But some are better than others for certain species.
That's the situation right now anyway, based on survey work done by biologists from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.
They examined the fisheries in the tailwaters of lock 3 on the Allegheny at Harmarville, lock 4 on the Monongahela at Charleroi and the Montgomery lock on the Ohio, down river from Beaver. All three locations held smallmouth bass, walleyes and sauger.
Where you might want to go, though, depends on whether you want to catch lots of smaller fish or a few bigger ones.
The Allegheny, for example, produced 121 smallmouths, more by far than the Ohio's 70 or the Monongahela's 53. But just 21 of those Allegheny smallmouths — one in six — were legal-sized. On the Monongahela and Ohio, one of every two bass checked were more than 12 inches.
The situation with walleyes showed similar variation.
“Remarkably, a greater-than-average number of legal length walleye were collected at all three lock and dam sites,” said Bob Ventorini, the commission's three rivers biologist, wrote in a report of the survey.
But catch rates exceeded two fish per hour — the minimum for a water to qualify as a good walleye fishery, according to the state's management plan — on only the Allegheny and Ohio.
The Allegheny further separated itself when it comes to sheer numbers. Biologists collected 26 walleyes at lock 3, compared with 12 from the Monongahela and eight from the Ohio.
The situation is somewhat reversed when it comes to sauger.
Catch rates of legal-sized fish — those 12 inches and up — were well above average on the Allegheny, compared with average on the Monongahela and Ohio, so that's where you'd go for keepers.
But if you just want lots of action? Then the Ohio River is your place. Biologists collected 122 sauger total below Montgomery, compared with 46 below lock 3 and 36 below lock 4.
When it comes to white bass, the number seen by biologists were “not remarkable” on either the Allegheny or Monongahela, Ventorini said. But enough were seen on the Ohio to exceed the long-term mean and “some of these were really nice fish,” Ventorini added.
The largest reached 15 inches, he said.
The Monongahela, though, is the place to go if you want to catch hard-fighting drum.
Biologists saw about three times as many there as on the Allegheny, and 10 times as many as on the Ohio. The biggest on the Monongahela stretched 19 inches, though the other two rivers did give up drum of 21 inches.
So where to go and what to seek?
That's up to you to decide, mixing and matching to make some fun.