Anatomy of a river

Typically, rivers are easier to “read” than lakes. As the current flows downstream, it encounters barriers, which causes it to alter its course. These barriers can cause the current to either speed up or slow down, which creates different habitat types for fish and their prey.

On large rivers, humans may have engineered structures such as dams, wing dams, and rip-rap to alter current flow or prevent erosion.

Rivers typically flow through a hard-bottomed or restricted area that creates an area of fast water or riffle. Once through this area, the water slows to create a pool. Pools often contain deep, slow-moving water.  The upstream end of the pool is referred to as the head of the pool, while the lower end of the poll is referred to as the tail, or tail-out. This process is repeated with another stretch of fast water, pool and tail-out.

As rivers meander, they create bends. The area along the outside of the bend of a river tends to have faster water and therefore is deeper; the area along the inside bend tends to be slower and shallower. In some situations, the water on the inside bend forms a current that flows in a circular manner called an eddy.

Currents within a river are not uniform from the top to the bottom. Often, the current is fastest along the top of the water and slows along the bottom. Bottom obstructions such as rocks or logs also disrupt the current and create a variety of faster and slower water speeds. Often an obstruction on the bottom of a river can be detected by a disruption of the current that is visible on the surface.  The actual underwater disruption may actually be several feet upstream from where the visible evidence on the surface appears.     

Rivers also have smaller streams entering that cause a mixing of currents, and islands that cause the current to split and then reform.

All of these features affect where fish will be found. Like lakes, fish are not randomly scattered throughout a river. Each fish species has its preferred habitat.

Sunfish and crappie tend to be in pools, eddies and slower-moving sections of a river. However, they can hold close to faster water, but behind, or adjacent to an obstruction that slows the water.

Abundant rain can cause flooding that temporarily changes the flow of a river. Fishing is often poor during flooding events, and can seriously affect normal fish behaviors. Droughts can reduce water flow and concentrate fish.



River Fishing Tips

Welcome to our section on river fishing tips. The goal of this section is to educate both novice and expert fishermen on how to improve their river fishing skills. Instead of just making a huge list of tips, we designed this section to first educate you on the basics of river fishing. We then follow up with some of the best river fishing tips and basic river fishing safety information. These tips combined with our many other tips that are specific to certain species of fish will help make you a better fisherman. You can get started below by learn about the basic theory of river fishing.

NY Beginners Guide to Fresh Water Fishing - Aquatic Life

We are lucky in New York to have lots of lakes, ponds, rivers and streams. Each represents an aquatic ecosystem; that is, a community of living things that live primarily in or on the water. These living things rely on each other to survive. Some of these relationships are obvious, such as when a frog is eaten by a fish. Others are less obvious. For example, fish waste fertilizes the water, fueling the growth of microscopic algae, which are an important food for young fish.

How to Find Big Bluegills in the Heat of Summer

I’m no Parrothead, but for the life of me I couldn’t rid my brain of the sound and vision of a throng of Jimmy Buffet devotees shouting the words to “Fins”—“You got fins to the left, fins to the right, and you’re the only bait in town.” That Buffet is a maniacal big-game saltwater angler and I was filling a bucket with bluegills didn’t seem to matter. I was catching—and it was good. I also knew that it wouldn’t last. The summer sun eventually scorches those perfect hotspots, and all those fins melt away to parts unknown. Or do they?