With one of the highest boat-ownership rates in the United States, two world-championship bass tournaments in the past decade and bald eagles nesting within city limits, the Three Rivers region has clearly traded its blue-collar industrial past for a future more closely linked to outdoor recreation. Whether you’re a bobber-and-bait beginner or a veteran fly-caster, quality fishing can be found in Pittsburgh waters. Find licensing details at fishandboat.com and check the PG Fishing Report.
North Park Lake in McCandless
About 13 miles north of the city, the 75-acre impoundment is fishing better than it has in decades. Several years after a $21-million dredging and dam reconstruction project, the warm-water centerpiece of Allegheny County’s largest park is experiencing what biologists call “new lake effect,” a period of maximum fertility that occurs as newly reconstituted nutrients dissolve and disperse throughout the water. It’s relatively easy to find panfish, perch, catfish and carp. Frequent stockings of rainbow trout, and management under the state’s Big Bass and Approved Trout Waters Open to Year-Round Fishing programs, increase the possibility of hooking into quality game fish from spring through ice-fishing season. Boat rentals are available.
Allegheny River at the North Shore
Nonprofit outdoor recreation organization Venture Outdoors holds free summer fishing events at 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesdays through September on the North Shore in the shadow of PNC Park. Rods, tackle and bait provided. Regulations and license requirements apply. In 2015, TriAnglers participants landed dozens of smallmouths, channel cats, freshwater drum and carp. Quality fishing can occur on the riverside cement pier, also called the Three Rivers Heritage Trail, from the Andy Warhol Bridge to Heinz Field. Early morning bass fishing in a modern urban environment can be memorable. Upstream and down, where the pier veers from the water, make your own trail and fish the industrial structure. Kayaks can be rented beneath the Clemente Bridge. Across the river, try the Allegheny River side of Point State Park. The closest public launches are at South Side Riverfront Park on the Monongahela River, and Sharpsburg Islands Marina on the Allegheny River. Travel upstream to the Harmar area to find big flatheads and massive muskellunge.
Monongahela River at Braddock
State-funded surveys have recorded large populations of white bass, smallmouth bass and walleye in the rock-strewn waters below the Braddock Locks and Dam. There, massive flathead catfish take cut bait, and anglers in regional bass tournaments pitch soft plastics and spinnerbaits to the rocky banks. The free, city-run, three-lane launching ramp at South Side Riverfront Park gets busy on sunny summer days, but it’s the only viable ramp from The Point to McKeesport. The water is relatively clean, but 150 years of industrial debris is held under the silt. State consumption advisories for wild-caught fish from these waters recommend no more than one meal per month of common carp and channel catfish. Most locals catch and release.
Pine Creek at Etna
Here’s the scenario: You’re knee deep in tree-lined waters casting a caddis pattern over a persistent hatch … and there’s no one around. Here’s the kicker: You’re six miles from Downtown Pittsburgh. Before Pine Creek empties into the Allegheny at Etna, it flows south along Route 8 offering miles of access for anglers and the trout-stocking trucks. Six miles from the mouth, the stream cuts away from the road through a steep gorge into a 1.4-mile section reserved for anglers with flies and spinners. Few people not wearing waders venture there, and because of Delayed Harvest Artificial Lures Only regulations and a catch-and-release trout fishing culture, there are always fish in the water. The nearest fly shop is International Angler in Robinson (412-788-8088).
Willing to take a drive? Outstanding fishing opportunities lie less than 90 minutes from Pittsburgh. Southeast in the Fayette County crossroad of Ohiopyle, the Youghiogheny River spills over the region’s most spectacular waterfall, and the stretch southeast to Confluence is a world-class rainbow trout fishery. East of the city in Westmoreland County, Loyalhanna Creek is a rugged mountain stream that is well-stocked and easy to access — a fly and spinner fishing area begins across Route 30 from the reconstructed French and Indian War-era Fort Ligonier. Also off Route 22, Keystone Lake at Keystone State Park was ranked in 2015 the fifth-best family fishing destination in the United States by the nonprofit Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation.