River water started pouring through the Bonnet Carré Spillway Thursday morning, and that rightly has inshore anglers concerned for the spring speckled trout run in Lake Pontchartrain.
It's no secret that speckled trout and river water don't get along, so this is how I plan on making the most of the situation without throwing in the towel to target redfish or bass.
MODIS satellite imagery
The Spillway was last opened on January 10th, 2016, and river water from the Mighty Mississippi poured into Lake Pontchartrain for 22 days before the the structure was closed. That mucked up the lake pretty good, but not all redfish and speckled trout departed.
In fact, they stuck around, and we know this because some of those fish were implanted with acoustic tracking devices. Marine biologists with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries were surprised to see them ride out the storm, usually in pockets of clean water.
So it's no surprise that enterprising inshore anglers also found those pockets, usually with fish stacked up.
Maybe you're wondering how you can do this, and I'll tell you the short answer — time on the water.
But, with that said, it's possible to ascertain where river water will flow first, as well as the location of pockets of clean water.
I do this from the comfort of my home using daily satellite imagery available via MODIS, part of NASA's Earth Observatory System.
It's a lot to explain, so if you want to learn more you can watch a video I made about MODIS here.
Don't fish in river water
The other day I was asked how I would fish Lake Pontchartrain when it's full of river water.
I simply replied, "Don't fish in Lake Pontchartrain.” That seems obvious, but you'll see lots of anglers trying to fit a square peg into a round hole later this spring.
Once it's apparent that trout fishing in Lake P is no longer feasible, I'll just trailer my boat to some other location where they are easier to catch. After all, trout have tails and tend to swim to more comfortable locations when the going gets tough.
For example, in January 2017 we tagged a 24-inch female trout at the Highway 11 Bridge in Lake Pontchartrain before it was recaptured that May near Pascagoula, Miss.
That's no reason to leave the Boot State — it just reinforces the idea that trying Breton Sound, Grand Isle or anyplace devoid of river water isn't a bad idea.
Keep a good attitude
My attitude is everything on a fishing trip.
If I naysay the conditions at hand and believe I won't catch anything, then that's probably what’s going to happen.
But I discovered that maintaining a positive attitude leads to an open mind, which delivers solutions to whatever challenges I might face.Part of that good attitude is understanding that the only constant in Louisiana is change.
Butting heads with nature is an uphill battle I’m destined to lose, but if I just go with the flow, I am more likely to strike the mother lode.
You should understand the Spillway is an artificial construct of a natural process. It's nothing new and, historically, has led to record catches.
Almost 300 bays were opened for 31 days in 1997 before two state-record speckled trout were caught in two bodies of water directly impacted by it just two years later: Lakes Pontchartrain and Borgne.
And we saw the best speckled trout fishing we had seen in years in Lake Pontchartrain during the fall and winter of 2016.
This came on the heels of the Spillway being open for 22 days, in addition to 500- and 1,000-year floods impacting the Pearl, Tchefuncte, Tangipahoa, and Amite rivers, dumping more fresh water into Lake Pontchartrain than ever before. It's easy to see the longterm benefit makes up for the short-term loss.
Adapting to tough conditions imposed by river water is easier when you keep a good attitude, use 21st century technology and put in a little elbow grease.
Do this, and you won't have to throw in the towel by settling for reds and bass.
Tight lines, y'all!
Editor’s Note: Devin Denman is an avid inshore fisherman who writes the Louisiana Fishing Blog. To read more of his articles, visit lafishblog.com