I fished Lake Pontchartrain last week with Captain Greg Schlumbrecht and Captain Tommy Pellegrin, who was in town to do a seminar at a Slidell CCA meeting. We wanted to try the train trestle that spans the eastern section of the lake near the Highway 11 bridge even though we knew we were just a little bit early.
As Schlumbrecht settled his Sea Hunt bay boat into the water near the south shore of the trestle, we quickly realized that we were going to struggle to get bit even if we hadn't been rushing the bite.
Schlumbrecht remarked that he had never seen the lake as dirty as it was, and this was even on a strong, incoming tide that should have been pushing in good water from the east.
"Must be all the water coming out of the Pearl River," Schlumbrecht said as he dipped his Opening Night/Chartreuse Dudley Bay Chovey under the water to check the visibility. "Two or three inches. I think the fish are here, but I don't think we're going to catch any... no way they can see our baits."
After a few cursory pitches to the pilings below the trestle, Schlumbrecht called off our bridge quest and made the decision to go look for cleaner water in some dead-end canals. The immediate difference as we idled into the first one was unbelievable. It was a wall of green water stacked up against a wall of muddy water.
"When you've got dirty water, it's extremely important to fish the cleanest water you can find," Schlumbrecht explained while working a ledge right off the bank just as he had been fishing the pilings. "This is a dramatic difference, but it doesn't have to be like this. If you've only got two or three inches of visibility, and the cleanest water you can find only has six, then that's where you fish."
Lo and behold, as we fished down this drop-off, we started picking up some trout and a few flounder. Were they stacked up like cordwood in the canal like they might have been on the trestle? No. But we were able to turn a day destined to be a bust into a productive day by fishing the cleanest water we could find.
I confirmed what Schlumbrecht had taught me the very next day fishing out of Bayou DuLarge with Captain Bill Lake. Trout have recently been hard to come by around Sister Lake and Lake Mechant, and many of Lake's friends that fish every day have struggled to catch even one trout.
We were going to remedy that by fishing for bull reds down by Pelican Pass, but the water was even too muddy for that even though we were fishing with cracked crab. With only a couple black drum to our credit, Lake decided to go look for the cleanest water he could find.
We wound up in some interior canals behind the camps to the east of the camps below the levee at the end of Hwy 315, and that was the cleanest water we could find. It wasn't good and green, but it was the best we could find.
One stretch of bank produced five or six quick redfish that turned another bust of a day into a decent day on the water.
"When the water is all torn up like this from the winds," Lake concluded, "I would just as soon stay home. But if you're going out, do yourself a favor and find some cleaner water. It doesn't have to be dramatic, but it does have to be better."