Capt. Kris Robert spends well over 200 days on the water each year in and around Lake Pontchartrain tracking down speckled trout and redfish, and he keeps a daily journal of his trips: where he fished, what he caught, the most effective lures and bait, along with the day’s weather conditions. 

So when the calendar turns to June, Robert, with One Last Cast Charters in Slidell, relies on all that accumulated past history and starts taking his clients into Lake Borgne to fish for speckled trout at shallow-water rigs like the Compressor, the Tulane Rig and False Mouth Rig.

“Generally, depending on how the moon falls at the end of May, the majority of time that’s when the trout will start transitioning out of the lake,” said Robert, who has more than five years of ‘fish diary’ data. “Fish are starting to spawn and they need saltier water. The saltier water is obviously gong to be in Lake Borgne because it’s closer to the Gulf. 

“So now you’re going to see that transition of fish leaving Lake Pontchartrain, moving into Lake Borgne and getting on those shell pads to feed up in order for the spawn to happen.”

The rigs are well known and easy to find, but Robert said many anglers not in the know set themselves up for failure right when they arrive.

“A mistake that a lot of people make is they try to tie onto the rig. Our rig system here is totally different from the one in Venice. In Venice, they could be fishing a lot of current out in the Gulf in deep, deep water. Here, we’re in like 9 feet of water, so you want to actually anchor 50 yards off the rigs,” he said. “When they constructed those rigs, they might have put an acre of shell pad around there to keep it all in place, so those fish won’t necessarily be up on that rig. 

“They’ll settle on those shell pads around the rig trying to ambush shrimp and finfish coming through.”

Anglers have lots of options on how to catch trout around the rigs, but Robert’s favorite going away is the drop-shot rig with live shrimp. He rigs up with a 1-ounce bank sinker, and positions a 3/0 Kahle hook (through the shrimp’s tail) about 10 inches above the weight.

“On those shell pads, you want your shrimp up above. Obviously you don’t want to get the bait hung up, and the drop-shot mimics a shrimp being over the top of the shell pad because they can’t dig in like they can on a soft bottom,” he said. “So you’re keeping it natural looking, dragging it across the shell pad, so it looks just like a shrimp that can’t get into the shells. 

“It stays up above and the fish are attacking him.”

There’s nothing complicated about fishing a drop-shot, he said.

“Let it get down to the bottom, then pick up on it and just drag it across those shells. The sinker dragging across the shells is making a little bit of chatter and that gets their attention. Once they see that shrimp, it’s over,” Robert said. “It also kicks up a little bit of dust in a clean-water situation, almost like a shrimp trying to bury itself in the sand. They see that, and it also attracts them.”

Plastics — like Matrix Shad in shrimp creole, magneto and ultraviolet — can also be effective this month, but live bait is tough to beat, he said. Robert uses either a 5/16- or ⅜-ounce Golden Eye jighead with artificials depending on the current.

“Right now, the fish are feeding up, so you can use plastic. But if you’re trying to put numbers in the boat, they’re feeding on shrimp, and the shrimp are thick in Lake Borgne right now,” he said. “To put numbers in the boat, you want want to put live shrimp on your hook — at least to get them going.”

With the dog days of summer steadily approaching, Robert said the bite typically happens early in the morning or later in the afternoon. 

“Once that sun gets up and starts heating the water, they shut down. When it gets to be 10:30 or 11 o’clock, it’s time to move into the marsh and chase redfish,” he said. “They might not bite again until that evening when the sun starts going down and they want to feed again.”

Robert’s compilation of fish diary data indicate the Lake Borgne rig bite lasts for the better part of the month.

“Normally what I find is the third week in June, they’ll leave,” he said. “All of a sudden, they’re going to go find even saltier water to keep spawning. 

“At that point, we’ll start heading out into the Sound making a little drive to fish the islands and reefs out there.”