Lake Pontchartrain trout fishing mediocre after Bonnet Carré Spillway closes

Trout still hanging in areas of the lake, but veteran angler says spring run won’t be great

The nearly month-long opening of the Bonnet Carré Spillway poured fresh water into Lake Pontchartrain, and that’s definitely impacted the trout fishing.

“This spring hasn’t been as good as it normally is,” said Chas Champagne, who owns Matrix Shad and fishing the lake regularly. “On a scale of 10, I’d give it a 3 or 4 — more like a 3.”

But Champagne said that, despite the lack of saltwater in the massive lake, last weekend’s full moon provided plenty of action.

“The lake just doesn’t seem to have any salt in it,” he said. “But it hasn’t shut (the fishing) down.”

“Saturday we limited out.”

He said there were specks on the south end of the Trestles, even though the water was dirty.

“This week they’re on the north end (of the Trestles),” Champagne said.

The fish are pretty scattered, however.

There was an algae bloom about a week ago, but Pontchartrain Basin Foundation’s Dr. John Lopez said it wasn’t a major incident.

“We basically think that’s dissapated,” Lopez said. “It’s been very windy.”

He said the cold fronts and winds that have plagued this spring are a good thing in terms of algae blooms because cooler temps and choppy water combine to keep the blooms from blowing up.

And the closure of the MRGO has resulted in Lake Pontchartrain being much fresher, as a whole, than it once was.

“Almost half the lake is fresh now,” Lopez said. “It’s really just the east side of the lake that needs to return to normal.”

So, while there could still be algae blooms as the water warms, the relative freshness of Pontchartrain should shorten the time necessary for the lake to return to the new normal salinities.

“What we used to say was that it would take four to six months,” Lopez said. “Now it’s probably more like two to three months.”

Lopez said a study in 2016 that coincided with a similar spillway opening provided scientific proof that Champagne’s on-the-water experience this spring is dead on.

“What they found was the fish that left the lake didn’t go far,” Lopez said.

Indeed, Champagne said right now Lake Catherine is a better option than inside the lake.

“It’s been good for 20 fish a day,” he said.

But the 2016 study also revealed trout stay in the lake even as salinity fell.

“Quite a few trout stayed in the lake,” Lopez said. “They just stayed in the clear water.

“So if you want to catch fish, find the clear water.”

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Andy Crawford has spent nearly his entire career writing about and photographing Louisiana’s hunting and fishing community. While he has written for national publications, even spending four years as a senior writer for B.A.S.S., Crawford never strayed far from the pages of Louisiana Sportsman. Learn more about his work at www.AndyCrawford.Photography.