The Forgotten Lake — Tips for Lake Borgne success

Lake Pontchartain gets all the attention, but its little brother just to the east can offer some fantastic fishing. Here’s a seasonal guide to catching fish at Lake Borgne.

It seems that in every family there is one child who gets all the attention. The kids are outspoken, witty and interesting. At family gatherings, they keep everyone entertained.

Then there is the other child: quiet and bashful, sitting in the shadows.

But hidden behind that shy face is a deeply interesting person who is complex and introspective. For those willing to look behind the curtain, a very special individual is waiting to be discovered.

And so it is with two lakes: Pontchartrain and Borgne.

Pontchartrain grabs most of the attention, while Borgne lies quietly to its south.

But for those willing to learn Borgne’s intricacies and nuances, a treasure awaits them in the forgotten lake.

Lake Borgne is less than half the size of Lake Pontchartrain, but what it lacks in size, it makes up for in diversity.

It technically isn’t a lake at all. Instead, it is considered a lagoon because it is open to the Mississippi Sound.

Its geographical location creates a confluence of water flows and a mixture of brackish and salt water that is an ideal incubator for abundant estuarine species of marine life.

Lake Pontchartrain and the Pearl River supply Borgne with nutrient-rich brackish and fresh water, and the Mississippi Sound provides the higher salinities necessary for the spawning and growth of marine species.

For sport anglers, Lake Borgne provides countless opportunities for a wide variety of game fish, and it is perhaps the most-accessible fishing grounds in the area.

It can be reached from Bayou Bienvenue, The Chef, The Rigolets, Shell Beach and even from the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

These departure points all have excellent facilities that provide live bait, fuel and supplies.

And, best of all, Lake Borgne provides fishing opportunities all year long if you know how to unlock its secrets.

In order to unlock the forgotten lake, I visited with Capt. Jim Lamarque, who operates Captain Jim’s Circle J Charters (985-640-3973) out of the Rigolets.

Lamarque was born and raised in Slidell, and has been fishing Lake Borgne since he was old enough to hold a fishing pole.

“Let’s just say I have over 50 years’ experience,” he said, while declining to divulge his age.

Lamarque fishes the this area — including Lake Pontchartrain and the Biloxi Marsh — during all the seasons. And he was eager to share his wealth of knowledge so veterans and newcomers could increase their chances of success.

He said that, no matter, the specific area you choose, there’s a foundational linchpin to the area.

“Patience is the key,” Lamarque said. “You see guys running all around burning a lot of gas with very little to show at the end of the day. If you are catching a few fish, do not move. I will sit on them because the fish are there.”

But moving water also is important.

“You really need to watch the water conditions and tides,” the veteran guide said. “You need some tide — either way is fine — but you need to find clean, moving water.”

Following are his keys to Lake Borgne success throughout the year.


Many times erratic spring weather patterns and strong winds put a damper on fishing plans.

“During spring you really have to pick your days,” Lamarque said. “Lake Pontchartrain gets most of the attention during March through May, but this is the time of the year when the first fish of the season start to show up on the western end of Lake Borgne, starting from Proctor’s Point, up toward Bayou Bienvenue, Bayou Thomas, Chef Pass and all the way over to Alligator Point and Star Bayou.

“When the wind is from the north and west, these shorelines and drains provide protection and moving water. Last spring, we really had some good trips around Martello’s Castle. We were fishing with live shrimp on the bottom on a drop-shot rig in a current. We did really well.”

But there is a peak of the spring action.

“The best month for this area is May, when the shrimp start to come in,” Lamarque said.

While patience is important once you locate fish, Lamarque warned that fish are scattered during the spring, so you have to move to find them.

Once you locate them, however, do not be too quick to leave.


As spring gives way to summer, the fish in Lake Borgne begin to move from the shorelines out to the deeper waters and gather around the rigs scattered throughout the lake.

This is especially true for speckled trout.

“When the water gets good, those rigs really start to produce, especially when there are a lot of shrimp in the lake,” Lamarque said with a smile. “We fish them the same way as in spring, with a drop-shot rig and live shrimp on the bottom.”

The only drawback is that the Lake Borgne rigs tend to attract large crowds during the summer. Lamarque is not a fan of the company.

“To be honest with you, I hate being in a crowd,” he said. “Some days it seems that some people get so close to you that they can tie up to your boat.”

So he has a plan designed to fend off unwelcome competition.

“I try to leave before daylight,” Lamarque said. “If you get there early enough, there are a few spots you can anchor where no one else can come in on you.

“Sometimes I already have a nice catch before anyone else shows up. You can also fish the satellite rigs, which are less crowded and also hold a lot of fish.”

Trout aren’t the only stars of the season, though: Late summer is when tripletail start hanging around pilings, crab trap floats and other floating debris on the eastern end of Lake Borgne close to the Mississippi Sound.

But this fishery isn’t a sure thing. Lamarque said that some years tripletail show up and others they don’t.

He suggested riding past the floating structures, and when you spot one, go back and cast a live shrimp to the fish.

They are pretty easy to catch once you find them, he said.


As the action on the rigs begins to slow in late summer, the shorelines on the eastern end of the lake start to turn on.

This is when Lamarque puts aside the drop-shot rig and grabs a popping cork.

And one of the first places he heads to is Polecat Bend. He also starts concentrating on the drains coming out of the Biloxi Marsh.

“Fall is my favorite time of the year to fish,” Lamarque said. “Last November, my boat landed 397 trout and 80 redfish. I mostly concentrate on shorelines on the eastern end of the lake, but I still fish the rigs under certain conditions until that plays out.”

He also begins traveling more and more to the shorelines, points and drains of the Biloxi Marsh.

“The Biloxi Marsh is my favorite place to fish in the fall,” Lamarque said. “The water is always beautiful over there.”

He fishes with live shrimp under a cork, but he also begins to use artificial bait as it gets later into the fall.

“I use all of Dudley’s lures, as well as the Matrix lures,” Lamarque said. “I mostly fish them tight-lined on the bottom, but occasionally will work them under popping corks.”


Winter can be the most-difficult time of the year to fish the Lake Borgne area. Strong winds and cool water temperatures tend to give fish a bad case of lockjaw.

But there are places that consistently hold fish, even in the dead of winter.

“Winter can be slow; I am not going to lie to you,” Lamarque said. “But we did really well last December. You want to concentrate on deep holes and drop-offs.

“You can find these areas around Lake Borgne such as the old L&N Bridge, Unknown Pass, the Hospital Wall, the cuts all along the intercoastal waterway and the Bypass. Of course, The Wall at Bayou Bienvenue is one of the best cold-weather areas, but it can really get crowded.”

The captain also ditches artificials if at all possible.

“If you can find live bait, that is a big plus on a drop-shot rig,” Lamarque explained.

He also knows it’s the time of year when you just have to get your bait down, no matter how fast the tide is ripping.

“If the current is strong, especially in the passes like the old L&N Bridge, you may have to go all the way up to a 2-ounce weight to keep your bait on the bottom,” Lamarque said.

But it’s worth the effort.

“In the winter you are going to catch a mixed box of fish, including trout, reds, drum, sheepshead and even some really nice freshwater catfish,” he explained.

So, if you are looking for a place to fish year-round that is close by with easy access, you might want to get to know Lake Pontchartrain’s little brother — the one who never gets the attention.

About Capt. Steve Himel 70 Articles
Capt. Steve Himel has hunted and fished in Southeast Louisiana for over 45 years. He operates Marshland Adventures, LLC and has been a freelance outdoor writer for the past 16 years. He is a member of the Louisiana Outdoor Writers Association.

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