NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Recent heavy rains across Central Mississippi and Southeast Louisiana have raised the level of the Pearl River to some really impressive heights, and that could have impacts on speckled trout fishing in Lake Pontchartrain.
Capts. Dudley Vandenborre and Kris Robert, speaking to a forum hosted by the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, said the high Pearl will likely cut off brown shrimp from moving into the lake, which could limit food resources for speckled trout and other game fish.
"The Pearl is the highest I've seen it in my years of fishing down here," Robert said.
On Friday morning, the river at Bogalusa was at 20.7 feet in height, not too far below the all-time record high of 23.2 feet.
Since the Pearl enters Lake Borgne just east of the Rigolets, all that fresh water prevents migration of fish and bait through the Rigolets, the guides said.
"What you have in the lake right now is what you're going to have for a little while," Vandenborre said.
In the short run, that could certainly be a good thing. Anglers have been mopping up on speckled trout at the Trestles in recent days, and that school of fish doesn't have the option of leaving right now.
Vandenborre said in typical years, the Trestles action has a definite shelf-life.
"The cut-off for me is usually June 15," he said. "That's when the (speckled trout) leave the Trestles and I start fishing the Rigolets."
Time will tell if that holds true this year, or if the fish stick to the bridges longer because they don't have the option of moving to the east.
Vandenborre said salinities at the Trestles right now range from 3 to 5 parts per thousand.
"It should be around 15 parts per thousand right now," he said.
Speckled trout seek saltier waters in the late spring and summer to have successful spawns. Trout eggs need the salinity to provide buoyancy.
"They'll still spawn (in low-salinity waters), but the eggs will die," Vandenborre said.
That's been proven to him over the years, particularly before the rock dam was installed in the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet. Back then, the largest speckled trout in Lake Pontchartrain would flock to the Seabrook area to take advantage of the higher salinities there, Vandenborre said.
"Salinity is always higher where the passes come in," he said. "It used to be always at Seabrook. There were years where we had a lot of rainfall, (salinity) would be 2 or 3 (ppt) all along the north side, and Seabrook would be 6 ppt. The female fish would go there because that was the highest salinity."
Because of the height of the Pearl, speckled trout may not be drawn to the Rigolets this year, so anglers may find the biggest trout at Seabrook or possibly even the Chef. How much rainfall the region has over the next few weeks will determine that.
"People think it's all the rain that falls around here, but it's really the rain up near Jackson, Miss., that has the biggest impact," Vandenborre said.
Until then, anglers should pay close attention to wind directions, Robert advised.
"Normally you want an east or southeast wind this time of year, but if you get too much of that, it'll blow that river water into the lake," he said.
While anglers wait and watch how this all plays out, they shouldn't be at all concerned about the health of the trout.
"They'll find something to eat," Vandenborre said. "They're opportunistic feeders, so they'll eat whatever's available."
Information from: The Times-Picayune, http://www.nola.com