March 3, 2019

How To Catch Speckled Trout When The Bonnet Carré Spillway Is Opened

The Bonnet Carré Spillway is flowing two years in a row, a first in its entire history. Let's take a look at how bad it's going to be for inshore anglers in its path.


How Bonnet Carré Will Affect Inshore Fishing For 2019

By now the Army Corps of Engineers has opened the flood control structure that we inshore anglers aren't particularly fond of.

chocolate milk bonnet carre spillway

You can't blame us, river water is a surefire way to shut down any trout action we've been hoping for this spring.

Not that we didn't have a good winter, but we do look forward to that awesome spring-time bite for speckled trout on the bridges of Lake Pontchartrain.

trestles speckled trout

A hot bite at the Trestles is an excellent fishing experience!

Quick Recap On River Water (and why it's bad)

Maybe you're a newcomer to inshore fishing and wonder why this spillway opening is making us groan in pain.

In short, river water is bad for inshore species, not because it dilutes saltwater (redfish do fine in freshwater and speckled trout thrive in extreme low salinity) but because the dirty water is tough on fish not adapted to it.

The suspended silt irritates their large eyes and thin gill plates, ultimately causing them to leave the area.

sandstorm for speckled trout

What this sandstorm is to people, muddy river water is to speckled trout and redfish.

Plus, redfish (adults over 27") and speckled trout cannot spawn in water that's so fresh. 

So river water will push them away to saltier destinations during their spawn, not unlike what happened with this big trout.

This Time It's Worse

River water flooding from the spillway into Lake Pontchartrain is nothing new, it's happened a dozen times before.

What is new is the fact that this opening is the first one to happen two years in a row.

That's right, the spillway was opened last year, seriously freshening the Pontchartrain Basin, and it's pouring right now!

Why the Spillway will Kick Ass for Speckled Trout Fishing

Last year's spillway opening in action, as seen from the sky.

While it wasn't opened the year before, it ran for 22 days (with 210 of 350 bays open) back in January 2016.

That same year we had historical 500 and 1,000 year floods from the Amite, Tchefuncte and Pearl Rivers, so it's safe to say that Lake Pontchartrain has seen as much river water as she ever has since the MRGO was dug.

billy mays bonnet carre

But Its Gets Worse

There's a monumental amount of water coming down the pipe. 

Dams in the Tennessee river are spilling over and emergencies have been declared in both Kentucky and Mississippi.

hiwassee flooding

My uncle in Tennessee sent me this screenshot of two 500 gallon drums swept away near the Tennessee River. All that water is headed here.

And It Will Grow Worse Yet

North of us (like...way past the Mason-Dixon line) freezing temperatures still linger, leaving snow on the ground.

louisiana snow melt

Snow that will eventually melt into water...

...water that will eventually flow our way...

...and out the Bonnet Carré Spillway.

(did not intend for that to rhyme)

Remember This Important Thing

The only constant is change, and nothing has ever stayed the same but that very thing, especially when it comes to Louisiana's wetlands.

If this river water proves anything, it's exactly that.

Furthermore, we'll see which inshore anglers are able to handle that change, and that will be evidenced by who brings home the boxes of redfish and trout, and those who do not.

Knowledge Is Power

It's hard to beat good fishing advice, isn't it?

Run whatever boat you like, whatever "fish finder", whatever rod, and it will do you no good if you don't know how to practically apply it to achieve positive results: catching the fish you target.

These blog posts cover:

  • Short and long term effects of the spillway on inshore fishing (click here
  • Positive things that you, as an inshore angler, should look forward to (click here)
  • How you can adjust to catch fish anyways (click here

NOTE: These things don't apply only to Bonnet Carré, but anywhere river water becomes an issue for inshore anglers.

So I'm sure you'll find this fishing advice useful. 

Tight lines, y'all!


Have something to add? Comment below!

Captain Devin

About the Author

Devin is a veteran of the Iraq War and former fishing guide. He founded Louisiana Fishing Blog in 2012 to share his ideas as a charter captain and still writes in it today. Since then he's created a fishing university — LAFB Elite — where he teaches inshore anglers how to safely navigate Louisiana's coast and catch more fish.

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  • Me and you both, but I don’t see anything forecasting otherwise.

    It’d be nice to get east wind like we did in June 2012.

    Here’s the thing, if an area stayed fresh, and grew an awesome freshwater fishery (like Cataouatche back in the day) then I could accept that.

    If it stayed saltier, and had an awesome saltwater fishery (like when we were catching lots of flounder) then I’d be dandy with that.

    But this going back and forth with pea soup is getting old.

    I’m accepting it as a “phase” and that river levels will eventually go down, and stay down, and then it will be on like Donkey Kong.

  • If it is anything like the last few years we will have persistent west winds to go along with the high rivers. Then we will hear people cry the guides are killing all the trout and limits must be reduced or guides eliminated. I sure hope I am wrong, but mark my words.

  • It really depends on what happens.

    We could get a string of east wind to push in saltier water, or we may not.

    Ultimately time will tell, but if I were you I’d keep Plan Redfish in my back pocket.

    Thanks for commenting!

  • Thanks for the Info. Capt. Since we moved, I’ve planned a trip the 2nd week of April to come fish down there.

    This makes me think immediately, we might be looking to fish further east(Biloxi Marsh)? Pending all other conditions 1st of course.

    Looking forward to your analysis in Part 2!

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