March 5, 2019

Bonnet Carré 2019 Part 2: How Will Inshore Fishing Be Affected This Year?

You already know a lot of water is coming down the pipe, but how it will affect the fishing here in Louisiana's inshore waters?


The Bonnet Carré Spillway & Louisiana's Marsh

By now the Bonnet Carré Spillway has been roaring for a bit, dumping massive loads of trout repellent into Lake Pontchartrain.

Obviously this isn't ideal, but it's worth taking a closer look at the overall impact of this record-setting opening.

After all, seeing the bigger picture is what smart inshore anglers do to keep catching when everyone else is whining about the spillway.

How Bad Will This Hurt Our Fishing?

It really depends on how long the spillway is open and how hard it flows.

There are 350 bays total, and they are rarely all opened at once, with 1983 being the last time that happened.

How Hard?

According to this bulletin at Louisiana Maritime, there are 148 bays flowing at 133,000 cubic feet per second, or cfs.

Bonnet Carré's max output is 250,000 cfs.

How Long?

Furthermore, according to this article, the Army Corps plans on operating the spillway until the end of this month.

spring trout cancelled 2

It's safe to say (you may want to sit down) the spring run of speckled trout in Lake Pontchartrain isn't going to happen.

Even with last year's opening I remained optimistic, but the trout never really arrived in force and, with the current opening taking place, there's no reason to pretend otherwise.

The Trout Spawn Will Be Affected, Too

Speckled trout need, at a minimum, 15 - 17ppt saltwater to spawn.

If they don't, they will keep swimming until they do.

river water trout spawn

Places available for spawning during saltier times (i.e. Rigolets Pass, Mississippi Sound) may not be viable at all this summer.

Even last summer I found it difficult to find a good trout bite without making a long run outside of the marsh.

Redfish Will Be Fine

Given that some of the best redfish action is had near river water, I'm sure our favorite marsh donkey will do just fine, especially considering the increase in cover for themselves and their forage.

More Grass Will Grow

Areas saturated with freshwater (especially those near the Mighty Mississippi) tend to grow aquatic grasses in places they would not if the salinity were higher.

redfish in aquatic grass

Grass is good! It provides a place for forage to feed and hide, and acts as a "filter", cleaning water that flows through it with the tide, just like what you see in this video.

But Pray For Saltwater Anyway

I think our inshore fishing in Louisiana is great due to river water, but only when it mixes with saltwater from the Gulf of Mexico.

  • Knowledge Bomb

Our awesome inshore fishery is like a tasty cocktail, blended with saltwater from the Gulf of Mexico and river water from the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers.

cocktail analogy

But what happens when the ingredients are out of balance?

It makes for a not-so-tasty cocktail and, in our case, tough fishing.

Simply put, without the right amount of saltwater, our "inshore cocktail" is going to see major changes in fishing patterns with this major influx of river water.

Keep That Good Attitude

I see a lot of y'all on social media and am pleased to see inshore anglers with a good, upbeat attitude.

Yes, there are the Debbie Downers and Negative Nancies, but that's life and we're all better off ignoring them.

This is Louisiana, a great state with an awesome fishery that has been through a lot worse than this.

positive attitude

In fact, there's a lot of positive things to look forward to, and that's what the next blog post is all about. 

Be sure to subscribe so you know when it publishes!

Questions? Comments? Something to add? Post yours 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.

You may also like

  • Thanks! Glad you liked it.

    Yes, I did notice that, but where I stopped the water was deeper and grass less thick, so I could fish it the way I wanted.

    If you ever see a channel between thick grass and the shoreline, then that could very well be where redfish patrol for food, and a productive place to fish.

    You just have to get across the thick stuff and float in that narrow channel.

    Hope that makes sense.

  • I feel it provides a low enough salinity to allow the growth of aquatic grass, which in turn recruits more fish because it provides cover and forage.

    If the salinity gets low enough, trees can grow, further protecting the marsh. (think of the cypress that’s been planted)

    Outside of that, it can only replenish the existing land if it floods enough to dump sediment on it.

    Hope that makes sense.

  • Hey Wayne, thanks for commenting.

    I totally agree, a lot’s changed for sure, and when you take a step back and look at the historical record…well…change has been the only constant.

    Yes, we are catching bass in places they weren’t before and, honestly, unless they’re over 3-4lbs (and they rarely are) I’d prefer for there to be speckled trout and flounder instead.

    Otherwise, I drive to America’s reservoirs for my bass fix.

    However, I do (very respectfully) disagree with you on a couple points.

    First off, all winter long I caught limits of speckled trout just down the MRGO from your camp.

    You can literally watch me flip them in the boat here:

    And here:

    And here:

    And here:

    Watch that last one and you’ll see I fished areas with higher salinity (13-15ppt) and did not land a single trout, didn’t even see any on side imaging.

    Then I made the move to a shoreline about a 15 minute boat ride from your camp and caught my limit (in water 2-3ppt).

    That and the grass is a great friend to inshore anglers because it cleans the water, provides oxygen and allows a higher recruitment of forage by providing more food and cover.

    These are reasons why tournament anglers run to these sorts of areas to land money-winning redfish.

    That and we still fish that grass, and catch fish in it, even when it’s thick.

    Sure, anglers complain they can’t fish the grass, which is only partly accurate.

    The whole truth is that they can’t fish the grass the way that they used to when it wasn’t there.

    It’s not the grass’s fault, or the Rock Dam’s fault.

    It’s their own fault, because they failed to adapt to the scenario, which they could have done by changing their tackle.

    Otherwise, we pull redfish and trout out of that grass all the time.

    Read Jamie Mumphrey’s report here.

    He details how he was pulling trout out of that same grass using a light jighead.

    I don’t know why the Army Corps didn’t make the hole in the Dam, or leave it there in the first place, but I doubt it’d be enough flow to make a difference, only because there’s been so much river water from a high MS river (for years), a high Pearl River, a 500 and 1,000 year flood and multiple spillway openings.

    It is what it is, but mark these words: when a drought eventually happens the speckled trout fishing will be on like donkey kong.

    Thanks for commenting, Wayne. I hope that wasn’t too long! Also, THANK YOU for being a member of LAFB Elite.

    Tight lines!

  • Our concerns are the double wammy with the opening of the flood gates and the diversion canals. We moved to our camp at Fort Beauregard last spring, so we see the changes every month. Where we used to catch nice sized trout, we now ONLY catch bass. In another couple of months, we won’t be able to fish at all in many areas because of the dense fresh water grasses. Between building the damn at Hopedale and the canal at Violet, our entire fishing experiences have changed. We had been told that the Corp of Engineers, and whatever powers that be, were going to open 150 feet of the Hopedale damn. Not only would it allow salt water into the area toward Shell Beach, but it would open an area that would allow commercial vessels and sports fishing boats to save time and money having to go a minimum of thirty minutes out of the way to access waters past the damn. We love this area, and we will continue to work to make fishing and the environment the best it can be.

  • Great article. So on a long term positive note, doesn’t this heavy river water help to replenish the marsh?

  • Good video I could see the water change color as you went further in to the area of grass. It actually got dirty again when you stopped did you notice the area you ran through how clean it looked ? I been telling my friends about how the grass cleans the water and that’s where we could find fishable areas.

  • Well MAYBE … Since we will get more aquatic grass growing over the next few months that excess grass will be out in full force in the fall when the specks come back in and i think it will provide more clean water later. Basically, we suffer bad water now for more clean spots than usuall later.

  • {"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

    Never Miss Practical Fishing Tips & Tricks for Louisiana's Coast