Trips start at $650.00
Max guests: 2
Trips start at $350.00
Max guests: 6
New Orleans, LA
Trips start at $400.00
Max guests: 4
Trips start at $450.00
Max guests: 6
Trips start at $525.00
Max guests: 6
Trips start at $500.00
Max guests: 4
Before French explorers arrived, the local native tribes called this body of water Okwata, which translates to “wide water.” It’s an appropriate name; Lake Pontchartrain is the largest inland water system in Louisiana. It covers 630 square miles, almost four times the size of nearby New Orleans. It’s also a world-record holder, with the longest bridge over water (The Causeway Bridge) coming in at 23 miles long. Drivers can cross the lake from New Orleans to the northern cities of Mandeville, Madisonville, and more.
Although technically Lake Pontchartrain isn’t a lake, it’s an estuary. Waters from the Gulf of Mexico enter through the Rigolets strait and mix with waters from nearby freshwater rivers combining to form the lake-like body of water. The brackish waters create a space where a variety of species and wildlife inhabit. Yes, fishing is a big draw here, as well as duck hunting when the temperatures turn colder. Lake Pontchartrain wildlife includes speckled trout, redfish, tripletail, sheepshead, bass, pelicans, and waterfowl, just to name a few.
The lake is shallower than you would expect, only reaching depths of 10 to 16 feet in certain areas. Because of the addition of the Gulf waters, tides influence currents and, therefore, fishing. On the west side, where many freshwater rivers empty into the lake, it’s mostly freshwater fishing with salinity levels rising as you travel east towards the Gulf. The east side of the lake is also where the Rigolets strait is located (known locally as the “Rigolets”) as well as Lake Borgne, another high salinity fishing grounds on the edge of the Gulf of Mexico. Anglers will have a much different experience depending on which side of the lake you’re fishing.
One benefit of the shallow waters of Lake Pontchartrain is that the sunlight reaches the vegetation along the bottom, allowing the grass beds to grow wild. The plants then provide nutrients for small baitfish, which bring the larger fish, and then the anglers show up. It’s an ecosystem kept in balance with the help of current regulations. Local bait shops and charter guides will have the most up-to-date information regarding what you can keep and what should be released.
Shrimp and shad are used throughout the lake by anglers for a variety of species. On the east side of the lake, you may find a largemouth bass taking your bait. The larger the bait, the larger the fish you can catch. Bass grow to an average of five pounds in Lake Pontchartrain. Fish the western and northern parts of the lake for freshwater species; you’ll also find catfish and sunfish.
Speckled trout (also known as “specks”), redfish (or red drum), and flounder are top species on the eastern side of the lake, especially near the Rigolets. Fish near the Causeway, Interstate-10, or Highway 11 for species that like to feed near bridge pilings. Sheepshead is a great option for new or young anglers. Other fish found in this area include pompano, mangrove snapper, Spanish mackerel, and much more.
Local anglers especially enjoy the clam population of the lake. While we don’t recommend eating these clams, they make great bait. Anglers will tend to use live bait such as clams, shrimp, crabs, and mullets to catch the various fish species found here. Artificials can also be used, and are a frequent choice for anglers looking for a challenge.
The summer months bring a variety of fish species from the Gulf of Mexico. It’s not uncommon to see bottlenose dolphins in the lake, and sometimes even sharks. One local fisherman got the catch of the day when he reeled in a bull shark.
Artificial reefs have been added throughout the lake to add to the fishing possibilities. It’s almost a guarantee catch when fishing these parts of Lake Pontchartrain. Local charter captains will know where these reefs are located; schedule a trip today to get on the bite!
Along the lakefront in New Orleans are many restaurants and shops for locals and visitors to patronize. Across the lake in Mandeville are more, including a seawall and marina for fishing enthusiasts. Slidell is another nearby city that many will depart from to visit the lake. The lake is open for many recreational activities, including boating, kayaking, paddle boarding, and swimming. It’s a popular destination for those looking for a fun day on the water.
No matter where in Louisiana you’re staying, a trip to the “wide water” is definitely worth it, if only to experience driving across the longest bridge in the world. Add a fishing trip to the itinerary and you’re headed for a great day! Find a local charter with FishAnywhere.com and start the adventure; it’s just a click away.