Lake Pontchartrain Fishing: Local Angler’s Best Tips

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Lake Pontchartrain is southern Louisiana’s largest inland body of water, covering about 630 square miles.

Sitting next to New Orleans, this vast waterway is home to various wildlife and tourist attractions, fine dining lines the shores, and you’ll find plenty of fish to catch beneath its surface.

We’re here to lend you a hand with that latter pursuit.

I’m a Louisiana native who has fished across Lake Pontchartrain for its various species, from bass to bull redfish. I’ll help point you to the best fishing spots and techniques to help you hook into more of the types of fish you want to catch.

Lake Pontchartrain is known for the Guinness Book of World Records longest bridge crossing over its waters and the world record sheepshead caught from under its surface.

So, whether you’re a local who needs the inside scoop on fishing your area’s biggest lake, or you’re a tourist heading to the Big Easy and wanting to carve out a little time on the water, Lake Pontchartrain is waiting for you.

Whether you want to fish from shore, kayak, boat or charter, anglers can catch the whole gamut from speckled trout, drum, catfish, redfish, bass, and even sharks or the occasional alligator gar.

Depending on the part of the lake you fish, and whether the spillway is open or not, which affects the water’s salinity, you can catch a variety of freshwater and saltwater fish.

Locations such as the train tracks closer to the spillway open up opportunities for an influx of freshwater species to thrive in lower salinity.

Lake Pontchartrain Fishing Game Plan

There are three main ways to hit the water of Lake Pontchartrain with a rod and reel in hand.

Charters are the more costly of the three options. However, this is the best solution for many out-of-state visitors looking to capitalize on the aquatic population of Sportsman’s Paradise.

As part of their fee, most captains will provide rods, tackle, and bait in the boat to put tourists on fish as fast as possible. Their understanding of the area and seasonal patterns of fish will help your angling experience on Lake Pontchartrain be stress-free and fun.

If you have your own boat, it’s always a good idea to hit up local anglers at the tackle shops on both the north and south shores of the lake, as well as find a convenient boat launch.

Plenty of fishing holes are just a short boat ride from the dock, where anglers can hook into sizeable fish.

If you are short on time but have your own equipment, your best bet is to grab your rod and reel and hit the docks. With boat launches like Bonnabel, Seabrook, the bridge, and more, anglers can fish day or night, potentially catching gar, croaker, catfish, sheepshead, flounder, and even redfish.

Lake Pontchartrain Fish Species

Speckled Trout

Fishing for monster-sized speckled trout is what Lake Pontchartrain is known for.

While the influx of freshwater during the summer months usually drives these spotted sea trout out of the lake, the spring and fall months are known for finding some specks between 5 and 12 pounds amongst the bridge pilings and along the shoreline.

In the winter, on clear days without wind, finding birds on the water is a great way to find speckled trout on the move.

More: Where to Catch Speckled Trout in Louisiana


Without a doubt, redfish is your go-to route.

Lake Pontchartrain’s redfish bite here throughout the year, but anglers looking to hook into big bull reds should hit these waters during the fall.

The annual bull red run is in full swing in September as these monster fish travel from the Gulf of Mexico through Chef Menteur Pass (locals just say Chef Pass) and the Rigolets, another pass into the lake.

Huge redfish will spend the fall and winter months in Pontchartrain until the spawning season.

The redfish of Lake Pontchartrain will hit just about anything and can be found in shallow and deep water, helping make them one of the most popular game fish in the lake.

Often found in large schools, redfish can often be sight-fished, and anglers can find these delicious brackish water predators by watching for birds.

Redfish are ambush predators, so they often hold out behind bridge pilings, rock jetties, and other submerged structures.

More: Best Redfish Fishing Spots in Louisiana


Depending on the salinity, anglers may luck out and find some monster largemouth bass on the end of their line.

Particularly vicious during the spring, shad and shrimp are no match for these aggressive lunkers.

Bass often assemble in shallow waters of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway.

However, Bayou Liberty, Bayou Lacombe, and other small channels also are hotspots for largemouth bass.

Lake Pontchartrain bass fishing is so good that the north shore hosts an annual bass series tournament in October that is plenty of fun for local and out-of-state anglers.

More: Best Bass Fishing Spots in Louisiana


The world-record sheepshead was caught in Lake Pontchartrain near New Orleans. Weighing in at a staggering 21.25 pounds, it’s unlikely anglers will hook into another giant of this size, but the sheepshead in Lake Pontchartrain remain plentiful.

You are most likely to find these toothy fish wherever crustaceans or barnacles are present. That often means targeting bridge pilings or docks, where these delicious fish feed.

A popular way to attract sheepshead in Lake Pontchartrain is scraping barnacles off the structure with a shovel or other sharp tool.


Anglers can catch founders of all shapes and sizes in Lake Pontchartrain.

From October to December every year, flounder will head offshore to spawn, and this is the perfect time for anglers to target locations like Chef Pass and the Rigolets along with the train trestles.

Using your fish finder to locate ledges and transitions during a falling tide is a sure way to hook into these popular flatfish.

It’s common enough to catch flounder between 5 to 7 pounds, and anglers looking to get in on some cold water action can capitalize on the fall months to get after these delicious fish.

More: Best Spots to Catch Flounder in Louisiana

Blue Catfish

Blue catfish eat just about anything when the water gets particularly cold and low-pressure systems hit the lake.

With catches exceeding 70 pounds recorded in the lake, anglers would be remiss not to head after these whiskered predators. You might come back with the main ingredient for tasty Louisiana-style blackened catfish.

The causeway bridge and the railroad trestle and old US Highway 11 Maestri Bridge on the east side of the lake hold high concentrations of these ambush predators.

Although many anglers prefer warmer weather and they can catch blue cats all year, the late fall and winter months are the best time to hit the water in search of blue catfish in Lake Pontchartrain.

More: Best Places to Go Catfishing in Louisiana

Additional Species

Anglers will also find a variety of other species, such as croaker, gar, and gafftop catfish. Even shark fishing has its fans in Lake Pontchartrain.

Farther into the spillway, anglers can hook into crappie if the salinity is low.

Lake Pontchartrain Fishing Spots

Shore Fishing Spots

The following bank fishing locations are areas where you can have good luck catching Lake Pontchartrain’s major gamefish while on the shore or a fishing pier.

Bonnabel Boat Launch

Bonnabel Boat Launch in Metairie is just to the east of where the famous causeway bridge makes landfall on the south shore.

The small peninsula is lined with rocks and other structures to help prevent erosion, providing an excellent location for where sport fish, such as speckled trout, sheepshead, redfish, stingrays, catfish, and croaker, can duck out of the current.

On the eastern edge of the boat launch, a fishing pier juts out into the lake, with pilings providing structure for game fish.

This location is one of the best shore fishing spots on the lake, particularly at night.

Bonnabel’s fishing pier is lit by numerous street lights strategically placed around the structure to illuminate anglers, drawing in the fish during the darkness. Anglers find success using popping corks or Carolina and Texas rigs baited with shrimp or crabs.

The downside of this location is that there’s a very heavy population of gafftopsail catfish (gafftops), and the waters can be incredibly muddy when the wind is pushing towards sure.

Anglers should avoid using cut bait because dead fish as it tends to draw in the gar, needlefish, and catfish population that frequent this fishing location.

New Orleans Municipal Yacht Harbor

The New Orleans Municipal Yacht Harbor, a mile east of Bonnabel, is one of the best black drum locations for shore anglers.

Although catfish, bass, redfish, and sheepshead have been caught in this location, large black drum are a fan favorite here.

Farther east than the Bonnabel boat launch, various piers and semi-submerged structures provide cover for large predatory game fish.

Anglers’ best fishing options without entering into the yacht club are the public Breakwater Park and Breakwater Drive.

Particularly when the wind is blowing toward land, the harbor provides shelter for many fish species. Anglers will have a high chance of success, working off the rocks along the point that shelters the harbor.

The most popular angling methods here are Carolina or Texas rigs, particularly baited with crabs and shrimp.

Live minnows are also viable when hooked on these bottom rigs, but anglers should avoid cut bait to prevent hooking into a gafftop catfish.

Bayou St John

A little farther east along Lakeshore Drive, Bayou St. John is an easily accessible location for anglers looking to catch freshwater drum, largemouth, bass, catfish, sand weakfish, croaker, and large catfish.

The blend of fresh and brackish water meeting near the pumping station upstream provides prime feeding habitat for predators, including largemouth bass. Marshy clumps of grass provide refuge to both predator and prey.

This is one of the best spots for shore anglers to work gold spoons, popping baits, topwater lures, and crankbaits.

Closer to the pumping station, anglers will find small sand bars, outcroppings, and clusters of reeds. And then, toward the lake, anglers will have more open water as well as rock and cement structures to work popping corks off.

If the surface is rough, try deep-diving crankbaits and bottom rigs baited with shrimp.

Having fished this location several times myself, I have found the most success during the early morning hours, closer to the pumping station, where largemouth bass are feeding in the shallows.

Bayou La Branche

Anyone driving the I-10 bridge west of New Orleans towards Baton Rouge will have noticed a road leading to a boat launch and jetty at the southwestern side of Lake Pontchartrain. This area is just above Bayou La Branche.

The bayou is an incredibly kayak-friendly fishing location, and it also provides shore anglers the ability to work the lake itself and target some of the marshy areas in the interior for freshwater fish.

Popular catches around Bayou La Branche include largemouth bass, catfish, redfish, pumpkinseed, perch, black drum and alligator gar.

The rocky jetty that pokes out into the lake is home to a variety of large drum and catfish, while the interior between the I-10 bridges and the dock is where anglers can catch bass, catfish, and the occasional gar.

The mouth of the Bayou La Branche itself is also a viable fishing location, where anglers can work the forest and shoreline to the west for large bass hiding in the grass and reeds.

Bayou Castine

Bayou Castine on the North Shore (on the east edge of Mandeville) allows anglers to catch largemouth bass, gar, catfish, pumpkinseed, perch, croaker, and channel catfish.

The occasional bowfin has been caught from this location, but it primarily boasts freshwater game species from its sandy shores.

Anglers have easy access to the lake and the bayou off of Lakeshore Drive, with the Pontchartrain Yacht Club boat launch offering a structure for fish to hide under.

The sandy shore on the lakeside is anglers’ best bet, where popping corks and bottom rigs make it easy to set and forget their rods and wait on the fish.

Depending on the salinity levels of the lake as well as the algae and grass growth, anglers may want to switch to lighter tackle and target perch and bass.

Farther west along the lake’s shoreline, small lines of piling are semi-submerged and offer shelter for large bass, catfish, perch, and the occasional redfish, if the conditions are right.

If anglers can access a kayak, several concrete walls are further out into the lake and boast excellent cover for fish so long as you stay out of the boating lanes.

Sunset Point

Sunset Point is a bass goldmine, but don’t be surprised to catch anything from catfish and flounder to stingrays and sharks.

This relatively secluded point sits just east of the Causeway Bridge in Mandeville and has plenty of secluded water to the rear that shelters fish when the wind is to the north.

The Sunset Point Fishing Pier juts into the lake and boasts various species to catch.

Depending on the salinity, anglers may want to beef up their tackle to avoid losing their shrimp or crab to voracious predators like sharks and gar.

The pier is an excellent location to hook into a big drum and the occasional flounder, while the protected cuts to the rear are home to sizeable bass.

Anglers fishing from the dock should stick to popping corks, bottom rigs tipped with live shrimp and crab, or double rigs with soft plastics.

The soft plastics work magic when retrieved along the pilings on the dock, but the bottom rigs are the way to go in rough surface conditions.

The cuts to the rear are an excellent location to try out topwater baits, particularly near the overhanging trees that dot the shoreline.

Lake Pontchartrain Boat Fishing

Causeway Bridge

While you don’t always need to head to deeper water to catch big fish, the Causeway Bridge is home to some of the biggest drum, catfish, speckled trout, sheepshead, and gar in Lake Pontchartrain.

Even large bull sharks, jack crevalle, stingrays, and more gamefish inhabit these waters.

The pilings along the bridge are a sanctuary to a myriad of voracious predators, and anglers will have little trouble ripping lips with some of the most ferocious brackish water gamefish along the world’s longest over-water bridge.

The fishing here is seasonal, especially during transition periods. On the Causeway, it’s about picking your species and angling for them.

The bridge is the place for redfish during the annual bull red run.

Monster blue cats are a common catch amongst the pilings during the colder months.

The bridge is home to schools of sizable speckled trout during the spring and summer months, especially when the shrimp are running.

Fishing this bridge has to be targeted; otherwise, anglers will catch small groups of various species.

For big drum and catfish, your bottom rigs are a solid choice. Popping corks are also a great option if bait fish or shrimp are boiling near the surface.

Trolling or working double soft plastic rigs for trout is a great way to hammer specks. On days with little wind and minimal surf, I’ve even seen topwater baits work with varying success amongst the bridge pilings.

Pass Manchac

With a fine blend of redfish, catfish and bass, Pass Manchac is a solid fishing hole on the western shoreline of Lake Pontchartrain.

With locations like Schneider Ditch, Second Canal and North Pass just a short boat ride away, anglers have a variety of key fishing spots in a small area.

Boaters can launch from the Manchac Enterprise Fuel Dock, head out into Lake Pontchartrain or Lake Maurepas, and catch various fresh and brackish water species.

My experience here is that structure is often not your friend. Although the fish prefer the cover pilings and oyster beds provide, the barnacles and shells cut through lines like a hot knife through butter.

Instead, anglers should focus on the marshy points, docks along the shoreline, and the mouths of the numerous cuts that line the Pass Manchac.

Fresh shrimp or live minnows under a popping cork is your best bet, particularly as it keeps you away from the submerged oyster beds and barnacle-laden underwater structure.

Tangipahoa River

The Tangipahoa River empties into Lake Pontchartrain on the western shoreline, providing a silty, estuarine environment that is boiling with freshwater species.

The marshy shoreline is filled with nooks and crannies that anglers can hit to catch the numerous spotted and largemouth bass, bluegill, crappie, and catfish.

The mouth of the river is a funnel into the lake, so anglers can work the U-shaped shoreline as it eels towards docks and housing, targeting pilings, overhanging trees, and brush piles.

Jigging for bluegill and crappie is excellent during the spring, while bass fishing during the summer and fall is second to none.

Anglers should stick with topwater and shallow crankbaits on calmer days, switching to spoons and buzz baits when the water clarity is worse.

Tchefuncte River

Another freshwater hotspot is the Tchefuncte River. This is the place to go if you’re looking for crappie in Lake Pontchartrain.

Located on the lake’s northwestern shore near Madisonville, this river is full of secluded marshy shorelines with various cuts that anglers can kayak or troll motor into with great success.

On the western side of the surrounding shoreline, anglers will find the Tchefuncte River Range Lights and the Black River, both excellent locations for crappie and bass fishing.

The eastern side of the lake shoreline from the river is filled with small coves and cuts with patches of grass, perfect ambush locations for bass.

This location truly comes alive during spring and fall transition periods when the fish are spawning or fattening up for the coming winter.

I have found that the best baits here are soft plastics rigged to be weedless. This allows anglers to work in the innermost recesses of cuts and creeks around lilies, reeds, and weeds without snagging.

Bayou Chinchuba

Bayou Chinchuba is on the west side of the Causeway and though small, has a lot to offer anglers. The blend of sandy and marshy shoreline boasts drum, sheepshead, bass, and perch catches, with the occasional catfish thrown in.

The main dock off the mouth of the bayou is a sanctuary to cats, drum, and sheepshead, while the surrounding shoreline boasts perch and bass.

The nearest launch is Lake Pontchartrain Harbor Marina, a decent boat ride away. However, the rewards are worth it at Bayou Chinchuba, especially during the summer.

Popping corks in the early summer morning work magic against the dock and surrounding shoreline, drawing in bass, drum, and redfish. Live shrimp is best, like throwing a magnet in the water to draw in the predators.

During the spring and fall months, the fishing slows lightly, but the action is still hot, with the grassy shorelines and bayou mouth being hotspots for bass, in particular.

Topwater and double rigs will work nicely when working along these areas.

Don’t be surprised if you hook into a large sheepshead when fishing for reds and bass.

Cane Bayou

Cane Bayou sits on the eastern shoreline of Lake Pontchartrain, north of the Saint Tammany State Game Refuge. It boasts a large number of sizable spotted and largemouth bass, with plenty of swampy shoreline and cuts that shelter them.

You can access the bayou’s beginnings off of St Tammany Trace and Highway 190. For kayakers that aren’t faint of heart, this bayou is a paradise for small, maneuverable craft.

The many offshoots are perfect for agile crafts and trolling motors where anglers can rip lips with some monster bass.

This bayou a safe haven for many freshwater species in the eastern portions of the lake when salinity levels rise.

I have found success in this location using soft plastics and spinnerbaits, particularly on days with mixed cloud cover.

This is the perfect late spring and early summer fishing spot for anglers who enjoy being on the water for extended periods of time.

Lacombe Bayou

There’s something for everyone in Lacombe Bayou: Stingray, gar, shark, redfish, jack crevalle, speckled trout, black drum, and bass are all common catches here. Anglers will even catch various catfish, flounder, and sheepshead. Even crappies are not out of the question if the salinity is right.

This is truly one of the most versatile locations on the lake in terms of species you can catch from such a small footprint.

The miles of marshy shoreline to the east and west offer small coves, cuts, and brush that shelter redfish and bass, while the mouth of the bayou and surrounding waters harbor bigger fish.

In rough conditions, anglers can head up inside the bayou, but be warned, catching sharks in the canals and cuts is quite common.

Anglers can try almost every rig and setup to some degree of success, but popping corks are the best option, in my opinion. Baited with shrimp, it’s tough to beat the smell and movement of live shrimp under a popping cork with big predators in the water.

Train Trestles

Probably the best speckled trout fishing location in Lake Pontchartrain, the train trestles also are home to specks, reds, drum, sheepshead, cats, flounder, and even paddlefish have been caught here.

The miles of trestles stretching across the eastern side of the lake offer shelter and prime hunting grounds for the schools of hungry game fish. Particularly when Lake Borgne is in flux, the saltwater fishing is fantastic.

Anglers will have the most success fishing the southeastern portions and nearby Irish Bayou Lagoon for reds, drum, and bass, and specks can often be found further out towards the deeper trestles.

Anglers can use the small, unnamed boat launch off of South Point to fish the southern shore, while Tites Place Boat & Bait offer anglers a launch point on the north shore.

If quality over quantity is your goal, and you’re looking for monsters, the toll bridge crossing for the trestles and the main bridge offers plenty of submerged structures where monster reds, drum, cats, and even sharks can lurk in the depths.


Lake Pontchartrain is one of the best brackish bodies of water in Louisiana.

Known for holding the world record sheepshead, anglers can catch a variety of both freshwater and saltwater gamefish from the main lake and its connected bayous and rivers.

From shore or in a boat, in open water, or working the banks, there is something for everyone at Lake Pontchartrain.

Before heading out, visit the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries website to read the rules and regulations and to purchase a fishing license.