NEW ORLEANS — While running a fillet knife through a batch of speckled trout at the Rigolets Marina, Capt. Kris Robert was basking in the afterglow of a successful morning and couldn't hide a smile when thinking about what's on the very near horizon.
He had just taken clients to catch some solid school trout that are staging in eastern Lake Pontchartrain as they make their way to the Interstate-10 Twin Spans, Highway 11, the Trestles and even the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway.
"We got 40," Robert said. "I've cleaned half of them, and only one was a female. The males are coming in, and I think this will be the last spawn for the females."
Robert said he started the morning at the L&N bridge in the Rigolets and picked up several 2 1/2- to 3 1/2-pound males. The lone female came from there, and she weighed 4 pounds.
That healthy fish was a sign of things to come, he said.
"Those 15- to 18-inch males always come in first, and then those females are right behind them," Robert said. "For whatever reason, when that water temperature gets to 72 to 75 degrees, they'll get glued to those bridges.
"Right now, they're everywhere -- L&N, Hospital Wall, Bayou Liberty, Irish Bayou. I've been catching fish at all those places. They're just hanging out in the local spots before they get on those bridges."
To catch them, Robert and his clients have been throwing an assortment of artificial lures as well as live shrimp. The latter is in abundance all over the area right now.
"I was talking to the shrimpers at Rigolets Marina. They said they're catching all their shrimp where Mud Lake meets the Rigolets," Robert said. "They said it's taking them longer to get there than it is to fill their tanks with bait.
"I was in Lake Catherine yesterday doing some scouting, and you could see shrimp skipping across the water everywhere."
All that bait serves to actually keep the fish spread out all over. Once a strong northwest wind dumps the shrimp out of the lake, the specks will get more concentrated, Robert said.
"We just need one more cold front, I think, to get them on the bridges," he said. "Things are starting to work out."
Robert loves bridge-fishing, so he can't stay away, even though it's not quite right yet.
"I've been to check them, and I've been catching flounder on them, but the trout are not there yet," he said. "You'll run into some redfish and flounder. I'll work from 175 to 174.
"I think we're going to have a good flounder run this fall. Every time I go out, I'll catch five or six."
Until then, he's still having a good time catching the trout because of how they're hitting.
"The topwater bite has been good if you can get that calm water around Bayou Liberty and Irish Bayou," he said. "It's been good in Lake Catherine too. There's a ton of bait in there.
"Also, I haven't checked it yet this year, but normally that shoreline where Lake Pontchartrain meets Chef Pass is really good when the bait's in there."
The fish are also hitting soft-plastics under corks in those areas. Robert has been using shrimp creole- and blue moon-colored lures because the water's so clean right now. Once it gains a little stain from the cold fronts, he'll switch to darker colors with chartreuse tails, he said.
The mouth of the Pearl River is also on the verge of busting loose, Robert said.
"The fish are in the Pearl right now, but you've got to weed through them," he said. "There's a lot more small fish in the Pearl for whatever reason. We're a couple of weeks behind. We need a good cool front before the keepers get thick in there.
"There's a lot of 11 3/4-inch fish right now, but what's amazing is you'll catch 10 of those and then all of a sudden -- boom -- a 2-pounder."
Information from: The Times-Picayune, http://www.nola.com