List of Fish Species in Lake Pontchartrain 2023 [Updated]

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List of Common Lake Pontchartrain Fish Species [Updated]

Lake Pontchartrain, Louisiana
Lake Pontchartrain is the largest inland water body in the state of Louisiana, with an area of 630 square miles! Contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data 2018, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO, via Wikimedia Commons

Lake Pontchartrain is situated on the bank of New Orleans, Louisiana. It covers an area of 630 square miles (1,632 km2), which makes it the biggest inland body of water in the state. It has a mean depth of 10 – 16 feet (3 – 5 meters). Lake Pontchartrain is a brackish estuary connected to the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico. Therefore, the salinity in the lake varies from close to freshwater in the northern end to half that of seawater in the eastern cusp. Flooding from the riverside can cause the salinity in the lake to fluctuate dramatically.

The lake started forming 5,000 years ago as meltwater from the North American glacier fed into the Mississippi River, which caused it to swell and shift. The water brought large amounts of sediments to the area. These eventually created the delta Orleans, St. Bernard, and Plaquemines Parishes rest on today. Native Americans knew the lake as Okwata, which means ‘wide water’. In 1699, it was re-named by the French settler Pierre La Moyne, who named the lake after the French Minister Comte de Pontchartrain.

Lake Pontchartrain and its surrounding wetlands form the middle sub-basin of the Pontchartrain Basin, a wetland system with slow-flowing rivers, swamps, marshes, and forests. Development in the area and urban and agricultural runoff combined with saltwater intrusion currently challenge the quality of the estuary. Lake Pontchartrain alone harbors shoreline, marshes, and submerged aquatic vegetation, creating various habitats for birds, mammals, reptiles, and a broad community of fish, some of which you can read further about in the list below.

List of Fish Species in Lake Pontchartrain

1) Alligator gar (Atractosteus spatula)

Alligator gar
Alligator gar can breathe air, thus allowing them to survive in waters with low oxygen levels, just like other members of the gar family. eamonccorbett / CC BY 4.0

Native to North America

The alligator gar is a member of the Lepisosteidae family (gars) with a spatula-shaped gape, that gives the species its Latin name. Their body is olive-brown with a light belly and a light dorsal stripe and brown blotches on every fin. The alligator gar, like other members of the gar family, are capable of breathing air, which allows them to survive in waters with low oxygen levels. To do this, they gulp air, which is stored in their swim bladder, an organ most fish have that provides buoyancy. In the case of the gars, the organ serves both functions. Without access to air breathing, the alligator gar survives on gill respiration alone, provided the dissolved oxygen level in the water is sufficient.

The alligator gar is the largest among the gars and can grow to a massive size of 9.8 feet (3 meters). Their populations have decreased in Louisiana; this could be a result of pollutants and agricultural runoff. In polluted waters, they intake harmful chemicals when consuming their prey. The harmful chemicals can accumulate in the tissue of apex predators to a higher level than in smaller fish species, which makes it particularly detrimental to the alligator gar.

2) Atlantic croaker (Micropogonias undulatus)

Atlantic croaker
Male Atlantic croakers make a special noise with vibrating muscles that push against their swim bladders to attract females during spawning. harrier / CC BY 4.0

Native to the Gulf of Mexico

The Atlantic croaker is a member of the Sciaenidae family (drums or croakers). They can be recognized by 3 – 5 pairs of small barbels on their chins. Younger individuals are silver, while older fish turn brass with brown streaks running down their sides. The Atlantic croaker can produce a ‘croaking’ sound by vibrating special muscles that push against their swim bladders, which has given them their name. The males use this behavior during spawning to attract females.

The Atlantic croaker is often found over soft bottoms, such as mud in coastal waters and in estuaries, where they can find plenty of food. They feed on shrimp, crabs, and detritus (decomposing plants and animals). They spawn between August and October when they have reached sexual maturity. The majority do this by the end of their first year (>85%) and all fish have reached sexual maturity by the age of 2. The Atlantic croaker leaves brackish waters after spawning and spends the winter in the ocean. They can spawn multiple times in their lives and can live for up to eight years.

3) Atlantic stingray (Dasyatis sabina)

Atlantic stingray
The Atlantic stingray is not very toxic and most people fully recover after being stung by one. Lexi Amico / CC BY 4.0

Native to the Atlantic Coast of America and Mexico

The Atlantic stingray is a member of the Dasyatidae family (stingrays). Like other rays, sharks, and chimeras, their bones are made of cartilage, which makes their skeleton lighter and more pliable. The Atlantic stingray has a brown dorsal side and a white bottom. Their body is round with a triangular snout, a long thin tail, and two protruding pelvic fins. Their venomous spine is located about one-third down their tail and is primarily used as a defensive mechanism. Compared to other species, the Atlantic stingray is not particularly toxic. Although a sting might still cause intense pain, most people recover fully. The primary purpose of the spine is therefore likely to be something other than defense.

The Atlantic stingray gives birth to live young, through aplacental viviparity also known as ovoviparity. In this form of reproduction, the unborn pups are feeding on an egg yolk inside the female. In addition, the Atlantic stingray is matrotrophic, which means that the female provides the growing pups inside of her with nutrients in the form of enriched uterine fluid, which the pups absorb indirectly. This form of nourishment differs from placental viviparity, as the young are not attached to a placenta.

4) Black bullhead (Ameiurus melas)

Black bullhead
The black bullhead has two dark barbels that protrude from above the mouth. Krishna Sivillà Rubio / CC BY 4.0

Native to the central United States

The black bullhead is a member of the Ictaluridae family (North American freshwater catfishes). They are native to the US but have been introduced to multiple countries in Europe, where they now sustain viable populations. This species inhabits pools, backwaters, and slow-moving waters, where they feed upon clams, snails, plant material, and smaller fishes. The black bullhead is black or dark green on the dorsal side and gradually gets lighter towards the white belly. They have dark chin barbels, two of which protrude from above the mouth and are longer than the rest.

The female black bullhead builds her nest underneath aquatic vegetation, woody debris, or overhanging banks. The male stays nearby, while the female constructs the nest, but the male has not been observed to help. They spawn together over the nest, where the female quiver and lay her eggs in masses covered by a gelatinous coat. The adult fish aerates the eggs by slapping the masses with their pelvic fins. Among the North American freshwater catfishes, the black bullhead is one of the most pollutant-resistant species. Therefore, the abundance stays relatively stable even in lakes impacted by agricultural, industrial, and domestic pollutants.

5) Black drum (Pogonias cromis)

Black drum
Juvenile black drum have 4 – 5 dark stripes running down their bodies. Cody Stricker / CC BY 4.0

Native to the eastern coast of North and South America

The black drum is a member of the Sciaenidae family (drums or croakers). In contrast to the Atlantic croaker, the sound made by the black drum is typically described as a drumming thud. The sound is strongly associated with the breeding season, however the intensity of vocalization by the males is not directly related to egg production. This might be due to the large variation in the number of eggs laid by each female. Older individuals typically lay more eggs and these eggs are also of higher quality.

The black drum is a popular sports fish in the lake. Anglers are restricted to a fishing limit of 5 per person per day with a minimum length of 16 inches and a max of 27 inches. They can be found over sandy or muddy bottoms in coastal waters, particularly in connection with large rivers. They have many small barbels under the lower jaw. The juveniles have 4 – 5 dark bars running vertically down their sides and enter estuaries to hide from predators. The dark bars disappear with growth, and the adult fish vary in coloration.

6) Blacktip shark (Carcharhinus limbatus)

Blacktip shark
The blacktip shark is a medium-sized shark that is not particularly dangerous to humans, with only 41 total confirmed attacks. Rebeca Leininger / CC BY 4.0

Native to warm oceans worldwide

The blacktip shark is a middle-sized member of the Carcharhinidae family (requiem sharks). They are grey dorsally, with a white belly and distinct black tips on their fins. They feed on a broad range of pelagic and benthic fish, octopus, squids, and other sharks and rays. They are frequently seen in waters where they encounter humans, however this rarely results in attacks (41 total confirmed attacks). They are currently listed as ‘Near threatened by the IUCN.

The blacktip shark is viviparous, which means they do not lay eggs. Instead, the female retains the developing young in her uterus until birth. They typically birth 1 – 10 pups per litter. The neonates (recently born) have an umbilical scar on the ventral side located between the pectoral fins, marking where the umbilical cord was linked. Fascinatingly, a captive female in Virginia fertilized her own eggs (became pregnant without contact with a male), providing evidence that these sharks are capable of parthenogenesis.

All shark species found in the lake can be fished, except silky sharks and sandbar sharks, which are very unlikely to be seen in the lake but can be found along the coast of Louisiana. Make sure to check the specific rules for each species. Blacktip sharks can be fished with a possession limit of one per fishing vessel.

7) Blue catfish (Ictalurus furcatus)

Blue catfish in net
The size limit for blue catfish in Lake Pontchartrain is 12 inches. Tim / CC BY 4.0

Native to North America

The blue catfish is a member of the Ictaluridae family (North American freshwater catfishes). It is among the most common catfishes in Lake Pontchartrain and can be distinguished from the similar channel catfish by its lack of spots on the back and sides. The fish is silvery-white, although the color can vary depending on water quality. It has a flat dorsal fin and a deeply forked tail. The four pairs of barbels around their mouth have a high concentration of taste buds and are used when the catfish searches for food. As opportunistic omnivores, they feed on anything, including fishes, shellfish, mollusks, plant matter, and aquatic invertebrates, and will also scavenge for food.

The blue catfish as well as the channel catfish can be caught at Lake Pontchartrain with a daily limit of 100 in the aggregate, 25 of which can be undersized of the species combined. The size limit for the blue catfish is 12 inches. The blue catfish is the largest species of catfish in North America. As recently as January 2022, Carl Schmidt caught a 45-pound blue catfish in this lake.

8) Bull shark (Carcharhinus leucas)

Bull shark underwater
Bull sharks are very good at tolerating low salinity levels. Lucy Keith-Diagne / CC BY 4.0

Native to warm oceans worldwide

The bull shark is a large predatory shark species in the Carcharhinidae family (requiem sharks). They have a grey dorsal side and a white belly, and a somewhat stout appearance. The bull shark has somewhat small eyes for a member of the Carcharhinus genus. Therefore, it relies more on its other senses compared to other members of the family. They feed opportunistically on pretty much anything, which makes them one of the most responsible shark species for most attacks on humans (117 total, 25 of which were fatal). A series of attacks in 1916 became the inspiration for Jaws by Peter Benchley, which was later adapted to a movie.

The bull shark is known to swim up rivers and estuaries, often staying in brackish or even fresh waters as juveniles. Their ability to tolerate freshwater is exceptional among sharks, with very few species capable of surviving in low salinity. To achieve this, they have special glands and adaptations to their kidney functions, which allow them to retain a higher internal salt level compared to the water they swim in.

9) Channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus)

Channel catfish in net
In Lake Pontchartrain, the size limit for channel catfish is 11 inches. Tim / CC BY 4.0

Native to North and Central America

The channel catfish is a member of the Ictaluridae family (North American freshwater catfishes). The Latin name is of Greek origin and is made up of the words ‘ictalurus’ meaning fish cat and ‘punctatus’ meaning spotted, which refers to the dark spots scattered across the body. Their base color is grey to olive and they have a pale belly. Eight taste-sensitive barbels surround their mouth and help them locate food in murky waters. They were originally believed to be quite sensitive to salinity, but they can tolerate salinities up to 11.3 ppt, while the eggs seem to tolerate salinity levels up to about 16 ppt.

The channel catfish lives in lakes and deep pools and feeds on clams, snails, aquatic insects, crustaceans, fish, and even small mammals. They prefer clean, well-oxygenated water. The channel catfish as well as the blue catfish can be caught at Lake Pontchartrain with a daily limit of 100 in the aggregate, 25 of which can be undersized of the species combined. The size limit for the channel catfish is 11 inches.

10) Crevalle jack (Caranx hippos)

Caught crevalle jack
The crevalle jack is popular with anglers as a sports fish, but is not considered to be an important commercial species. Lauren McLaurin / CC BY 4.0

Native to tropical and temperate waters of the Atlantic Ocean

The crevalle jack is a member of the Carangidae family (jacks and pompanos). It has a green to blue dorsal side and silver or golden belly and fins. They can grow to 40 inches (1 meter) and are popular sports fish, even though they aren’t considered an important commercial fish. Cases of ciguatera poisoning have been associated with this species. The toxin is produced by a dinoflagellate (algae) and accumulates in the flesh of the fish. Cooking does not destroy the poison! Common signs  of poisoning are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach pains.

The primary food source of the crevalle jack is fish, varying from 40% to 96%. Clupeids such as herrings, shads, and sardines are their primary prey in Louisiana. Invertebrates such as crabs, shrimp, and mollusks also make up a substantial part of their diet. On average, larger crevalle jacks seem to be more opportunistic and consume a wider range of prey species than smaller individuals. While primarily feeding on small schooling fish, their feeding habits seem to be strongly linked to food availability, with some individuals even feeding on aquatic vegetation.

11) Gafftopsail catfish (Bagre marinus)

Caught gafftopsail catfish
Gafftopsail catfish should always be handled with care, as they have bony spines that can easily pierce a human’s skin. Cody Stricker / CC BY 4.0

Native to the west central Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean Sea

The gafftopsail sea catfish is a charismatic member of the Ariidae family (sea catfishes). They get their name from their sail-like dorsal fin. They have a silver to almost iridescent color and a deeply forked tail fin. They have four barbels surrounding their mouth. The gafftopsail sea catfish is normally considered a marine species. However, it can be found in estuaries and lagoons of high salinity. The species was last assessed by the IUCN in 2014, where they were given the status of ‘Least Concern’, which reflects their relative abundance.

Note that the gafftopsail sea catfish should always be handled with care and preferably using gloves. They have three serrated bony spines in their pectoral and dorsal fins, which can easily penetrate human skin. In addition, the spines are covered in toxic mucus, which is secreted by a mucus gland in their skin. Any puncture from this fish will be throbbing with persistent and intense pain, which can spread. The venom can result in muscle spasms and profuse sweating, and the spine can lead to infections. The pain from the venom can be controlled by placing the wounded area in hot water (not scalding!), approximately 122 °F (50 °C).

12) Gulf sheepshead (Archosargus probatocephalus)

Gulf sheepshead
Gulf sheepshead are quite easy to identify due to the distinct black & white stripes on their body. birdingtexan / CC BY 4.0

Native to the western Atlantic

The gulf sheepshead is a member of the Sparidae family (porgies). They have very characteristic black and white stripes running down the body, which makes them hard to mistake for other species. Despite the visual characteristics being dissimilar, the gulf sheepshead is closely related to the sea bream and the pinfish. In Florida, hybridization occurs between female gulf sheepshead and male sea bream and could happen in other areas where the two species’ ranges overlap. The rate of hybridization can be increased by anthropogenic interference.

Gulf sheepshead spawn in large groups in early spring, after which the adults and juveniles migrate back to estuarine habitats. The females are capable of spawning multiple times in the relatively short breeding season. The gulf sheepshead is a functional gonochorist, which means that the individual fish has the potential to develop into either a male or female. This is seen as a pre-adaptation to hermaphroditism, where adult fish have both male and female reproductive organs. This is a condition that is more common in the Sparidae family than in other fish families.

13) Gulf sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus desotoi)

Gulf sturgeon head
Gulf sturgeon cannot be fished in Lake Pontchartrain and are fully protected throughout their native range. USFWS Endangered Species, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Native to Florida, Mississippi, and Louisiana

The gulf sturgeon is a sub-species of the Atlantic sturgeon, a member of the Acipenseridae family (sturgeons). The family is known from fossils dating back to the Triassic period (245 million to 206 million years ago), which makes sturgeon some of the oldest known ray-finned fishes. The earliest North American sturgeons are known from the Late Cretaceous (100.5 to 66 million years ago). Their characteristic bony plates (scutes) are thickened scales, which act as armor.

This sub-species can be distinguished by squarish dorsal scutes that each have two pronounced hooks. The gulf sturgeon is anadromous, which means that they spawn in freshwater like many salmonids, before heading to sea as juveniles. After reaching adulthood, they return to the freshwater rivers in the summer to spawn. Their eggs are adhesive and can be found attached to rocks and pebbles. Sturgeon eggs, known as caviar, are very popular to eat. This has been detrimental to the species. They have been listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act since 1991, as the population size was greatly reduced because of overfishing. The species is fully protected throughout its range and cannot be fished in Lake Pontchartrain. There is no legal harvest or possession.

14) Hardhead catfish (Ariopsis felis)

Caught hardhead catfish
In Louisiana, hardhead catfish are quite a common catch in the state’s coastal waters. CK Kelly / CC BY 4.0

Native to the northwest Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico

The hardhead sea catfish is a member of the Ariidae family (sea catfishes) and is named for its hard, bony plate that is located at the neck of the fish and extends towards the dorsal fin. The rear dorsal fin is set apart from the other fins by its dark color and lack of sharp spines. These spines sometimes cause injury and are poisonous, and therefore the fish should be handled with care. The dorsal side of the fish has a silver to blue tint, while the belly is white. They have 4 taste-sensitive chin barbels, which help them locate food and determine whether a potential food item is palatable.

The hardhead sea catfish is common in the coastal waters of Louisiana. They are opportunistic feeders on decaying organic material, crustaceans, and other fish. They spawn from May to early August. In contrast to most marine species, female hardhead sea catfish lay at most 100 eggs during one breeding season. Interestingly, the developing eggs inside the female are placed in a pause phase in the non-breeding season, which makes it possible to develop very large eggs in a short breeding season. To protect the eggs and developing larvae, they exhibit a behavior known as mouth-brooding, where the male holds the developing offspring in his mouth.

15) Ladyfish (Elops saurus)

Ladyfish in hand
Ladyfish are quite sensitive to water temperature and can only survive in cold waters for a short period of time. Cody Stricker / CC BY 4.0

Native to the Atlantic Coast of North America and the Gulf of Mexico

The ladyfish is a slender member of the Elopidae family (tenpounders) with elongated and pointed fins and a deeply forked tail fin. Their long body is bright silver and their habit of skipping when hooked has led them to be known among anglers as ‘skipjack’ or ‘springer’. The ladyfish is typically found in brackish water since they tolerate a broad range of salinities. Sometimes, they can even be found quite far from the coast. However, they are more sensitive to water temperature; they can survive low temperatures but only for short periods of time.

In 2010, the former ladyfish was separated into two; Elops saurus and Elops smithi. Elops saurus might now be referred to as ladyfish or more specifically as the northern ladyfish. The two nearly identical species can be distinguished genetically and morphologically. By counting the gill rakers or vertebrae in the adult fish or the myomeres in the larvae, the interested can recognize the northern ladyfish by a total of 79 – 87 vertebrae, while E. smithi has fewer vertebrae. The two species might overlap in early life stages, however, they seem to separate as adults. While the two species have not been investigated on their own by the IUCN yet, the northern ladyfish is listed as Least Concern.

16) Largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides)

Largemouth bass underwater
There is a daily possession limit of 10 largemouth bass in Lake Pontchartrain. Kalvin Chan / CC BY 4.0

Native to North America and northern Mexico

The largemouth bass is a member of the Centrarchidae family (sunfishes). They forage opportunistically on prey ranging from about 1/10 to 2/3 the length of the bass. They consume tadpoles, crayfish, and various species of fish. A study investigating the handling time for different prey items showed that the largemouth bass uses more time when handling larger prey. However, the trickiest food item for largemouth bass is the crayfish.

Importantly, the largemouth bass serves as a host for the freshwater mussel Lampsilis ornate, a species of particular concern in Louisiana. The freshwater mussel attaches to the gills of the fish in the glochidia state (as microscopic larvae), where they stay until they reach the juvenile state.

The largemouth bass can be fished at Lake Pontchartrain without a size limit and with a daily possession limit of 10. The fishing varies over the year and has two peak seasons: March to April and October to November. The largemouth bass originates in the eastern United States but is one of the most widely distributed fish today, due to their popularity as sports fish.

17) Red drum (Sciaenops ocellatus)

Caught red drum
The red drum was listed as ‘Least Concern’ by the IUCN in 2020 and you can catch 5 of them every day in Lake Pontchartrain. Steve Taylor / CC BY 4.0

Native to the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico

The red drum is a member of the Sciaenidae family (drums or croakers), and like other members of this family, they produce a drumming sound during spawning. While the name points to the common red-brownish color, the color can range from blackish to nearly silver. However, all red drums have one large black spot surrounded by white on the upper tail base. The red drum was most recently assessed by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species in 2020. Here, the species was listed as ‘Least Concern’.

The red drum is a popular sports fish in the lake restricted to a fishing limit of 5 per person per day with a minimum length of 16 inches and a max of 27 inches. They typically inhabit coastal waters and estuaries over muddy bottoms with submerged vegetation. They can be found around oyster reefs and in surprisingly shallow waters. Their diet follows a seasonal pattern, with white shrimp being important during fall and Gulf menhaden during spring. Blue crab is a constant part of their diet year-round. They primarily feed in shallow waters near the shore.

18) Sand seatrout (Cynoscion arenarius)

Sand seatrout
Although they look similar, the sand seatrout does not have dark spots on its body like the spotted seatrout does. CK Kelly / CC BY 4.0

Native to Florida and the Gulf of Mexico

The sand seatrout, also known as white trout, is a member of the Sciaenidae family (drums or croakers). They have a slender body with a sand-colored dorsal side, which fades to a white belly. Similarly, to the spotted seatrout, the sand seatrout has a yellow patch in its mouth. The two species can be difficult to distinguish, but this species does not have dark spots, unlike spotted seatrout. The sand seatrout is found in waters with muddy or sandy bottoms. They feed on fish, shrimp, and crustaceans.

The sand seatrout can be found in inshore waters, but they migrate offshore to spawn. They display two discreet spawning peaks. One in spring from March to May and another in late summer from August to September. The newly hatched larvae are transported to their nurseries by the currents. The sand seatrout reaches sexual maturity in less than a year and has an average lifespan of six years. The species was most recently assessed by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species in 2020. Here, the species was listed as ‘Least Concern’.

19) Southern flounder (Paralichthys lethostigma)

Southern flounder in net
Southern flounder is a commercially important species that is at risk of exploitation. evangrimes / CC BY 4.0

Native to the Atlantic Coast of North America and the Gulf of Mexico

The southern flounder is a member of the Paralichthyidae family (large-tooth flounders), which, like other flounders, has a characteristic flat body with both eyes on one side. They have a muddy, speckled color, which allows them to blend in with the bottom substrate of the bays and estuaries they inhabit. As the water cools, they move to deeper waters. The adults feed primarily on fishes, crabs, and shrimps, whereas the juveniles eat bottom-dwelling invertebrates.

The southern flounder can be caught in the lake at a daily possession limit of 10 fish per person with no official size limits. However, the species was assessed by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species in 2015. In this assessment, the southern flounder was listed as ‘Near Threatened’. As a commercially important species, one of the major threats the species faces is exploitation. Another is anthropogenic development and the recreational use of estuaries; a habitat this species is strongly dependent on. However, the monitoring of the species in Louisiana waters reveals that the population here is stable.

20) Spotted gar (Lepisosteus oculatus)

Spotted gar underwater
There are no size or daily creel limits for spotted gar in Lake Pontchartrain. Sydney Dragon / CC BY 4.0

Native to North America

The spotted gar is a member of the Lepisosteidae family (gars), and like other members of this family, they have a long body and an elongated, almost bill-like, snout. The mouth is filled with sharp teeth. They have a dark dorsal side and a cream-colored belly. The dorsal side and fins have distinct dark spots, which distinguishes the spotted gar from other related species. They prefer clear, heavily vegetated waters, where they can be on the look-out for potential prey. Most of their diet consists of fish, especially shad, however in Lake Pontchartrain and other sea-connected habitats, they also consume crab.

The spotted gar is a facultative air-breather, which means that it can gulp air when the level of dissolved oxygen in the water is low. Early studies of this behavior showed that the rate of aerial breathing increases as the water temperature increases. However, independent of the water temperature, aerial breathing is more common during dark hours compared to daylight hours. Note that the spotted gar will gulp air even when the level of dissolved oxygen is sufficient. The spotted gar can be fished in Lake Pontchartrain without size and daily creel limits.

21) Spotted seatrout (Cynoscion nebulosus)

Caught spotted seatrout
Spotted seatrout can tolerate a wide range of salinity levels, from 0.2 ppt to 70 ppt! Lexi Amico / CC BY 4.0

Native to the western Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico

The spotted seatrout, also commonly known as the speckled trout or spotted weakfish, is, despite its name, not a trout. The species is a member of the Sciaenidae family (drums or croakers) and like other members of this family, they make a distinct noise. The body of the spotted seatrout is a bright silver with distinct black spots on the upper half, dorsal fins, and tail. They inhabit estuaries, shallow marine waters, and salt marshes.

Spotted seatrout are euryhaline, which means they are adapted to a wide range of salinities. The adult fish has been found in waters with salinities ranging from 0.2 ppt to 70 ppt. The tolerance is slightly lower for larvae with an upper tolerance of around 49.8 ppt. It has also been shown that while the eggs will hatch at higher salinities, the egg yolk feeding the growing larvae depletes faster in more saline environments.

The spotted seatrout is a popular sports fish at Lake Pontchartrain. The official possession limit is 25 per person daily or 15 per person daily with no more than two over 25 inches. The minimum total length of a catch is 12 inches.

22) Striped bass (Morone saxatilis)

Striped bass
Only two striped bass over 30 inches long can be caught per day in Lake Pontchartrain. Clara Dandridge / CC BY 4.0

Native to the Atlantic Coast of North America and the Gulf of Mexico

The striped bass is a member of the Moronidae family (temperate basses) and is the largest species in the sea bass family. In contrast to species like the largemouth bass, which as mentioned earlier in the article, belong to the Centrarchidae family (sunfish), the striped bass is a ‘true’ bass and is therefore sometimes referred to as such. A characteristic of the true basses is the two distinct dorsal fins, where the first has strong spiny rays, and the second has soft rays. The body is silver, darker on the dorsal side, and lighter on the ventricular side. They have 7 – 8 horizontal stripes and two sharp points on their gill cover, which distinguishes them from the white bass.

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species most recently assessed the Striped Bass in 2019, where it was listed as ‘Least Concern’. However, a subpopulation of the species known as the Gulf striped bass, whose historical range included Lake Pontchartrain, has been extirpated from Louisiana since the 1970s.

The striped bass can be caught at Lake Pontchartrain by recreational anglers. There is no size limit, however the possession limit for fish over 30 inches is two, while the general possession limit is 5 daily per person.

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