ON LAKE PONTCHARTRAIN, La. – It’s one thing to have a fishing guide who puts you on fish. It’s an entirely different thing to have a fishing guide who also imparts a sense of place.
If you engage Captain Kenny Kreeger for a day of fishing and conversation, you’ll leave St. Tammany Parish with more than tales about the speckled trout and redfish you caught.
You’ll learn about fishing as a way of life, about parts of society that probably are alien to you and perhaps about the harsh realities of Hurricane Katrina.
Kreeger has seen it all – the good, the bad, the exciting, the beautiful.
Kreeger is a tall, powerful man in his 60s, a physique that served him well in his long career as a deputy sheriff.
“I’ve been shot at, but I never shot anybody,” he allowed in a quiet moment after describing a bruising hand-to-hand fight with a drug-addled citizen.
He smiles more when he talks about growing up in south Louisiana.
“My daddy raised six kids catching crabs,” he said, giving an insight into how the natural richness of Louisiana’s waters nurtures its residents. “I crabbed with my daddy, but I liked fishing more.”
Indeed, he’s been fishing since he was 5 years old, and he’s been charter fishing for decades.
He’s partial to portions of Lake Pontchartrain, often starting out from Rigolets Marina in Slidell.
He really gets pensive when someone brings up Hurricane Katrina.
Rigolets Marina was under 22 feet of water. Kreeger’s house, three miles inland, was in 8.5 feet of water.
“Pine trees that were 400 years old cut my house in half. I lost everything I own, but I was watching everybody else and wondering, ‘What are these people going to do?’” he said reflectively, describing how he and other first-responders dealt with tragedy.
Tragedy isn’t the topic when the fish start cooperating.
“Lake Pontchartrain covers 625 square miles. It’s fun to fish the bridge pilings and along some residential shorefronts. But I’ll take guests to Lake St. Catherine, Lake Borgne, the east mouth of the Pearl River. We’ll go where the fish are,” he said.
His own big fish was a whopper – a speckled trout weighing 11.99 pounds. It was the second largest ever caught in Louisiana.
Kreeger likes the fact that he can have you with a line in the water within 15 minutes of leaving the marina.
Part of the fun is not knowing what you might catch. Here’s a partial list: Flounder, sheepshead, black drum, speckled trout, redfish, white trout, catfish, whiting, mangrove snapper, pinfish, largemouth bass, white perch, gafftop and string rays.
Kreeger loves it when a client scores what he calls a saltwater grand slam. That means catching a flounder, a speckled trout and a redfish on the same trip.
“Still, the best fishermen out here are brown pelicans,” he said.
* Travel resources: LakePontchartrainCharters.com and LouisianaNorthShore.com