This is a favorite among locals and visitors alike. Called by many names, Speck, Speckled fish, Spotted Sea Trout and others, it is not a true trout but rather is in the drum family. It’s appearance somewhat resembles a trout thus the name.
Speckled Sea Trout
It is a sturdy fish with an elongated, streamlined body. The mouth is large with a larger lower jaw and an upper jaw with two prominent canine teeth. The dorsal fin is divided by a deep notch. The Spotted Seatrout is silvery in color with olive green tints on the back. It has a lateral line which runs from just behind the gills to the tail, above which are numerous black spots which extend onto the second half of the dorsal fin.
The fish prefers water temperatures in the 65 to 75 degree F. range. They can be found in just about any inshore or near shore waters. From the surf and jetties, grass flats and shell banks to inland coastal rivers. The average fish ranges in size from 14” to 25” and can weigh from about a pound up to over five pounds. Larger fish can be found and the world record is 17 pounds 7 ounces. Anglers refer to the largest of these as “gators”
Spotted seatrout prefer shallower bays and estuaries with oyster beds and seagrass beds that attract prey species. They are most common in the shallow bays during spring and summer. As water temperatures decline during fall, fish move into deeper waters. As water temperatures warm in the spring the fish move back into the shallows of the creeks and bays. During periods of low rainfall and runoff, many trout often move into deeper rivers and with the first cool weather of fall. Similar concentrations occur at dredged boat harbors and channels.
How to catch
Spotted seatrout are opportunistic carnivores whose feeding habits vary with size. Small trout feed primarily on small crustaceans. Medium-size trout feed on shrimp and small fish. Large fish feed almost exclusively on other fish such as mullet, pinfish, pigfish and menhaden. This preference for large fish makes large trout difficult to catch. Large trout do not feed often and few anglers like to use 12-inch live mullet for bait.
Experienced trout anglers have their own combination of bait, tackle, location, etc. for catching fish. The following is offered primarily for the novice with the expectation that use of the suggestions as a starting point will lead to the development of his or her own “magic” for catching trout.
Any light to medium action rod and reel combination is appropriate since most spotted seatrout caught are in the 2-3 pound range. Equipment designed for use in salt water is essential because of the corrosive nature of sea water.
The most popular terminal tackle for Specks is the popping cork rig. Best results are achieved by popping the cork periodically to simulate live action. By varying the retrieve, frequency of popping, and the depth of bait, the best action for the catching trout can be found. The best bait for catching trout is live shrimp. Live fish such as mullet or pinfish and dead shrimp can also be effective.
If the cork is removed and the sinker is replaced with a very small weight, it is called a “free shrimping” rig. The same types of bait can be used with this tackle. This method is effective when drift fishing from a boat or when fishing in areas with strong tidal flow. The bait is allowed to drift freely in water. Adjust the weight of sinker and amount of line out to move the bait up or down in the water until fish are found.
A conventional bottom rig may be used when trout are found to be feeding near the bottom. Artificial baits are effective for catching trout the year round. although many types and styles of artificial baits exist, generally they can be classified in three ways; jigs, spoons and fishlike lures.
Jigs may be fished singly or in pairs either with or without the use of a cork. They are very effective fished under lights at night when trout congregate to feed. Worm jigs, fished under a small popping cork in grassy flats are effective. Try them without corks in deep guts or channels. Vary the action, depth fished and lure color. Hot pink, root beer, dark red and white are good colors.
Spoons are very effective, particularly during the warmer months. Silver is probably the best color. Vary the speed and depth of the retrieve, as well as the weight and size of the spoon. A bucktail fastened to the spoon with the hook or a bucktail and hook trailed to 12 to 18 inches behind the spoon is often successful.
Try the fishlike lures during the cooler months, although they can be effective anytime. They are especially good fished very slowly, during cold weather.
When fishing shallow water during cold weather, some anglers move the point of line attachment from on top of the lure head to the snout tip to permit slower retrieval while keeping the lure off the bottom.
Again, vary the retrieve, size, color, and weight. Floating lures have recently become popular with fishers stalking large trout in shallow water during the warm months. The movement of the lure at the surface may be especially enticing to trout.
Spotted sea trout is a good quality seafood and is a favorite dish for many people.