Inshore Spotted Seatrout Fishing

Common Spotted Seatrout Names:

“Speckled Sea Trout”, “Yellow Mouth”, “Sea Trout”, “Spotted Trout”, “Specks”

Spotted Seatrout Description:

Besides its name, the spotted seatrout is not a member of the trout family (Salmonidae), but of the drum family (Sciaenidae). It is most popular for recreational fishing in southeastern coastal waters of the United States. Dark gray and green with a pinkish blue iridescence above then smoothly shading to a silvery white belly; numerous irregularly scattered ovoid black spots on back and along the sides, extending to the dorsal fins and tail which are always spotted. Two large canine-like teeth at tip of upper jaw, all other teeth are smaller, gradually increasing in size along the lower jaw. Often confused with the “Summer Trout”, “Weakfish”, or “Grey Trout” by novice saltwater anglers.

Spotted Seatrout Habitat:

Speckled trout tend to live in or near the same saltwater bay or sound their entire lives. Speckled trout move within the estuary on a mostly seasonal basis. Spotted seatrout prefer sandy, grassy or shell flats, and tidal areas the coastal salt marsh. They can also be found throughout inshore rivers, salt ponds and beaches. Typically, they spend their summers in high-salinity coastal areas and winter in the lower salinity waters of the upper brackish estuary seeking deeper water during the coldest weather. All life stages prefer moderate salinities; however, the larvae appear more susceptible to periods of low salinities resulting in higher mortality from significant freshwater influx. Spotted seatrout are a sub-tropical species which are highly vulnerable to “cold kills”.

  • All spotted seatrout age groups prefer inshore live bottom: estuaries and inshore rivers, coastal bays and sounds, front beaches of barrier sea islands, and along the back side breakers.
  • Juveniles: Shallow tidal creeks and salt marsh estuaries, submerged vegetation and structure.
  • Sub-adults inhabit larger tidal creeks and open estuaries.
  • Adults: Common near high salinity salt marsh edges and over seagrass meadows along coastal tidal creek mouths and channels, over oyster reefs and fast rips with quick access to deeper water.

Spotted Seatrout Life Cycle:

  • Spawn: April – September in moderate salinity of deeper inshore estuaries
  • Spawning aggregations occur at night, around piers and dock lights, pilings, bridges, sand points, and holes
  • To attract females to the spawning aggregation sites, males create drumming sounds by vibrating the swim-bladder
  • Larvae utilize shallow tidal creeks as nurseries from June – November
  • Larger juveniles move into deeper creeks and waters in the fall, often schooling with similar sized fish
  • Approximate size at maturity: males – 9”, females – 10”
  • Average: 14”, 1.3 lbs
  • Maximum Size: Up to 40 inches. 6 pounds is common but can get up to or over 10
  • Age at Maturity: 1 – 2 years
  • Maximum Age: approx. 8 – 10 years
  • Range: New York to Texas
  • During the winter of 2000-2001, temperatures dropped quickly resulting in a massive cold kill. A similar, but less severe, coastal fish kill occurred in January 2010

Spotted Seatrout Foraging Habits:

Spotted seatrout larvae consume zooplankton; being primarily copepods.

Juvenile spotted sea trout prey on small organisms like: opossum shrimps, grass shrimps, mysid shrimps, copepods, and amphipods located near shallow tidal creeks and marsh grass edges. Fishes such as spot, and mud minnows become a greater portion of the diet as their size increases quickly.

Adults: Large adult sea trout eat menhaden, spot, mullet, croaker, mud minnows, and occasionally grass and penaeid. Smaller adults consume larger amounts of crustaceans but also consume fishes.

Spotted Seatrout Abundance and Mortality:

Temperature and salinity are the main influence to distribution and abundance. In the United States south eastern Sea Islands, seatrout typically inhabit areas surrounding the coastal estuaries year-round, but may also congregate for overwintering in deeper channels and inshore rivers as excessive cold can result in mass mortality events.

Spotted Seatrout Bait and Tackle:
  • Spinning and baitcasting tackle work well
  • Any kind of cut fish, squid, dead shrimp, or small fish in a pinch
  • The #1 spotted seatrout candy are large live shrimps
  • The #1 magic water temperature for spotted seatrout is 65°
  • At a water temp of 65°, spotted seatrout congregate around inlet structure and jetties
  • Plastic lures like the Rapala X-Rap Saltwater Fishing Lure and jigs will also be used in the fall – winter
  • Free-lined live shrimps or small pinfish and grunts near the bottom will entice trout out of holes
  • A slip float like the Cajun Thunder or DOA Deadly Combo will allow these baits to drift over the grass beds as you target trout holes
  • Soft-bodied jigs like the Egrets VuDu Shrimp, top-water poppers and spoons can be effective at dawn and dusk
  • Trout are very delicate, return undersized fish to the water promptly to reduce mortality rates
Spotted Seatrout Food Value:

Superior