Spotted Sea Trout (a.k.a. Speckled Trout)
If you are looking for a fish that is eager to bite and really fun to catch, spotted sea trout (Cynoscion nebulous) is the one for you! Also known as speckled trout, sea trout, spotted weakfish, speck, and speckled sea trout, these fish are not actually trout. Speckled trout are members of the drum family along with redfish, croaker, black drum and John Bonham ; ). Speckled trout, as well as other members of the drum family, make a croaking or drumming sound by vibrating super fast sonic muscles again their swim bladder.
Irregular black spots, extending from the dorsal (upper) to caudal (tail) fin, cover the upper half of the elongated silvery body of the spotted sea trout. The dorsal side of the speck are dark gray or green with bluish reflections fading to silvery white ventrally (on the underside or belly). All the fins, except the dusky colored dorsal fin, are pale to yellowish in color. Also, spotted sea trout have a pair of canine teeth on their upper jaw and a row of closely set together teeth on the bottom. Their teeth are noticeable enough that they were named for the characteristic. In the genus of their scientific name, Cynoscion, cyno means ‘dog-like' and scion means ‘sea-fish’. And now you have a new nickname for your dog when it goes swimming :D.
Shallow sandy bottoms (and I’m not talking about yours after a day at the beach), seagrass and oyster beds, and brackish estuaries are the habitat of choice for these opportunistic carnivores. Considered a demersal fish, sea trout live on or near the bottom in the demersal (seabed) zone and are primarily bottom feeders. I like to think that this means speckled trout are fish of leisure that eat almost all of their meals in bed (lol). They will swim in small schools with the incoming tide and feed in the shallow areas on crustaceans, shrimp, and small bony fish like pinfish, mullet, silversides, and menhaden. Spotted sea trout are definitely not “weak” fish when it comes to feeding, as they are ambush predators that lunge at their prey, grab it with their sharp canine teeth, then swallow the meal whole.
Specks rarely migrate far from the area where they were spawned. Peak spawning occurs from June through August during nighttime hours, and spawning behavior consists of drumming, jumping and side to side body contact of the individuals. A regular night at the club hahaha!
Experienced anglers have their own combination of bait, tackle, and location for catching these salt water sport fish. The novice can start with a popping cork rig with their bait of choice which can include live mullet , live pinfish, live or dead shrimp, or artificial baits. Lures, jigs, and spoons can be used to fish for speckled trout as well. The IGFA world record is 17 pounds, 7 ounces caught by Craig Carson near Fort Pierce, Florida. I have attached a couple of fish tales and a “how to” explanation of the popping cork rig for your entertaining stay at home reading. As always, I recommend heading out to fish as much as possible (while social distancing) to discover your favorite tackle combination for catching the exciting and delicious spotted sea trout. Please share any photos or fish tales for us to enjoy!
Popping cork rig: