Spotted seatrout or speckled trout aren’t actually trout, not being part of the Salmonidae family, as the steelhead and rainbow trout. They’re actually part of the Sciaenidae family, brothers with the drums or croakers.
Although they’re not heavy fighters like many fish with superior game importance, spotted seatrout are still prized among anglers as they’re hard strikers, they can be caught with light and easy tackle, with a variety of lures, resulting in quality fishing.
Spotted Trout – Habitat and Habits
Spotted trout are widespread along the South Atlantic Ocean, populating the coastal waters of the United States and Gulf of Mexico. They can be caught especially on the coasts of Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama and Texas, but they’re also present on the coasts of Virginia, and North and South Carolina. They are estuarine fish, preferring inshore or nearshore, typically shallow waters, always keeping close to grassy beds or shorelines with mangroves, under docks, over oyster beds or in channels with plenty of vegetation. However, they can also be caught in the surf and sometimes in fairly deep gulf waters.
The best time of the year to catch speckled trout is between April and July. Also, when temperature drops, they tend to go pretty far up coastal rivers. In autumn, winter and early spring, it’s best to look for them in deeper holes, as they seek warmer waters, or dead-end pipe-line canals.
Fishing Methods for Spotted Trout
Sport fishing for spotted or speckled trout can be done in a variety of ways. Drifting, casting, bottom fishing, fly fishing or wading, and surf fishing are some of the common methods used.
An important aspect about speckled trout fishing that any angler should know, is that they’re pretty much delicate fish, and must be handled with extra care. It’s best to hold them from the lower jaw to minimize damaging their coating, and of course, if practicing catch and release, they should be put into the water as quickly as possible.
Baits and Lures for Spotted Trout
Small fish and crustaceans are high on the feeding list of the spotted trout. One of the best baits for them is live shrimp. When it comes to small baitfish, you can never go wrong with pogies, croakers and minnows. Cocahoe minnows are some of the best to use.
When it comes to lures, minnow and shrimp imitating lures are almost always a good choice. Anyway, to get into specifics, here are a couple of lures to try on specks: Rebel and Rapala Minnows, Daiwa SP Salt Pro Minnows, D.O.A Shrimp, Johnson spoons, Zara Spooks, Gulp! soft plastics and Mirr-O-Lures top dogs.
Fly fishing for spotted trout is also a delight. So, if you want to try out some flies on inshore specks, a few good choices would be Dahlberg Divers, Mirr-O-Lure flies or Borski Shrimp flies. Playing a submerged fly like you would play a jig usually provides furious strikes.
Tackle for Spotted Trout
Rods. Your ideal omni-rod for inshore spotted trout is a medium power, fast or medium-fast action, 6’6″ – 7’6″ rod. There are plenty of cheap, yet quality rods out there, to fit to this profile. For example, you can go with a Fenwick HMX, Abu Garcia Vengeance, a 7-feet Castaway or a Shakespeare Ugly Stik. If you’re going to try your luck with flies, your typical trout fly rod should do just fine.
Last but not least, for still fishing or surf fishing, a medium power / action rod, 7′ – 9′ is more appropriate.
Reels. An appropriate reel for your omni-rod should be a spinning one, within the 2500-3500 range. A few good alternatives would be: Daiwa Exceller 2500 TSH, Shimano FX2500FB, Sedona, or Stella 2500, or a Tica SX2500 Libra.
Line. Depending on the size of the fish you’re targeting and the weight of lures used, your speckled trout line can fall between 8 – 20lb. test monofilament or fluorocarbon. They have powerful bites, and you won’t need braided line to feel their bite. However, if still fishing or surf fishing, braided line may be more indicated. Also, when fishing with lures in windy conditions, braided line can also work better, as it cuts easier through the wind.
Rigs. When still fishing, in deeper holes or channels, or in shallow waters with stronger currents, Carolina rigs are a good choice. And if you’re using live minnows, it’s best to hook them from the lower jaw or their dorsal fin. Also, in the surf, you might as well go with dropper rigs.
Hooks. J-hooks and circle hooks are both good options, but I’ve always leaned towards circle hooks, as specks are almost always come hooked by the corner of their mouth when using circle hooks, which makes them much easier to unhook them without severe damage. Depending on the baits you’re using, your hooks for spotted trout should range between 1/0 and 4/0.