Photo Credit: Janet Jordan
The spotted seatrout (Cynoscion Nebulosos), also known as Speckled Trout, Specs, and Yellow Mouth, are a mainstay of inshore fishing. These fish have saved many an angler from a day of being skunked. They are present year round and are relatively easy to catch. The Sea Trout is a game fish included in the big three for a slam in many regions.
The Seatrout is a member of the Drum fish family. Its primary green and gray coloration also has shades of blue, white, and pink. The most distinguishable marking is the black circular spot located behind its head on the fins and tail. This fish also can be identified by its prominent canine teeth that resemble fangs. The Seatrout use these to impale their prey and swallow them whole. Their bodies are elongated and the lower jaw protrudes further than the upper jaw. They have no barbels, but just like their cousins, they make a croaking noise as a defense mechanism and to lure in the ladies.
Unlike many other inshore fish, the Seatrout never ventures far from home, thriving mainly in estuaries. The smaller Trout travel in schools, preferring water from 60 to 80 degrees. Larger Trout, called Gators, can weigh as much as 17 pounds. These big guys prefer to swim alone. Their seasonal patterns are fairly simple. In the summer, during the morning and the later hours of the evening, they will cruise the grass flats seeking food. As it warms throughout the day, these fish retreat to deeper, cooler water. In the winter, the Seatrout reside in canals, rivers, and deep holes, where the water temperature remains warm. They are predatory hunters, hiding on the outskirts of portholes waiting to ambush their prey. Seatrout can be found as far north as New England and as far south as Mexico, although they are uncommon north of Delaware Bay.
Mud Minnows, Finger Mullet, Pinfish, and Shrimp are some of their favorite meals. Whether you use a float or freeline, circle hook or jig, these are relatively easy fish to catch. Fishing for Seatrout is a great starting point if you’re a novice at using artificial soft baits and lures. Topwater plugs, spoons, and jigs can all be used successfully. If you find one fish, chances are you’ll find a school. The Seatrout is a delicate fish; they have a protective coating of slime and, when caught with the intent to release, it’s best not to touch them. Unlike other inshore sport fish, they have delicate mouths and jaws, and in some regions are actually referred to as Paper Mouths.
Sight fishing for Seatrout can be difficult, as their colors blend in with their surrounding in a chameleon-like fashion. This is when an angler needs to use all of their senses. Sight is very important. Watch the birds–feeding Seatrout will stir up bait fish and birds dive to get their dinner. Listen for the sound of baitfish breaking the surface and the popping noise of feeding Seatrout. They will often go into feeding frenzies, and when this happens, they regurgitate their food, creating a slick on the top of the water. This slick, which smells similar to watermelon or bubble gum, will identify their location.
A lighter touch is required to catch these fish. When setting the hook, be gentle. It’s easy to damage the jaw of the fish and lose them. They tend to surface when you fight them and do an awkward water ballet, making it easy for them to throw the hook.
Lastly, Seatrout have a mild, white, flaky meat. They can be cooked in a variety of ways–skin on or off–and are delicious no matter how they’re prepared. It’s important to note that when caught, these fish need to be put on ice immediately and are better consumed fresh than frozen. In most regions, these fish are abundant, allowing anglers a healthy bag limit.