The spotted seatrout, also known as speckled trout (Cynoscion nebulosus), is a common estuarine fish found in the southern United States along coasts of Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic Ocean. While most of these fish are caught on shallow, grassy flats, spotted seatrout reside in virtually any inshore waters, from the surf of outside islands to far up coastal rivers, where they often come for shelter during cold weather. Contrary to its name, the spotted seatrout is not a member of the trout family (Salmonidae), but of the drum family (Sciaenidae).
Spotted seatrout is the common name endorsed by the American Fisheries Society. However, this fish has many other common names, including speckled trout, speck, speckles, spec, truite gris (Louisiana French), trucha de mar (Mexican Spanish), spotted weakfish, spotted seateague, southern seateague, salmon, salmon trout, simon trout, winter trout, seatrout, Nosferatu fish, and black trout. Particularly large ones are nicknamed gator trout.
The spotted seatrout has prominent canine teeth. Like other fish of the family Sciaenidae, it has an elongated, soft dorsal fin with no scales; it is separated from the spinous dorsal fin by a deep notch. It usually has two anal spines and the lateral line extends to the tip of the caudal fin. The back has distinct spots scattered on it, including on the dorsal and caudal fins. Unlike some other members of the family Sciaenidae, the spotted seatrout does not have any chin barbels. In stained water, this fish’s background may take on a golden hue. Its shape and coloration is reminiscent of a brown trout. This fish is closely related to the weakfish, Cynoscion regalis.
Seatrout found inshore and nearshore in and around seagrass meadows, mangrove-fringed shorelines, deep holes and channels and above oyster bars. Free-line live shrimp or small pinfish or pigfish (grunts) near the bottom to entice trout out of grass-bed holes. Attaching a float will allow these baits to drift over the grass beds as you search for trout. Casting with soft-bodied jigs, top-water poppers and spoons can be effective. Trout are very delicate, so returning unwanted or illegal fish promptly to the water is necessary to maintain a healthy population. Spotted seatrout are a good eating fish.