Stretching more than 367 miles, Texas’s Gulf Coast is a fisherman’s paradise. Inshore fishing is plentiful, and there’s one stand-out species that calls these waters home – Speckled Trout (also known as Spotted Seatrout, depending on where you are).
In this article, I’m going to share everything you need to know about Speckled Trout fishing in Texas. And with fish capable of reaching 16 pounds in size, you’ll see why Texas is one of the top Trout fishing destinations on the planet. Read on and find out what’s so great about it.
Why Texas for Speckled Trout?
Speckled Trout are an inshore species of fish, found along coastal water habitats. The best Trout fishing occurs in three main habitat types:
- Flats/Backcountry. Seagrass beds, oyster bars, mud flats, and tidal coves.
- Urban/Structure. Docks, residential canals, bridges, boat harbors, and marinas.
- Bays/Channels. Dredged channels, passes, and open water habitats.
Fortunately, the Lone Star State offers anglers all of these habitats and more, which means fantastic opportunities to catch Trout year-round. Unlike other inshore species that go into hiding during the colder month (such as Snook), Speckled Trout bite every day of the year in Texas.
From the world-famous Galveston Bay in North Texas to the urban sprawl of Corpus Christi, all the way down to the shallow Laguna Madre near the southern border… Texas is a Trout fishing paradise.
Where to Catch Speckled Trout in Texas
Speckled Trout are primarily an inshore and shallow water species. Most fishing is done within a mile of shore. In fact, some of the best Trout fishing is done just a few hundred yards out! Texas is big y’all, so I’ve broken down the state into three main regions and highlighted popular areas:
North Texas Speckled Trout Fishing Spots
Sabine Lake is a brackish tidal lake located in North Texas on the Louisiana state line. It offers excellent Trout fishing, with a strong tidal influence. Just make sure to keep an eye on the rainfall and salinity levels when planning your trip.
Galveston Bay and nearby Trinity Bay may be the most famous bays in all of Texas. This large bay and surrounding barrier islands offer anglers exceptional urban fishing opportunities, with countless docks, canals, marinas, and structures for hidden Trout. If you prefer a more remote setting, focus on fishing the East Bay and around Goat Island.
Matagorda Bay is located about halfway between Corpus Christi and Houston. This large bay system features a main bay with numerous rivers and tidal lakes around its perimeter. East Matagorda Bay is popular during the winter, when anglers use live mullet for their chance at a true giant.
Central Texas Speckled Trout Fishing Spots
San Antonio Bay. Located near the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, this body of water offers some of the most remote and undeveloped coastal fishing in all of Texas. Fly anglers and sight fishermen should check out the mosaic of islands and backwater bays along Welder Flats Wildlife Management Area.
Copano Bay/Aransas Bay is located just north of popular Corpus Christi and offers anglers a good mixture of urban accommodations and remote coastlines. Goose Island state park is popular with families, and the barrier islands provide plenty of places to hide from the wind.
Corpus Christi Bay is one of the largest in the state and, although it’s protected by barrier islands, it’s always best to check the weather before fishing this open water. Popular spots include the JFK Causeway, Mustang Island State Park, and Nueces Bay to the north.
South Texas Speckled Trout Fishing Spots
Baffin Bay offers South Texas anglers fantastic shallow water opportunities and some of the largest Speckled Trout in Texas. Visiting anglers should consider hiring a local guide to navigate these shallow, but productive waters. This area may be your best chance at catching the fish of a lifetime.
Laguna Madre is the last major lagoon system in South Texas before you hit Mexico. This interior lagoon has much less freshwater influence than the bays in the north, which means clear and clean waters. Fantastic sight fishing opportunities await, and fishing is excellent year-round for Speckled Trout and Redfish.
Speckled Trout Fishing Tackle & Gear
The average size of Speckled Trout in Texas is between 2 and 3 pounds. That’s why most anglers use medium–light gear. However, Trout over 5 pounds are not uncommon, and you’re just as likely to catch a Redfish or Flounder when fishing in Texas’s Trout habitats!
You’ll need an outfit that’s sensitive enough to throw light lures and hard baits, but strong enough to corral fish away from oyster beds and sharp pilings.
Rods and Reels
Casting distance is the most important feature when fishing for Trout. Most anglers wade or drift large shallow flats, where fish can easily be spooked. Long casts will allow you to cover more water and reach the fish before they see you coming.
I recommend using a 7′ medium-light action rod, with a 2500-4000 series spinning reel. Pair your reel with a 12–15 lb test mainline, and be sure to use a 20 lb test fluorocarbon leader to prevent break-offs from the Trout’s sharp teeth.
For fly anglers, a 6–8 wt rod is my recommendation. If you plan on getting into some of the more remote backwater locations deep within the coastlines, a 6-weight is ideal. However, if you plan on fishing open water and passes, an 8-weight is better suited to combat the wind and throw heavier flies.
Popular flies for Speckled Trout include the classic Clouser minnow, as well as any shrimp or crab pattern. If you’re targeting trophy-sized Trout on the fly, consider using a large mullet pattern with a 2/0–3/0 hook and a sinking line.
One of the most popular Texas Speckled Trout fishing techniques is with a popping cork and jig combo. A popping cork gives the angler a visual bite indicator and creates a splashing sound in the water when you quickly lift the rod tip.
Tie your jig 18–24 inches below the popping cork or just above the grass line in whichever depth of water you’re fishing. The popping cork will create a splash and draw attention to the jig in the water column below. Depending on the current and wind, a ⅛ to ½ ounce jig head tied with any popular soft bait will do the trick. Popular brands include Gulp, Strike King, and Z-man.
If the water conditions are clear and free of weeds, try throwing a ¼ ounce Johnson silver minnow spoon. Vary your retrieve speed to focus on different depths. A slow retrieve will fish deeper, and a fast retrieve will fish closer to the surface. If you’re fishing in an area with sand or mud bottom, pause your retrieve and quickly start again to create a flutter-like action.
Topwater lures are also very popular with Texas Trout anglers, and may be the most fun way to catch them. Lures like the Zara spook and Yo Zuri pencil minnow imitate a dying mullet and work exceptionally well around docks, bridges, and other urban structures.
Just take a look at the teeth on a Speckled Trout, and you’ll see that they have a mouth built for predation and eating live bait. Live shrimp is the best all-round bait for these fish, and it will get you bites all year long. But, it’s easy to go through a few dozen shrimp as Pinfish, Snapper, and even Catfish will all be nipping at your bait.
If you want to focus on larger trophy-sized Gator Trout, you need to use big baits. Large 5–7” finger mullet are the best, followed by live pinfish or pigfish. Most anglers freeline their live baits using a 2/0–4/0 circle hook while drifting the shallow flats.
If you want to catch large numbers of fish with steady action from multiple species, go with live shrimp or a jig/shrimp combo. But if you want to target large. trophy-sized Trout, focus on using large live baits and keep quiet. Big Trout don’t bite often and they’re easily spooked.
When to Go Fishing for Speckled Trout in Texas
Speckled Trout are highly sensitive to fluctuations in water temperatures and cold snaps. Generally speaking, as the water warms during spring and summer, the Trout will move shallow, all the way into creek mouths and tidal coves. As water and air temperatures drop, Trout migrate into deeper habitats where they can find refuge in channels, cuts, passes, and larger bays.
Late winter and early spring are great times of year to target Speckled Trout in Texas. Not only is the weather more pleasant this time of year, but the Trout are moving into shallow locations where you can use a variety of techniques for success.
Conversely, the fall to winter transition is another great time of year to hit the water. This time of year the fish move from shallow water refuges to deeper holding zones. They’ll school up and provide fantastic action if you can find them. You can also plan your trip during the fall mullet run, when large schools of finger mullet migrate along the Texas coast causing a feeding frenzy.
And remember, it never hurts to call around and get a local report on the bite. Most bait and tackle shops and fishing outfitters are happy to share a report on the Trout fishing conditions.
Texas Speckled Trout Fishing Regulations
Both resident and non-resident anglers need a valid saltwater fishing license when fishing for Speckled Trout. Resident saltwater fishing licenses are available for $35 or $17 for seniors over the age of 65. Non-resident fishing licenses are available for $63.
Speckled Trout harvest regulations in Texas are divided into two main geographic zones. As of May 2022, new regulations went into effect in response to the unusually cold weather of 2021 that resulted in above-average fish deaths.
Texas Speckled Trout Limits
North of FM 457 (East Matagorda Bay)
Recreational anglers may keep up to five Speckled Trout per day, with a slot size between 15–25 inches. One of the five fish may exceed the 25-inch size limit.
South of FM 457
Open Season: March 16, 2022, to August 31, 2023
Recreational anglers may keep up to three Speckled Trout per day, with a slot size between 17–23 inches. All fish must measure between 17–23 inches.
Notes: Speckled Trout regulations in the state of Texas are subject to change. Always consult with the Texas Parks and Wildlife for the most up-to-date closures and fishing regulations.
What to Pack
Along with the normal staples such as a valid fishing license, fishing tackle, polarized sunglasses, and food and drink, you also want to pack for the weather. Texas can get unusually cold during the winter and brutally hot during the summer. Thunderstorms can pop up quickly, so quality rain gear is important. I recommend dressing in layers and protecting your hands and neck from the elements. Quality gloves and a neck gaiter will do the trick.
And lastly, don’t forget a quality landing net. Trout are a sensitive fish species and should be handled with care, especially when practicing catch and release.
Speckled Trout Fishing in Texas: An Unforgettable Experience
The Gulf Coast of Texas is one of the most unique fisheries in the country. This ecosystem supports a robust recreational fishing industry, as well as unique beach towns and a true local vibe. So plan a trip to the Lone Star State, and you may very well catch the biggest Speckled Trout of your life. And don’t forget, there are plenty of qualified captains ready to show you the ropes!
Have you ever been fishing for Speckled Trout in Texas? How was your experience? Any tips and tricks to share with your fellow anglers? Drop us a line in the comments below!