Is there a light tackle game fish that’s more beloved than the Speckled Trout? We think not. Also known as the Spotted Seatrout, this species isn’t the most ferocious fish you’ll find at the end of a line. So why has Speckled Trout fishing stood the test of time as a firm angling favorite?
Well, “Specks” tastes delicious, can be found in abundance across the US, and will hit a huge variety of artificial and live baits. This means that there’s a whole host of ways to fish for them. No matter your age or skill level, you can experience the magic of casting a line for this species. It really is accessible to everyone!
This is why targeting Speckled Trout has earned a reputation as the go-to family-friendly angling adventure. What better way to introduce little ones to casting a line than with a species that’s plentiful, bites almost anything, and will reward you with a tasty dinner? And for those of you that love going after trophy fish, good news – Specks can grow up to 18 pounds. Catches above 6 pounds are called “Gator” Trout.
Before you start packing your gear, you probably want to know a little bit about where, how, and when you can hook this fish. Let’s dive in…
Top Speckled Trout Fishing Locations
The Speckled Trout’s ability to survive in waters both salty and brackish means they can be found in a whopping variety of locations across the USA. They inhabits both the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic’s coastal waters, ranging from the Yucatan Peninsula all the way to Cape Cod in Massachusetts.
That isn’t to say that every fishing spot along this route was created equal. This species definitely has a strong preference for the waters around North Carolina, Texas, Louisiana, and Florida. Why? These locations boast a lot of shallow bays, marshes, estuaries packed with oyster beds, and seagrass-filled spots. Below, we’ve highlighted our favorite locations…
Florida’s Atlantic Coast
- Mosquito Lagoon: Located along Florida’s east coast in Brevard and Volusia counties. This waterway is world-famous for its number of Specks (locally known as Spotted Seatrout). If you’re looking for a Gator, this is the place to come!
- Indian River: Mosquito Lagoon is part of the mighty Indian River Lagoon System. We heartily recommend checking out the Indian River itself, too! Lined with mangroves, grass flats, and underwater structure, this waterway is the perfect habitat for Specks.
- Jacksonville: This city is perfectly positioned at the point where the St. Johns River feeds into the Atlantic. What does this mean? Plenty of huge Speckled Trout! You don’t have to travel far to explore these brackish waters, either.
Florida’s Gulf Coast
- St Petersburg: Florida’s “Sunshine City” is home to a seriously healthy Speckled Trout population. Head to the waters around the flats off Pinellas Point and out to Fort de Soto for the best bite! Nearby Tampa Bay also holds a strong population of these fish.
- The Everglades: This vast marshland boasts the Speckled Trout’s dream habitat: plenty of mangroves, shallow water flats, and channels. Head to the Everglades National Park or nearby Ten Thousand Islands. You’ll find plenty of Specks to cast a line for.
- Pensacola: Located at the western end of the Panhandle, this city is home to plenty of grassy flats and sheltered bays. Because of this, Speckled Trout flock here! A couple of hours out on the water is plenty of time to fill your boat with Gator Trout.
- Calcasieu Lake: Located in southwest Louisiana, this brackish body of water is home to plenty of Speckled Trout. The northern end of the lake boasts huge Gator varieties. The reefs in the middle of the lake see lots of “keeper Trout” action.
- Grand Isle: This town is located on a barrier island, and provides access to the dividing point between Barataria Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. Grand Isle Beach and Elmer’s Island Beach are especially popular Speckled Trout fishing locations.
- New Orleans: As well as being Louisiana’s vibrant capital, this city also boasts plenty of marshes, bayous, and estuaries. Specks love to flock to ’em! You can cast a line right from the shore, or head out of the city to nearby Stone Island. It’s a locally-known Trout hotspot.
- Wilmington: Want to target Trout in the winter months? North Carolina is the place to visit – and Wilmington is probably the best city. This fishery is especially active from October through December and has a whole host of hot spots to explore. The inlet right out of Wilmington is especially productive, as well as Wrightsville Beach.
- Morehead City: A mere ten minutes north of this city, you’ll find the Speckled Trout-packed Newport Marshes. You can also explore a variety of creeks, such as Broad Creek, as well as The Haystacks. This is a small hamlet that provides access to fish-filled shallow waters. There’s also a whopping number of charter boats to choose from in this area.
- Myrtle Beach: This city is surrounded by a seemingly endless collection of bays, sounds, and inlets. Come summertime, they’re all jam-packed with healthy Speckled Trout populations. You can also use Myrtle Beach as a starting point and head to Speck-filled locales close by, such as Murrells Inlet, Pawleys Island, Winyah Bay, and Cape Romain.
- Galveston Bay: This bay system is a “must-visit” location for any Speckled Trout enthusiasts. Its waters are a unique blend of fresh and saltwater, which makes it a great habitat for a variety of marine life, especially Specks. It’s also seriously huge, which means you have plenty of hotspots to discover. To narrow it down a little, Texas City, Baytown, and Houston are especially productive departure points.
- South Padre Island: If you’re looking to experience some of the best coastal fishing around, make the trip to South Padre Island. When fall hits this area, so do plenty of Speckled Trout! You’ll have direct access to the productive Laguna Madre, which sees Specks inhabiting its waters year-round.
- Port Arthur: On the hunt for Gator Trout? Head to this city, and you’ll have access to the lower section of the Sabine River, the Neches River, and Sabine Lake. Every one of these fisheries boasts a thriving Speckled Trout population. Even better, it’s common to encounter varieties in the 20+ pound range!
…And the Rest!
The above states are the most plentiful Speck locations in the USA, but they’re by no means the only areas where you can catch ’em. There’s also the Chesapeake Bay. Spanning both Virginia and Maryland, this prolific fishery is home to a healthy number of Specks. Head to the lower and middle sections of the bay from April to November, and get ready for bite, after bite, after bite.
If you’re visiting Mississippi, you can also cast a line for Specks in a variety of locations. This state’s Gulf coastline may be shorter than Texas’s or Florida’s, but cities such as Biloxi and Mobile Bay provide access to marshy coastal waters that Specks absolutely love.
Speckled Trout Fishing Seasons
Specks usually move seasonally within specific bay systems. They make the pilgrimage from marshy waters to river mouths and open coastal waters depending on factors such as water temperature and when they want to spawn. As both the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts boast complex marshes and bay systems, Specks can be found dispersed all across the region year-round.
Spring heralds the start of new beginnings, and this goes for Speckled Trout, too. They’ve woken from their winter slumber in deep marshy waters, and are preparing for their summer spawn by chowing down on bait fish. Huge Trout head towards saltier water outside of the marshes. Coastal waters all along the Atlantic and Gulf are prime spring fishing spots, with mid-Atlantic locations such as the Chesapeake Bay and North Carolina being especially productive.
Speckled Trout are very sensitive to heat (this is why winter fishing is so popular!), but summer is still an excellent time to cast your line across the US. Florida’s Indian River Lagoon System is packed with bait fish-chasing Gator Trout. Louisiana’s barrier islands boast cool pockets of water that are bustling Specks feeding on bait fish. Early morning and late evening are prime fishing times, as Specks are more active when the waters are cooler.
This season is generally considered to be the best time to go fishing for Specks. It’s when they return to the marshes to gorge on bait fish! They start to move back around September and can be hooked easily, especially in the bayous around New Orleans, the Newport Marshes in North Carolina, and the Everglades. Basically, head to any location along the Gulf or Atlantic Coast that provides easy access to marshy or bay waters, and you’ll be in for a Trout bonanza.
The majority of Specks inhabiting waters north of Virginia migrate south for the winter. This means that North Carolina in particular is bustling with these fish during the colder months. You’ll find Specks congregating in creeks and coastal rivers, with deep water ledges in the main bodies of rivers being especially productive. They also hole up in river bends, searching for warmer waters and bait fish, as well as the Gulf Coast’s many marshes.
How to Fish for Speckled Trout
When it comes to reeling in Speckled Trout, there’s one way of casting a line that’s become synonymous with this species: light tackle fishing. There are a variety of setups you can use in order to actually hook and reel in your target, but writing about ’em all would fill a book! Below we’ve covered the most common “need to know” facts that will generally apply in most Speck fishing situations.
Bait and Tackle
The Speckled Trout is a greedy, greedy fish, and will chow down on almost anything you present to it. Live shrimp, mullet, menhaden, pinfish, minnows, and even small crabs have all proved to be successful.
Huge Gator Trout tend to feed on bigger “prey” such as mullet and small croakers, so casting with these bait fish or artificial lures that mimic the size and shape of them have the potential to result in a larger catch.
Many anglers opt for topwater fishing lures when it comes to selecting their artificial bait. Basically, Speckled Trout spend most of their time in shallow fishing grounds, around grassy areas, and chomp on bait fish that live towards the surface of the water.
By using topwater lures, you can fish the surface, which is especially effective when combined with sight fishing. The best Speck lures range from 3–6 inches and usually look similar to their target prey.
When it comes to the tackle and full setup for your Speckled Trout fishing adventure, it’s pretty simple. A 7+ ft medium to light action rod is generally something that’s in every angler’s fishing toolbox, and will easily do the job.
You’ll want a fast action spinning or bait casting reel (spinning is better for newbies!), monofilament line anywhere between the 10–20 pound mark, and a popping cork rig between 2 to 6 inches long that you can tie on your setup.
The first step you can take to ensure you have multiple hookups on your hands is to locate areas where Speckled Trout can sneak-attack from. These fish likes to hang out in and around structure, within grass beds, and around docks. From there, the actual technique itself is pretty easy, and involves spin casting or bait casting into the area of your choice.
Many anglers and charter captains refer to this method of fishing for Specks as “light tackle fishing,” because using the lightest tackle possible is preferred. It allows you to really feel the bite of your target fish! It’s common to combine light tackle with live or artificial bait and a popping cork. This allows you to make lots of light, quick casts into the water, and the cork will keep your bait floating at surface level.
Sight fishing is a much-loved technique. It basically involves poling across shallow waters, usually on a skiff or flats boat. You can also wade or fish from shore. You’ll target areas with sandy or grassy bottoms, keeping an eye out for quick flashes in the water.
This is an indication that bait fish are around – and that a school of Specks may soon follow! From there, it’s a case of casting your line and waiting for a bite. If you use topwater plugs, cast beyond your fish and drag the lure back over it.
The magic of Speck fishing is that, although the above techniques are the most common, they’re by no means the only way to hook this species. You can generally use anything that you already have in your tackle box, as long as it involves a pretty light line!
Speckled Trout Fishing: An Adventure for All Anglers
You don’t need to be a tournament-level fishing expert to battle this beloved species, but even the most experienced anglers will find plenty to love about a Speck fishing adventure. And if you’re looking for tasty table fare? Filling the cooler has never been so fun. Grab your rods and reels – it’s time to come face-to-gills with America’s favorite light tackle game fish!
Have you gone Speckled Trout fishing? Where did you go? Any tips and tricks you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments. We love hearing from you!