Spotted Seatrout Fishing (Cynoscion nebulosus)

All Tackle Record
17lbs, 7oz

Spotted Seatrout Fishing (Cynoscion nebulosus)

The Speckled (or Spotted) Seatrout might just be America's favorite light tackle game fish. Easy to find, fun to catch and great to cook, this species is a popular target for young or old, novice and expert anglers alike.

Specks inhabit every fishery from nearshore shallow flats to estuarine brackish waters or salt marshes. They can be caught wading in the surf or trolling in a boat.

An interesting fact about these fish is that they will often be infested with "spaghetti" worms, which are benign to humans as they can't survive our stomach acid. They can also easily be removed from the fish.

How big

Specks reach a maximum length of about 40'' and can grow up to around 18lbs. Most catches will be up to 6lbs and fish larger than this are referred to as "Gator" Trout.

Gator Trout... or maybe just a 'gator. Where else would this impressive specimen be found but Corpus Christi, TX

When & Where

This species inhabits western Atlantic coastal waters from Cape Cod to south Florida and within the Gulf, in particularly high concentrations off North CarolinaFloridaLouisiana and Texas.

Florida is home to a million and one hotspots for Trout fishing and here are some:

  • Atlantic coast: Mosquito Lagoon, Indian and Banana rivers down to Stuart, and again in Biscayne Bay
  • South Florida: Upper Keys, Flamingo and the Ten Thousand Islands
  • Gulf coast: Tampa Bay, Charlotte Harbor, Crystal River, Homosassa and Cedar Key

Specks can be caught year-round, with the winter being less productive due to colder waters. They will be feeding in shallow waters spring through fall, with March (when Gator Trout are numerous) and October (when shrimp migrate to shallow Gulf coast waters) being peak months. They move to deeper waters during the winter. Overcast days are generally better.

How to catch

The trick to catching Specks isn't that much in the technique, it's in knowing where and when to be. That said, here are a couple of general guidelines to follow:

Natural bait is prefered. Shrimp are ideal, but live or cut baitfish such as mullet, pigfish, pinfish or needlefish will work. Surface poppers are great, as Trout will be attracted to the occasional noise. Flies, plugs and grubtail jigs are good artificial options.

These fish have tender mouths that can tear easily, so setting the hook should be done softly after feeling a strike (which is usually hard). For this same reason, you should give the fish as much slack as it needs to run with.

Nice catch aboard Fin-sanity Charters out of Tampa, FL

Good to eat?

Excellent table fare, but need to be put on ice immediately upon capture and eaten fresh as the meat degrades quickly.


Season - always open; may not be harvested by gig December through February in South Carolina;
Size limit - Florida - 15 to 20''; Texas - 15 to 25''; Georgia, Mississippi - 13'' minimum; the Carolinas, Virginia, Maryland, Alabama - 14'' minimum; Delaware, Louisiana - 12'' minimum;
Bag limit (per angler per day)* - Florida - 4 (SW and SE zones), 5 (NW zone) or 6 (NE zone) - see zone map; Georgia, Mississippi - 15; South Carolina, Alabama - 10; North Carolina, Maryland - 4; Virginia - 5; Louisiana - 25, except in designated harvest areas where it's 15, with no more than two over 25''; Texas - waters north of FM 457 in Matagorda County - 10, waters south of FM 457 - 5; Delaware has no bag limits;
1 oversized fish included in the bag limit may be kept in Florida, Texas and Virginia;
Similar Game Fish:

Spotted Seatrout Fishing Destinations