One of the most overlooked game fish that inshore sport anglers forget would have to be the Spotted Seatrout. If Spotted Seatrout could talk, they would complain that they “Don’t get no respect!” Known to fishermen throughout the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Coast, this species’ range extends as far north as Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. But southern waters are where this species is most often hooked. Not known to be as pugnacious as their skinny water neighbors, Red Drum, these speckled inshore predators often hunt the same shallow grassy flats as Drum and Flounder and are often caught right alongside them.
Despite their name and resemblance to Brown Trout, Spotted Seatrout are not in the trout family of fish at all. Actually, they are a species of drum and mature males make the characteristic “drumming” sound during spawning like other members of this saltwater fish family. Wide distribution means these fun, toothy fighters are known by a variety of names depending on the locality you are fishing. Some of the more common names include Specks, Black Trout, Speckled Trout, Spotted Weakfish and for exceptionally large fish, Gator Trout is often used.
Growing up to weights of 10 pounds and more, 5 pound fish are fairly common prizes for inshore sport anglers and 1-2 pounds are average. Specks love to feed on shrimp and other small crustaceans in shallow, grassy flats when small, and as they grow in size they feed almost exclusively off other smaller fish. And they really love mullet, oftentimes attempting to swallow fish almost as big as they are!
According to the NOAA, Spotted Seatrout are in the top ten species for recreational fishing in the United States. Although caught commercially, recreational fishing makes up the majority of annual harvests as almost all fish are caught via hook and line. Gill netting has been banned for this species almost everywhere. Despite the immense numbers caught and harvested by sport anglers every year, Spotted Seatrout are considered a top choice for sustainable seafood as they reproduce well with a large range and long spawning season.
Another reason they make great sport angling targets is because unlike many coastal and inshore sport fish, Spotted Seatrout do not migrate. So for anglers looking for a sure bet this species comes about as close as any could. If you come across a spot where the bite is good for Specks, then chances are it will remain so for a long time. These fish will school in deep holes and once located by anglers, these holes will usually continue to produce consistent results.
Despite not being the top choice for many saltwater anglers, they shouldn’t be overlooked. They are stout fighters and make excellent table fare when prepared fresh. The next time you are out on the coast hunting cobia, reds, flounder and others, don’t forget about the Spotted Seatrout. “They don’t get no respect!”