Speckled Trout Fishing Tips: How to Catch Cynoscion nebulosus

Do you want to catch trout in the sea?

Test your mettle against the sea trout using these speckled trout fishing tips!

speckled trout fishing tips woman holding fish
A massive speckled trout! Source

Known as an excellent table fish, this trout species it is also known as the spotted squeteague, speckled sea trout, salmon trout, gator trout, black trout, and winter trout.


The spotted sea trout can be found along the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. However, they are most abundant along the coasts of Alabama, Florida, and Georgia. The spotted variety, which is the focus of this guide, has a long and elongated body with an even fin tail that has a black margin. It is dark grey to green in color at the back and has sky blue tinges that graduate to a silvery sheen.

The main diet of this predatory fish includes shrimp and small fish, but they are also known to chow down on mollusks, mullets, and silversides. Larger sea trout primarily hunt for fish, while the little ones survive on grass shrimp. While this trout is coveted by anglers, it is not listed as an endangered species in the wild.

Speckled Trout Facts

Scientific Name (Genus and Species)Cynoscion nebulosus
Common Name(s)Speckled trout, sea trout, spotted squeteague, speckled sea trout, salmon trout, gator trout, black trout, and winter trout
Identifying CharacteristicsLong and elongated body, black margin across fin tail, dark green or green in color.
Depth Range0 to 28 meters
Natural HistoryCan be found along the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico coasts, but they are most abundant along the coasts of Alabama, Georgia, and Florida
LimitsCheck your local regulations

The spotted sea trout is a demersal fish that can be found in brackish to marine water, but it has also been seen in the shallow coastal and estuarine waters over sandy bottoms and amidst seagrass. This fish can also be found in salt marshes as well as tidal pools that have 75% salinity.

Speckled Trout Habitat

The trout congregate in seagrass beds during warm summer months and move to deeper pockets of water or estuaries during the winter. That is where they spawn and rarely leave.

How to Catch Speckled Trout

The best-speckled trout bait for sea trout are the live ones such as minnows and shrimp, but you can also use soft-shelled crabs, mullet, worms, and squid. When it comes to sea trout lures, there is a variety you can choose from bucktail jigs, grubs, soft worms, spoons, and streamers.

If the fish is feeding close to the surface, you should use surface plugs and popping bugs for fly rods to catch them.

speckled trout caught on boat
A sea trout caught at St. Marks. Source

If you are sea trout fishing with artificial bait, use medium to medium-heavy rods and if you are using the live variety, go for only medium rods. Since sea trout do not usually fight the line, they can be pulled away from the structure they are hiding behind with a light line. A basic reel will be enough to give you the drag you need, and a braided line is considered to be the best for catching sea trout because it is quite thin and stretchy.

The best leader line for sea trout is considered to be fluorocarbon since it is strong enough to withstand abrasions. This comes in quite handy because this fish has sharp teeth that can do short work of a weaker one. As a rule of thumb, use a 20 lb leader when you are fishing for this trout especially if you are angling for the big ones.

Fishing Tactics

FLY TV - Springtime Silver - Sea Trout Fly Fishing in Denmark
  • The best shortcut to find sea trout fast is focusing on underwater seagrass. That is where they feed and reproduce. You can spot them using free online maps of the area you want to fish in.
  • Since big sea trout feed on fish, they usually emerge after a cold front in areas where they can find mullet and smaller trout. This can be near the shoreline or the fringe of some submerged structure so cast your line there.

Speckled Trout Fishing Tips

  1. If you are fishing below the surface, use shallow swimming plugs that look like small bait fish such as finger mullet. If you are fishing along the bottom, on the other hand, use a slow-moving jig.
  2. The most effective way to catch this fish includes a popper and natural shrimp as bait. All you need to do is work the surface popper to attract the trout and it will swim right up to the shrimp.
how to catch speckled trout
A vintage postcard mentioning the speckled trout! Source

Speckled Sea Trout Seasons

Fresh speckled sea trout continue to run through August and that time can extend in some rivers. However, as the season progresses the chances of catching a big one increases. The fish can be caught throughout the year but you should wait a couple of weeks after they spawn to catch bigger ones.

Generally, the population of this trout increases when the water starts to warm up. In this case, plan your fishing trip for May

How to Clean Speckled Trout

  1. Lay the trout with its back to you and use a sharp fillet knife to make an angled cut behind the gill plate right down to the backbone.
  2. Make a slit from the anus to the previous cut to expose the guts and the air bladder. Grab and pull out both and cut them out as close to the body as possible.
  3. Turn the fish so that the spine is facing you and use the knife to cut down till you feel the backbone before cutting the meat off it. Do this all the way to the tail and flip the fish over leaving the skin and tail attached.
  4. Cut down till you feel the skin (starting from the tail), and then slice to the end of the fillet. Flip the fish and do the other side the same way to get the second fillet.

How to Cook Speckled Trout

  • Preheat the oven to 400°
  • Take a large baking dish and put lemon slices and dill at the bottom.
  • Rub both sides of the fish with olive oil.
  • Season with salt and paper as per your tastes.
  • Lay the fillets on top of the lemon slices and dill.
  • Add some wine and cover the top of the baking dish foil.
  • Pop the dish in the oven and bake for 20 minutes.


Q: What does speckled trout taste like?

A: The flesh is delicately flavored but makes sure to store it in ice as soon as you catch it or it will spoil fast.

Q: Are weakfish and sea trout the same?

A: No. While the weakfish and sea trout come to belong to the same family, they look different from one another. The former has elongated spots whereas the latter has rounder ones.

Q: Where can I catch sea trout?

A: The sea trout is an inshore, bottom-dwelling species that inhabits shallow canals, bays, estuaries, and bayous.

Insider Advice

The sea trout is an angler’s dream and the best part is that it is available year-round. It tastes great too which you can experience yourself when you make the recipe mentioned in this guide.

Do you have any great recipes and tackle techniques for catching this trout? Share in the comments below and share the guide if you liked it.

The Anglers Behind This Article:

Jon Stenstrom

Johanes Godoy

Sushmita Lo

Did this article help you? Yes No
× How can we improve it?
× Thanks for your feedback!

We're always looking to improve our articles to help you become an even better fisherman.

While you're here, why not follow us on Facebook and YouTube? Facebook YouTube
Articles » Fish Guides » Saltwater Fish » Speckled Trout Fishing Tips: How to Catch Cynoscion nebulosus