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Spotted Seatrout or “Specks” – An Overview of this Staple Fish

Orlando fishing charters discuss the spotted seatrout, a popular game fish for Orlando fishing charters and general anglers in the Indian River Lagoon

Known by veteran anglers as a “Speck,” the speckled or spotted sea trout (Cynoscion nebulosus) is one of the most common inshore fish found all throughout Florida. Many Orlando fishing charters like pursuing the Spotted Seatrout, especially for patrons with little to no fishing experience since they’re not too big and can be easily handled. They’re also one of the easiest fish to reach, meaning anglers can wade or paddle as well as motor to grass flats where the Specks stay.

The reason it’s called a “speck” is because of the hundreds of black spots on the sides and top fins of the fish.

While they don’t provide as vigorous a fight as the Redfish, the Speckled Sea Trout does provide an incredibly tasty meal.

If you’re new to fishing and looking to just get your feet wet so to speak, the coastal waters just east of Orlando is home to a variety of fishing charters who can take you to robust numbers of Spotted Sea Trout.

Appearance – The Speckled Trout has a slender shape and a large mouth with teeth similar to a dog. Along with its black spots, the Speck’s color is silver to gray with a slight pink huey toward the top. The Spotted Sea Trout also has a fan tail, meaning it has to be measured all the way to the tip when checking your catch.

Orlando fishing (wright) - Speck Trout
Image courtesy of FWC

Weight and Length– The Speckled Trout is relatively small and averages around 1-2 pounds. However, Sea Trout found east of Orlando are generally bigger than average – it isn’t unheard of to catch 10+ pounders. Particularly large Sea Trout (15+ pounds) are referred to locally as “Gator” trout.

Habitat – The Specks are actually found as far north as New York down the east coast to Florida and throughout the entire inshore areas of the Gulf of Mexico. They range all the way from the most backwater creeks and rivers during colder periods to offshore. As far as fishing, they are mostly caught around grass flats in channels and holes. They are also found feeding around mangrove-lined shores and above oyster bars. Spotted Sea Trout thrive in water temperatures between 58 and 81 degrees. Large die-offs have been known to occur during sudden cold snaps or if the fish were trapped in shallow waters. Otherwise, the Specks move to deeper water in deep holes and backwater creeks in the colder months.

Diet and feeding patterns – Like other popular gamefish, Specks like to feed on shrimp, crabs, mullet and other small fish found in the grass flats and around mangroves. Sea trout pretty much stay around these seagrass beds. When fishing for Sea Trout, one method is to “jig” or twitch your bait to entice the Specks to come out of hiding.

Breeding season – Sea Trout begin spawning within their first year when they are, on average, 12-inches long. For females, the spawning is more frequent as they get older, which is why anglers must throw back any Specks over 20-inches. The breeding season occurs from March through November.

Regulations – As we mentioned before, any Sea Trout caught in Florida under 15-inches long or over 20-inches long must be thrown back. If you are throwing a fish back, you should try and keep it in the water to remove the hook. If you have to remove it from the water, make sure your hands are wet before handling the fish since dry hands can remove the fish’s protective slime. Specks can be caught throughout the year, but anglers may only keep 4 per day in the zone east of Orlando.

Image courtesy of the FWC
Image courtesy of the FWC

Rules are carefully developed to ensure healthy populations of Spotted Sea Trout. While they are one of the more common inshore fish species in Florida, occasional occurrences of red tide and other factors present challenges to this staple species.

Captain Mark Wright has extensive experience fishing for Spotted Sea Trout in the Indian River Lagoon just east of Orlando. His fishing charters will take you to the best spots for Specks in this vast region. Also, if you’re new to fishing, Capt. Mark will gladly provide the tips and tricks you’ll need for having a good day out on the water. Click here to learn more or to schedule an excursion today!

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