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Spotted Sea Trout: A Personal Fishing Guide

Spotted Sea Trout: A Personal Fishing Guide

**Attention: Catch-and-release only measures for Spotted Sea Trout have been extended through May 31, 2021, from the Pasco/Hernando county line south through Gordon Pass in Collier County, including all waters in Hillsborough County.**

Florida’s beautiful west coast has a lot of fishing to offer, one popular species is the Spotted Sea Trout. This marine beauty can be fished by anglers of any level – whether a newbie or expert angler. Just because anyone can reel them in does not mean they all come easy. Be prepared to put your reeling skills to the test on with this species. Spotted Sea Trout go by many names such as Speckled Seatrout, Specks, Florida Trout, and sea trout.

In this article, we are going to show all you need to know about Sea Trout fishing in Florida, giving you a personal guide to make Trout fishing a more fulfilling experience.

How to Spot Sea Trout

Spotted Sea Trout has a dark green or gray back. From its sides to underbelly, its color fades from silvery-white to white. On its back, from the posterior to the caudal end, are the distinctive scarred round spots. These spots are visible on their tail and fins. The round spots make Spotted Sea Trout distinguishable from a similar family member – The Weakfish.

Other distinctive features include an egg yolk coloration of the inside of their mouths – mostly in adult sea trout. There is also the presence of one or two prominent canines on the upper jaw. Their bodies are elongated and streamlined, with a dark edge on their tail fin.

Port Charlotte Fishing Spots

Top 5 Fishing Spots of Port Charlotte

Sea Trout can be found in most waterways surrounding Florida. Spotted Sea Trout can be found inshore and offshore around Port Charlotte. Take a look at our list of top 5 fishing destinations.

Contrary to what most people think, the Spotted Sea Trout doesn’t belong to the trout family at all. It, in fact, is a member of the drum family, which includes the Red Fish. So, upon landing the fish, you should be able to hear the familiar ‘drumming’ or ‘croaking’ sound.

Female Sea trout grow larger and longer than their male counterparts. They can reach lengths up to 25 inches. On the other hand, males average around 19 inches. Generally, the average weight of Speckled Sea Trout is between 2 to 3 pounds. However, larger Spotted Sea Trout, also known as “gator trout,” can grow as long as 39 inches!

It takes the male Sea Trout two years to reach maturity and three years for the females. Spawning period runs from April to September, which occurs every 7 to 14 days. Sea Trout limit their habitat to the place of their birth. The expected life span for males is five years, while females live 8 to 10 years.

Where to Find Spotted Sea Trout

Spotted Sea Trout have a can be caught throughout the entire Gulf of Mexico, coastal Florida, and Northwest US into Massachusetts. Speckled Seatrout are generally found inshore, they are known as estuarine fish. So, they will mostly be seen in creeks, inlets, marshes, and drop-offs.

Spotted Sea Trout can be found in all 3 layers of the water column, depending on various elements. These elements include the season and water temperature. During the winter months, specks move to deeper areas in the water. In summer and fall, they live more in the middle and topwater columns.

A great place to go trout fishing are grass flats, particularly submerged grass. These areas attract sea trout prey such as crustaceans and mullet. Fortunately, the Sarasota Bay Area offers acres of submerged grass beds.

Other habitats you will find speckled trout lurking about are shallow waters, oyster bars, and drop-offs. Surprisingly, the shallow waters are where you could find the larger sea trout. The larger fish usually swim alone so they like to hide in holes to ambush their prey. Dropping a line in front of some holes should win you a big prize.

Rules and Regulations

The State of Florida has 5 regulatory regions, all with different rules, regulations, and seasons. See below for the 5 regions and their respective sea trout management.

Western Panhandle

Area: Escambia Country through portions of Gulf County west of longitude 85 degrees but not including Indian Lagoon.
Bag Limit: 3 per recreational harvester
Slot Image: More than 15” but less than 19” total length. But you may keep 1 over 19” per vessel.
Season: Closed for the month of February
Legal Gear: Hook, Line and Cast Net

Florida Fishing Licenses

The Right Boat For The Right Fish

Learn the proper fishing licenses you need in Ingman Marine’s Guide to Florida Fishing Licenses. More text needed to fill some space.

Big Bend

Area: Remaining portions of Gulf County and Franklin County through Fred Howard Park Causeway in Pinellas County.
Bag Limit: 5 per recreational harvester
Slot Limit: More than 15” but less than 19” total length. But you may keep 1 over 19” per vessel.
Season: Open Year-Round
Legal Gear: Hook, Line and Cast Net

The South

Area: Fred Howard Park Causeway in Pinellas County through Broward County
Bag Limit: 3 per recreational harvester
Slot Limit: More than 15” but less than 19” total length. But you may keep 1 over 19” per vessel.
Season: Open Year-Round
Legal Gear: Hook, Line and Cast Net
Special Biscayne National Park Regulations: If fishing inside Biscayne National Park Spotted Sea Trout have been added to a 10-fish aggregate bag limit, meaning including various other species, you can only posses 10 total between all species. For example: you have 3 red drums, 2 sea trout and 5 blue runners, this means you cannot catch any more sea trout that day because you have 10 total fish categorized under the 10 aggregate bag limit. (see the full list of specifications at MyFWC.com)

Central East

Area: Palm Beach County through Volusia County
Bag Limit: 2 per recreational harvester
Slot Limit: More than 15” but less than 19” total length. But you may keep 1 over 19” per vessel.
Season: Closed Nov. 1st – Dec. 31st
Legal Gear: Hook, Line and Cast Net
Special Biscayne National Park Regulations: If fishing inside Biscayne National Park Spotted Sea Trout have been added to a 10-fish aggregate bag limit, meaning including various other species, you can only possess 10 total between all species. (see the full list of specifications at MyFWC.com)

Northeast

Area: Flagler County through Nassau County
Bag Limit: 5 per recreational harvester
Slot Limit: More than 15” but less than 19” total length. But you may keep 1 over 19” per vessel.
Season: Open Year-Round
Legal Gear: Hook, Line and Cast Net

We would like to reiterate that this game fish is strictly ‘catch and release’ only in specific counties. To find out more about the catch and release policy as well as more profound and intricate details about the rules and regulations governing the fishing and handling of Spotted Sea Trout, check out the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Fishing Tips and Tricks

Speckled Trout are finicky creatures. Conditions need to be right to get bites back to back. It could be the water quality, water temperature, season, or lures you are using. Though, this does not mean fishing for specks requires a picture-perfect scenario. It is all about considering how much you’d want to catch, how big, and where you’re fishing.

Using any lure or bait can work on specks. However, some lures work better in different situations. For instance, during winter, specks are slow and lethargic, so they will not spend much energy on feeding. In this scenario, you will need to entice them a bit with lures that have exciting tail-like action, enough to excite any lethargic speck. When the waters are warm speckled trout are aggressive feeders, especially during fall.

Popular Boats

For the leader line, a fluorocarbon 20 lb test is recommended. This works great with clear line because of its transparency. It is also resistant to abrasion, has less stretch, and sinks fast in the water. For fishing topwater, you would want to switch to the monofilament leader line. Not only do these sink slower, they are also cheaper than other lines. A 20 lb test will work for this line also. However, the general line test for both leaders is 2lb to 15lb. Keep in mind, choosing the proper leader line depends on the water condition and the layer of the water column you plan to fish.

Speckled sea trout have soft mouths. Upon getting a bite, a slight and slow elevation of your rod is necessary as you reel in. If you jerk the line too hard you could rip the lure or bait right and end up with a big loss or an injured fish.

Best Boats to Catch Sea Trout

Boats for sea trout fishing will depend on if you plan to fish inshore or offshore.

Inshore fishing will require boats that can float in about skinnier water to about 80 feet. Inshore boats are generally small and may carry only 1-5 passengers. Buying or hiring one of these is relatively cheap, and it can offer easy maneuvering in shallow waters. Example of inshore fishing boats include:

If you are planning on fishing further out in the Gulf of Mexico, you need to use an offshore fishing boat. Generally, these are larger and more sturdy than inshore boats. However, they are expensive to buy or hire compared to inshore boats. Typical offshore fishing boats are:

Seatrout

Spot on Sea Trout

Spotted sea trout are one of the tastier recreational species of fish in Florida. After a great catch, you can prepare it almost any way you wish. They can be served fried, grilled, or baked. The light fillets do well in a variety of marinates. You can also steam, broil, stew or poach them as well.

There are so many recipes to choose from when cooking speckled trout. One of our favorites is baked sea trout in a caper and white wine sauce. Sea Trout baked in spicy lemon butter sauce would serve spicy food lovers, well. While Rainbow trout fillets are the most common ‘trout’ you will find in your nearest grocery store or restaurant. However, if you live in a highly fished Spotted Sea trout region, you may be able to get some fresh fillets from your local neighborhood seafood market. The other option is to catch your own, with some extras to freeze and save for later!

Final Words

Spotted sea trout are certainly an exciting species to catch. Whether they are inshore or offshore, in the Gulf of Mexico, or off the Atlantic Coast, you are sure to experience amazing outdoor fishing. For those fishing for food remember to follow each regions’ daily bag limit. For those fishing for fun, please remember that although they can be feisty, they are still delicate. Responsibly releasing them back into the water keeps their population healthy.

Happy Fishing and Eating!

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