How to Catch a Speckled Trout

Located in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico and along the Atlantic Coast of the US, speckled trout prove a spunky gamefish that are enjoyable to catch. Despite what the name implies, speckled trout are not members of the trout family. Instead, they are more closely related to Croakers or Drum. They tend to be quite small or midsize and dine on a myriad of sea crustaceans such as shrimp. Only as they grow do their diets veer towards small fish.

If you’re looking to catch a speckled trout, expect to reel in fish that are between 1 and 3 pounds in weight. The current world record stands at 17 pounds, but anything over 6 is considered a rather weighty catch.

Once cooked and fileted, Speckled trout are a treat for the taste buds. These fish are relatively easy to handle upon catching as they don’t have very sharp spines. If you do plan on releasing them, go gentle, these fish aren’t quite as robust as some.

Looking to catch a speckled trout but don’t know where to start? Below, we’ll outline exactly how to catch a speckled trout and best practices regarding baits/lures. By the end of this guide, you’ll know when, where, and how to reel in your next big catch.

Where to Find Speckled Trout

Before you can boast about your big catch, you’re going to need to know exactly where to find a speckled trout. Finding speckled trout is far easier than landing some species of fish. This is a saltwater species that can most commonly be found in the Southern portion of the US. They tend to hang out in the waters of the gulf or along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. You can find this species in Maryland or anywhere up and down the coast, though Southern states such as Louisiana and Texas tend to boast the highest number of prize-winning giants.

Once you head out along the Gulf or Atlantic, you’re going to need to know where to look. Generally speaking, these fish species hang out along the edges of oyster rocks. Here, the tide breaks and deeper holes form, allowing the tide to turn and become slack water. Speckled trout take full advantage of this natural occurrence by feeding into this slack adjacent to the current. Baitfish wash in with the current and right into turning tide, making it an ideal feeding area.

This type of trout also loves to settle right near the boundary of a flat where deepwater water lies. Where it is deepwater, there are baitfish that will eventually emerge along the edge. Often, they end up swimming right into the gaping mouths of waiting Specks. A major chunk of feeding transpires when the fish are lying in wait for prey to float above. While this is great for the trout, it can make it difficult for you to spot them, as they blend into the bottom.

The Best Time of Day for Speckled Trout

As is the case with any fish species, there are certain times of day when it is ideal to throw a line out for trout. Attempting to fish at the wrong time of day can prove frustrating and fruitless. When is the best time of day to catch a speckled trout? Well, it all comes down to feeding. This is a species that is driven to feed by tidal movement and conditions of light. In these circumstances, their prey becomes far more active. Because of this, the very best time of day to catch speckled trout is in the morning.

Not only will you get bigger fish in the early morning hours, but you’ll tend to garner a greater yield. Choosing to fish in the afternoon hours will likely prove a bit difficult. Unless the tide is coming in mid-day, you’re not going to garner much in the way of yield or size. Odds are, you won’t pull in much of anything at all. Use this time of day to check areas for bait fish and readjust your gear.

Aside from the morning, the best time of day to catch these fish is in the evening. This is when live bait is best, as they become a bit choosy as the sunsets. Generally speaking, evening fishing for Specks is pretty successful, but it will not be as fruitful as fishing in the morning.  If you really want a great yield and larger than average trout, choose to be an early riser.

How To Catch Speckled Trout

Now that you know where and when to catch a speckled trout, it is time to focus on the actual techniques and things to keep in mind when catching this spunky species. Below, we’ve laid out the best ways to catch a speckled trout.

Keep an Eye on Water Clarity

With some species of fish, water clarity simply doesn’t play an important role in behavior or activity. With these fish, this could not be further from the truth. You always want to keep an eye on water clarity. Speckled trout tend to hang out in very clean water that is tinted green in hue. They are simply more affected by the clarity of the water. This will ultimately work in your favor. Since speckled trout will often punch through the surface when hunting prey, you’ll be able to see tell-tale signs of their movement right from the surface. If  you don’t see any signs of activity, go for oyster reefs instead.

Look for Surface Slicks

After you’ve paid some mind to overall water purity and clarity, your job as an angler is to scan the surface waters for oil-like slicks. Not sure what a slick is? Let’s break it down. Surface water slicks are simply oil areas that materialize when certain fish species feed on their prey. As the fish dine, digestive fluids and oils from the prey will release and float to the surface. This causes slicks. These slicks are visible with the naked eye and often bear a distinct odor. Some liken the overall smell to that of a cut up melon.

While speckled trout are far from being the only species that creates slicks, it is a good way to spot activity. Keep in mind, fish will not always be found hanging out right beneath the slicks. Slicks do drift as the water moves and they may grow over time. Every now and then, fish aren’t anywhere near a slick. However, more often than not, if you can get an eye on where you think a slick originated, you’re going to do quite well.

Follow the Birds

Some anglers see birds as an annoying interference in the otherwise peaceful act of fishing. The best anglers know that birds can actually lead you to the fish. When it comes to this distinct species, take our advice and look to the birds. Believe it or not, seagulls tend to be the most helpful.

How can these common seabirds guide you towards a fish population? It all starts with the horizon line. As you set out on your boat, look out to the horizon and note what you see. If you happen to see a large gathering of seagulls lingering a few inches above the water, you’re going to be in for an awesome catch. Approach slowly and ease your boat into the area. Cast out and let the lures do the rest. By simply following these birds, you can end up with an overabundance of specks.

Utilize Big Bait

Fishing for speckled trout is a great time to use the old adage, “go big or go home.” While you can clearly use bait that is in the 3-inch range, many anglers find great success by using large live baits instead. In fact, utilizing large baits is a great way to land a bigger speckled trout, as these varieties love to dine on large baits that their smaller counterparts can’t fit in their mouths. If you’re on the hunt for a trophy-sized speckled trout, rig up a bait that is at least 6 to 7 inches. We enjoy croaker or mullet. Any fish you reel in will likely be larger than average!

Best Bait for Speckled Trout

We’ve touched on the use of big bait such as croaker or mullet, but what about the best bait in general? If you’re not concerned about the size of your speckled trout, one bait will serve you better than any other: live shrimp. Utilizing live shrimp under a popping cork will prove more successful than just about anything else. Once you’re set-up, you can also experiment with leader length and the actual speed of retrieval. Speckled trout adore live shrimp, along with several other varieties of fish found in the area. Aside from trout, you could also find yourself reeling in a rather big Redfish among others!

Best Lures for Speckled Trout

Lures do matter when it comes to specks. Much as this species enjoys a particular kind of bait, they are also drawn to certain types of lures. While you can use hard or soft plastic lures, most anglers do find that soft plastics work best for luring in Speckled trout. Generally, these soft plastic lures are used on a lead jig head. Once attached, you can bounce them off the bottom with great speed. This imitates the movement of gulf shrimp. You can also utilize paddle tail lures to imitate other types of bait.

When it comes to the color of lures, there are some distinct things to keep in mind. Experience shows that trout tend to gravitate to very bright colors, especially pink (think shrimp) and hues like chartreuse. Experiment with a broad range of colors and try fishing under a popping cork. You can also try out topwater walking lures if you’re looking to catch those elusive large-sized trout.

Get Out and Start Fishing

Speckled trout are tasty and quite a bit of fun to catch. This feisty and full-bodied fish love to give any angler a run for their money. Next time you’re looking to head to the salty waters of the Gulf or Atlantic, keep these tips on catching speckled trout in mind. Don’t be afraid to follow the birds or to go with your instincts. Just make sure to keep plenty of live shrimp on hand and to fish in the wee hours of the morning for the greatest yield.

Continue reading: How to Catch a Lingcod

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