The Spotted Seatrout is a common estuarine fish. While most of these fish are caught on shallow, grassy flats, Spotted Seatrout reside in virtually any inshore waters, from the surf of outside islands to far up coastal rivers, where they often come for shelter during cold weather. Contrary to its name, the Spotted Seatrout is not a member of the trout family, but of the drum family. It is popular for commercial and especially recreational fishing in coastal waters of the southeastern United States.
The Spotted Seatrout has prominent canine teeth. Like other fish of the family Sciaenidae, it has an elongated, soft dorsal fin with no scales; it is separated from the spinous dorsal fin by a deep notch. It usually has two anal spines and the lateral line extends to the tip of the caudal fin. The back has distinct spots scattered on it, including on the dorsal and caudal fins. Unlike some other members of the family Sciaenidae, the Spotted Seatrout does not have any chin barbels. In stained water, this fish's background may take on a golden hue. Its shape and coloration is reminiscent of a brown trout. This fish is closely related to the weakfish.
Large Spotted Seatrout do not feed often and few anglers like to use 12-inch live mullet for bait. Experienced trout anglers have their own combination of bait, tackle, location, etc. for catching Spotted Seatrout. The following is offered primarily for the novice with the expectation that use of the suggestions as a starting point will lead to the development of his or her own "magic" for catching Spotted Seatrout.
Any light to medium action rod and reel combination is appropriate since most Spotted Seatrout caught are in the 2-3 pound range. Equipment designed for use in salt water is essential because of the corrosive nature of sea water. The most popular terminal tackle for spotted seatrout is the popping cork rig. Best results are achieved by popping the cork periodically to simulate live action. By varying the retrieve, frequency of popping, and the depth of bait, the best action for the catching trout can be found. The best bait for catching Spotted Seatrout is live shrimp. Live fish such as mullet or pinfish and dead shrimp can also be effective. A conventional bottom rig may be used when Spotted Seatrout are found to be feeding near the bottom. Artificial baits are effective for catching Spotted Seatrout the year round. although many types and styles of artificial baits exist, generally they can be classified in three ways; jigs, spoons and fishlike lures.
Jigs may be fished singly or in pairs either with or without the use of a cork. They are very effective fished under lights at night when trout congregate to feed. Worm jigs, fished under a small popping cork in grassy flats are effective. Try them without corks in deep guts or channels. Vary the action, depth fished and lure color. Hot pink, root beer, dark red and white are good colors. Spoons are very effective, particularly during the warmer months. Silver is probably the best color. Vary the speed and depth of the retrieve, as well as the weight and size of the spoon. A bucktail fastened to the spoon with the hook or a bucktail and hook trailed to 12 to 18 inches behind the spoon is often successful.
Spotted Seatrout live in the top of the water column and are most numerous along the coasts of the southeastern states, such as Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, and Florida. They are also common along the coasts of North and South Carolina and Virginia. Estuarine coasts are prime settlement areas. They are uncommonly seen north of Delaware Bay and along the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts.