Spotted Seatrout

Spotted Seatrout
Cynoscion nebulosus
(A.K.A. Speckled Trout)


Key Distinguishing Markings:

  • Spotted seatrout are dusky gray on top fading to silver at the belly.
  • The upper body is marked with numerous dark spots which extend into the dorsal and tail fins.
  • The dorsal and tail fins of the spotted seatrout are pale yellowish green.
  • Spotted sea trout have a pair of enlarged canine teeth in their upper jaw and the lower jaw is projecting, as in a weakfish.

Size:

  • Maximum length and weight is around 3 feet total length and 16 pounds.
  • Females at maturity are usually larger than the males.
  • Spotted seatrout can live up to 15 years, but individuals over 5 years old are rare.

Distribution:

  • Can be found from Cape Cod to Mexico, but not common north of Delaware Bay.
  • Spotted seatrout move into the Chesapeake Bay in April and May and leave as water temperatures fall in November.
  • Spotted seatrout are mostly found in the lower bay.

Habitat:

  • Adult spotted seatrout are found in waters with 5 parts per thousand salinity and greater, and prefer water temperatures from 60 to 80 Fahrenheit.
  • Young of the year are found in shallow tidal creaks and beds of submerged aquatic vegetation.
  • Adult spotted seatrout frequent grass beds, oyster bars, creek mouths, drop offs and submerged structure, generally in less than 10 feet of water.

Food Preference:

  • They like to eat shrimp, crabs and fish such as menhaden, Atlantic croaker, spot, anchovies and silversides.
  • Adults swim in small schools with incoming tides and move into shallow areas to feed.

Spawning:

  • The fish spawn from April to September at the mouth of the Bay.
  • Spawning takes place at night and the fish constantly jump and mill around.
  • Female fish produce an average of five to six hundred thousand eggs.
  • Spotted seatrout generally mature at age one.

Fishing Tips:

  • Spotted seatrout can be caught by casting around structure, trolling or bottom fishing.
  • Artificial lures, peeler and soft crabs, shrimp and live minnows are good baits.
  • For current recreational size and creel limits, see Maryland's updated regulation page.

Fun Facts:

  • A croaking sound is made by the males during spawning and can be heard one to two hours before sunset.

Family: Sciaenidae (drums and croakers)

Order: Perciformes (perch-likes)

Class: Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes)

For more information on spotted seatrout and their management, please check the ASMFC website www.ASMFC.org  (look for spotted seatrout in the Managed Species section or contact Harry Rickabaugh

Illustration courtesy of Duane Raver, USFWS


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