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Spotted Sea Trout

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Spotted Sea Trout picture

Spotted sea trout also called speckled trout or spots are long-bodied game fish abundant in the inshore waters of the Southeast. They are active predators, and bite well are both live bait and artificial lures, including topwater plugs. The largest fully mature spotted sea trout are called "gator trout". They might be the most beautiful and colorful inshore game species. Sea trout often have brilliant spot patterns on top of subtle greens, blues,and pinks. They are fast swimming hunters of baitfish and shrimp. Spotted Sea Trout are sought after as a food item and as a gamefish for pure fun. Large boneless fillets of lean and flaky white meat can be collected from the sides.

Where are the Spotted Sea Trout ?

Spotted Sea Trout prefer to hunt for food in open water. They tend to hang out around deeper holes and bottom structures in the summer and then move back into shallow creeks when the weather is cooler. They can also be found in the coastal surf if you are lucky. Spotted Sea Trout also travel up rivers and creeks into brackish and fresh water, but do not have as much fresh water tolerance as flounder or redfish do. They do much better is salty marsh creeks. A good way to locate Spotted Sea Trout is to locate schools of baitfish from sight or bird activity. Sometimes you can see signs such as a spotted sea trout chasing mullet near the surface. They often trail behind schools of mullet in deeper water looking to pick off slow ones. They travel in schools, so once you catch a spotted sea trout there are probably more. Some good areas to find spotted sea trout in Florida are Indian River, the Matanzas Inlet area, and Mosquito Bay, but they can be found in most salt marshes and inland waterways around the gulf.

Summer Sea Trout in Northeast Florida photo

How to Catch Spotted Sea Trout ?

The best way to harvest sea trout is on plastic jigs and shiny minnow lures. Spotted Sea Trout can sometimes be lured to docks at night with a lantern. Florida has special regulations for keeping spotted sea trout. Each trout must be at least 12 inches, and no more than 5 fish per day. Only one trout over 24 inches may be kept, and any others that are too large must be thrown back. This is to protect breeding sized trout.

The best way to harvest Spotted Sea Trout in my opinion is with light spinning gear and some small minnow type lures. The sea trout's natural diet includes mullet, shrimp, mud minnows, baby crabs, insects, and other small inshore baitfish. The best way to catch them with live bait is to use a number 2 nickel live bait hook with about a light clear leader and bobber rig. Use live bait like mullet or shrimp near places where the spotted sea trout congregate like docks and underwater structures. Trout can be caught in the surf with the same rig with a bigger weight. Spotted sea trout will attack plastic shrimp and grubs when presented along the bottom. Some anglers report catching sea trout on a fly rod with home-made shrimp flies and streamer flies.

How to Clean Spotted Sea Trout ?

Use a clamp board and a steel glove when you can for cleaning trout, as it simplifies the task and reduces the chance of a blade wound. For spotted Sea Trout, clamp the tail in a fixed position on a flat stable surface. Use a long and flexible fillet knife to start a slice from the tail. Then cut in until you hit the spine then begin to go under the filet towards the head. Hold the knife gently keeping it as near the fishes backbone as you can. You should be able feel the backbone, but do not cut into it, as you move the knife towards the front in a slow rocking motion. Grab the fillet of meat once it is long enough and see how near you are to the spine. End the fillet slice near the gills at the top. Near the belly you will have to work the blade around the rib cage. How much meat you can get in a single cut from around the ribs area shows how good you are at cleaning trout. A bendy flexible blade works better than a stiff blade. Turn the fillet over and use the knife to separate the skin from the fillet, or you can keep it on for extra flavor or crisping. A dull knife works better than a sharp knife for skinning.

How to Cook Spotted Sea Trout ?

Spotted sea trout taste delicious fried or broiled. The meat is moderately flaky and usually very white. It gets mushy when coked too long. Freezing wild trout is not recommended because it destroys the texture and subtle flavor. Farm raised trout available at Publix are cheap and are better for freezer storing of trout. I recommend eating Spotted Sea Trout within two days of catching. The cleaned meat can be stored in the fridge suspended in cold salt water for about a 2 days. The meat is too delicate for grilling trout directly on the rack, but cedar planks or special grill meshes can be used.

My favorite way to cook a spotted trout is to put it on some foil while the oven heats up on broil with the pan in the oven. I put a small amount of butter and smear it around in the bottom of some aluminum foil. Then put some salt and pepper down, then trout, then more salt an pepper. I like to add paprika, celery seed, and breadcrumbs. This goes in the broiler for a few minutes until it flakes apart with a fork. It should still be firm but brakes apart.

 

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