To Speck, Or Not To Speck

Any new tips for me to try when I am fishing sea trout?

When talking about ‘Sea Trout’, we are usually referring to the Speckled Sea Trout (Cynoscion nebulosus), or just plain ‘Speck’. They are members of the drum family, and bear no relation at all to freshwater trouts. They range down the US Eastern coast from New England, south to Florida, and around to the Gulf of Mexico, all the way to the Texas coast.

Specks are inshore fish, preferring to hang out near sounds, brackish and saltwater rivers, estuaries, and in the surf out to a few miles from shore. They like structure, such as reefs and wrecks, and cuts and canals in grassy marshes.They can be caught from piers, and under bridges. Speckled trout feed on mullet, menhaden, anchovies, glass minnows, pinfish, spot, and other small baitfish. Shrimp, crabs, and squid are also good baits to use.

One of the best jigs for Speckled Trout is the Gotcha jig, in orange, red, chartreuse, or white. The best sizes are 1/8, and 1/4 ounce. They have the advantage of having a ‘grub’-type body that can be rapidly changed to match the fishing conditions. The rule of thumb for selecting color is to use bright colors in murky water, and dark colors in clear water.

The most common way to fish jigs for Specks is to cast the jig out near structure, and let it sink to the bottom. Then raise the rod tip several feet, then reel in the slack line as the lure settles back down. Then, the process repeats. This resembles the action of a fleeing shrimp, or injured baitfish. Another way to use jigs is to make a double jig-rig. To make this rig, tie on a small white jig to the bottom of your line. Tie on a yellow jig 18″ above the white one. Now, place a bobber (preferably a flat-faced ‘chugger-type’ float) 4′ above the top jig. Now cast the whole rig out, and periodically ‘pop’ the bobber with short jerks. The commotion of the float attracts Specks from several hundred yards away, and the minnows, apparently chasing each other, drives them crazy. Don’t be surprised if you get hits from Bluefish as well, as they also love these rigs. If you bring the rig in, and you are missing half of a grub body, it was most likely a bluefish.

For the ultimate fun, try catching Specks on a fly rod. They readily hit Deceivers, Angel Minnows, Gummy Minnows and Puglisi-Style streamers. You don’t need an expensive rig for this. An 8 or 9 wt fly rod will do nicely. Just use a reel with a good disc-drag, and you’re good to go. For distance, you can use a shooting taper and running line, or just plain old Bass Bug taper. And long tippets are not necessary. A 7′ leader with a 12 pound tippet is plenty.

Speckled Trout are ‘Hunter-Seeker’ type predators, as opposed to ‘Ambush-Predators’, such as groupers. Specks actively ‘hunt’ their prey. So a knowledge of baitfish habits and movement patterns is very useful in locating roving schools of hungry trout. And, they are creatures of habit, using the same routes time and time again. For the angler, this means that where you find them today, at this particular tide, moon and temperature, you will find them next month under the same conditions.

While Sea Trout can be caught on live bait, with shrimp being the standard offering, it is much more economical to use lures, and you will catch just as many fish with them, under most circumstances. Here are a few of my favorites:

I have already mentioned the Gotcha Jig. My next favorite is the floater-diver Boone Spinana, and it’s larger cousin, the Castana. Both of these lures float at rest, but dive to a foot or more deep when pulled, twitched, or reeled in. They also undulate from side-to-side. My favorite retrieve is an erratic return. I cast out, and let it set for a few seconds. Then I twitch it 2 or three times, and let it set again. I repeat this all the way in. Most of the time, they will bust it on the way back up. Another good retrieve is to just reel it back in slow enough to keep it about a foot under the surface. This can illicit savage strikes at times.

Another lure I am very fond of is the Mirro-Lure. I fish it the same way, and have had great success with them.

Specks are delicious table fare, so don’t be afraid to bring a few home to the kitchen.

Happy fishing.

Daniel Eggertsen
Dan Eggertsen is a fellow saltwater fishing enthusiast to the point of obsession. :) He's been providing solid advice on saltwater fishing since 2004.

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