The speckled trout (or Cynoscion Nebulosus) is a species of fish that lives in shallow waters off the coasts of many parts of the eastern and southern U.S. This wary fish is prized for its ability to be eaten and as a trophy.
The speck is a favorite fish of America, year after season. We have great tips for speckled trout fishing, so don’t hesitate to ask!
Here are our top speckled trout fishing tricks and tips.
Speckled Trout Basics
There are many nicknames for speckled trout, but my favorites are “specks” or –for particularly large specimens –“gators”.
You can grow to an average size of 11-14 inches and 1 to 3 lbs. However, fish that are 3 to 5 lb or less can be caught. Older fish can weigh as much as 10 lb.
Some gators are particularly large: The record is 17 pounds 7 ounces
It’s no surprise that it’s a beautiful speck!
You’ll need a medium-power fishing rod and a sturdy reel. You can find our buying guides here.
The Best Spinning Rods
Best spinning reels
Limits on Speckled Trout
Keeper size limits are often set at 12 to 14 inches. It is important to know the legal size of your catch limit and its limits. These laws have a large variance due to local conditions. However, the necessity for any limit is an acknowledgment of the importance of conserving the species.
Louisiana’s minimum size for fish is 12 inches. This length was determined after careful research. Jared Horst, Louisiana State University, explains that a minimum size of 12 inches is required for most fish to spawn. This allows them to reach a harvestable size at least once. At 12 inches, all males and 75% of females are sexually mature. This minimum size increases the overall yield of the fishing industry. Since the regulation was implemented, the average size of recreationally caught fish has increased to more than 13 inches each year. Before the introduction of the minimum size requirement for recreationally caught specks, the average size was only 10 inches.
The majority of fish survive being caught so releasing any specks below this length will help to preserve your chance to fish.
Speckled Trout Feeding Behavior
The speckled trout is characterized by its muscular body and distinctive spots on its dorsal side. It can be identified by its two front teeth.
It is easy to see the speck’s distinctive teeth.
They are active in shallow water, murky or clear. They often seek shelter from rivers and creeks, and they retreat from the weedy flats, rocky tidal break, and rocky tidal areas. Winter and spring are the best times to fish for gators.
They are still aggressive predators no matter what season they are found, but their diet changes as they age.
Horst says that small trout consume large quantities of shrimp and other crustaceans. As they grow larger, trout eat more fish. According to Mississippi and Texas studies, very large trout prefer mullets to their fish. A large trout will eat any mullet that it can handle. The mullet can be half to two-thirds the size of the trout. It is important to catch large trout by fishing where they are and using big baits.
Speckled Trout Fishing Tips for More Speckled Trout
Expert gator hunters agree that specks are aggressive and wary. The big ones are lazy!
Stealth, stealth, stealth
Specks aren’t dumb and get older. Stealth is the key to catching fish that exceed 7 pounds.
One technique I have seen work to great effect is drifting with tides or currents, and turning off the motor, to slide up to the area where the fish are feeding.
Wading can also be a great option to target large flats.
Casting distance is a key factor in this situation. With a leader, I would consider running braid to get every foot of performance out of my rod.
Sufix 832 or Power Pro are great choices. However, I prefer a 30-pound test for the braid’s weak knot strength. To join my mainline to the 20-pound Trilene Big Game leader I use a Double Uni. I prefer about 3 feet of this tough, abrasion-resistant material upfront.
Specks are often leader-shy, so steer clear of wire and stick with mono or fluorocarbon.
Make no mistake, braid is not able to withstand the pressure of fishing oyster shell bottoms and rocks. It broke at 2 pounds when I tested Sufix 832 20-pounds. There was very little abrasion.
For braids and specks, I recommend that you use a leader 100% of the time.
Up-size your lures
Speckled trout can be as aggressive as you want them to be.
Nothing is more frustrating than casting for a trophy and having 1-to 2-pound specks hammer your lines, time after another.
Our guide will help you choose the best trout lures.
You can reduce the noise-to-signal ratio by sizing up soft baits or lures. I prefer a 5 1/2-inch lure and I don’t use anything smaller than a 4 1/2 inch. There are many great options for subsurface and topwater, and my favorites list is much longer than my boat.
The 5-inch Heddon Super Spook is a topwater option almost every speck angler uses.
This amazing lure is guaranteed to get a bite if it’s used properly on a shallow flat. You can choose from a variety of patterns to match or go bold depending on the conditions.
The Bass Assassin 5-inch fluke is another tried-and-true choice. These irresistible soft baits are not only for largemouth.
This big boy’s fluked tail, rigged on a 1/8-ounce or 1/4-ounce jighead, is deadly over weed beds, particularly if you use the pop-pop, pop-pause cadence. You’ll get aggressive strikes from hungry specks whether you drag it along the weed tops or down the side a weedbed.
This action is followed by a pause and drop to get the bite.
When the shrimp start to run, I reach for D.O.A. 1/4 -ounce soft baits. Please let me know if you have any other ideas!
I choose my colors the same way as any other species: I match the hatch, and I go bolder in murkier waters.
Use circle hooks to rig your live bait.
The effectiveness of live bait is the same as lures on specks. It is important to have at least one type of bait on hand. Many speck anglers know that specks can be finicky and reject one type of lure while aggressively eating another.
The best choices are finger-sized menhaden, mullet, and live shrimp. I also bring a cast net to catch bait when it is legal. Try a different type of live bait if you notice that bites are weak and stop.
This is the perfect mullet for grabbing attention from a large speck.
Often, the action will reverse itself.
Menhaden is about the size of a hand that can be used to make specks.
One of my favorite techniques is to run a finger-long or larger mullet under a Cajun Thunder float.
I like to use a 20-pound Trilene Big Game leader under the float. This is hooked through the back with either a 1/0 Gamakatsu circle hook or 2/0 Gamakatsu.
Although it may seem small, I want my specks almost to swallow my hooks. And contrary to what you might think, I don’t want a huge hook set.
An experienced guide will tell you that a heavier, “bass-style” pull will hook you more specks than a circle hook and tight lines.
Fish the low tide moving, particularly the eddies or slack.
If you want to catch fish that are actively feeding, moving water is crucial. This is particularly true for specks. The best time to catch gator action is at low tide.
It’s not surprising, considering the combination of low light, moving water, and speck-fishing at night as the tide returns and leaves is also excellent.
Expert guides will tell you that large specks are lazy. They won’t chase prey but will be waiting for it. The best place to capture small fish being dragged along by hard currents is in the eddy, lee, or rock pile on an island, point, or island.
These locations allow baitfish and other prey to gather their thoughts, or so they think. Like specks, savvy hunters know that they can also wait for struggling fish to come to them.
These features can be targeted on a moving tide before dawn, and you can increase your chances of landing a big fish.
Speckled trout are a popular sport fish in the US. The chance to catch speckled trout is exciting to catch, thrilling to fight, and delicious to eat.
We hope you found these tips and tricks useful.