The Speckled Sea Trout (a/k/a Spotted Sea Trout) is one of the most ubiquitious species along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. From the flats of Texas to the rocky shores of the Mid-Atlantic States, these fish can be found predating on schools of baitfish and shrimp, making them one of the most popular targets for all inshore fishermen.
Trout are, by all accounts, the ultimate inshore predator. They notoriously lurk on the edge of currents, structures, and shorelines, waiting to ambush their prey using their keen eyesight and–ultimately–their large and unique front canine teeth. While their general habitat and patterns may be somewhat predictable, chasing these fish is no walk in the park, especially for trophy class fish.
Trout can be targeted in most reaches of their range year round. This is especially true from South Carolina all the way around to Texas. In the winter months Trout will tend to congregate in deeper river channels and holes and can be fished with bottom rigs or on deep, adjustable cork setups. Starting in the Spring, schools of fish can be targeted in shallower creeks, shorelines, and flats.
If locating schools of trophy Sea Trout were easy, you wouldn’t be reading this. Having said that, there are some general trends that these fish like to follow.
In areas of moderate to heavy current, look for structures like oyster rakes, docks, and natural points along the shoreline. These areas typically provide the three things a trout is seeking: 1) a food source; 2) an ambush point; and 3) an eddy current to hunt in.
Along flats where the water is slower moving and typically clean and clear, Trout tend to hunt in places where they can hide. Along sandy flats covered in turtle grass, for example, Trout can be targeted by fishing along the edges of sand pockets, where they are lying in wait for baitfish who frequent the sandy cloisters.
Targeting Trout off the beaches (either from shore or boat) can also be profitable. Here, you’ll want to keep an eye out for deeper currents running perpendicular to the beach. These rip-currents pull a buffet of food from the beach out towards the waiting Trout. Be careful if you’re targeting these areas from shore though, while rip-currents are great for catching fish, they are also infamous for pulling swimmers out to sea.
Being the excellent predators that they are, Trout are mostly targeted with live bait or artificials, and will rarely strike dead or cut bait.
Shrimp, finger mullet, and mud minnows tend to be the best baits when targeting trout with live baits. In the warmer months, fishing under a popping cork with 18-24” of fluorocarbon leader and a small kale hook is one of the most effective methods of catching. In the winter months, a bottom rig or deep cork works well. When fishing slow or eddying currents or fishing at night under lights, a “naked” rig can work well too–just a hook run on a fluoro leader tied directing onto your main line (uni to uni or blood knot works well here).
There’s not a whole lot better than catching trout on artificials. And in this category, topwater lures are hands down the most fun. Topwater is typically best in low light conditions when water temperatures are 72+ degrees.
Suspending hard baits, paddle tails, and screw tails all work very well for Trout too. When using soft plastics, greens, pinks, and yellows tend to work best, and it’s certainly worth checking with the local tackle shop to see if your locale has any preferable bait colors.
And last, but certainly not least, is the artificial shrimp. These plastics can be used as a stand alone, but we prefer placing them under a popping cork and used in a similar fashion to live bait fishing.