Skip navigation

School of Ocean Science and Engineering

Spotted Sea Trout Tag and Release

sea trout

Spotted Seatrout

Spotted seatrout are routinely called speckled trout or specks. Spotted Seatrout have an elongated, streamlined body with a slightly elevated back, long pointed head, and oblique mouth with the lower jaw extending beyond the upper. They are silvery gray or greenish on the upper sides and back, shading to white on the belly. The upper back has an iridescent sheen with light blue and purple. Dark spots appear on the upper portion of the sides and on the dorsal fin and tail. The dorsal fin and tail are dusky, and the tail is edged in black. The other fins are pale or yellowish. The overall coloration varies with water conditions, with fish from stained inshore water typically being darker and even somewhat golden.

The mouth often shows yellow coloration on the edges and interior, especially in older fish. There are one or two prominent canine teeth at the front of the upper jaw. The dorsal fin is long and separated by a deep notch into a spiny forward section and a soft rear section. Like other fish in the drum family (e.g., Red Drum, Black Drum, Sand Seatrout, Ground Mullet, Croaker, Spot...), the lateral line extends onto the tail. Occasionally, a "spotless speck" is encountered with no spots on the body; however, the tail and dorsal fin are always spotted. A six-pound Spotted Seatrout is considered large, and ten pounders are occasionally caught. Female Spotted Seatrout can live to age ten, but few males live beyond 5 years of age. Consequently, fish weighing five pounds or more are typically female.  Large fish (longer than 22" in length) are sometimes described as "gator trout." Large gravid (with eggs) females are often referred to as "sow trout."

The nickname "yellowmouth" comes from the yellow interior of the mouth which is observed more often in larger fish. The Spotted Seatrout's relatively delicate mouth structure sometimes allows a hook to break free and earns the fish the nickname "papermouth." Spotted Seatrout are similar to two other saltwater trout species but are easily distinguished by their spots. Sand Seatrout, or white trout Cynoscion arenarius, and the smaller Silver Seatrout Cynoscion nothus look much like Spotted Seatrout but have no spots. The weakfish, Cynoscion regalis, has spots on its body, but none on the fins or tail. Weakfish are not found in the Gulf of Mexico.