Naturalist Fact: Spotted seatrout

The spotted seatrout (Cynoscion nebulosus), also known as speckled trout, is a common estuarine fish that is found in the Southern U.S. and Gulf of Mexico. Despite its name, spotted seatrout aren't members of the trout family (Salmonidae), but the drum family (Sciaenidae). During spawning season, all mature males of the drum family attract females by making a “drumming” sound. They produce the sound by the contraction of abdominal muscles against the swim bladder, a gas-filled organ that contributes to the ability of a fish to control its buoyancy.

Spotted seatrout reach sexual maturity at one to two years. They grow rapidly, reaching 8 inches in the first year and over 12 inches

by age 2. Small trout eat large amounts of shrimp and other crustaceans, but as they grow larger, their diets shift toward fish. Studies in Texas and Mississippi show that really large trout strongly prefer to feed on mullet. Often the mullet is half or two-thirds as large as the trout! Large females may reach 12 years of age and release over a million eggs during spawning.

Spotted seatrout are a good eating fish and, according to the NOAA, are in the top ten species for recreational fishing in the United States. Seatrout are found in and around seagrass meadows, deep holes, in the surf, and above oyster bars. Fishing with live shrimp near the bottom or attaching a float is the most popular way to search for trout. Casting with soft-bodied jigs, top-water poppers and spoons can be effective also. Spotted seatrout is listed as a “best choice” for sustainable seafood by the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch.

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