7 Tips on How to Catch Speckled Sea Trout

If you're within driving distance of the Gulf of Mexico or Atlantic Ocean and you don't know how to catch speckled sea trout (also know as spotted sea trout), you're missing out.

If you want to get in on the action, this article will get you started catching speckled trout with seven easy tips you can implement the next time you're on the water.

Here's a video that has a few more tips that will help you land more spotted sea trout:

How to Catch Speckled Sea Trout

1. Follow the Birds

Seabirds and speckled trout have one thing in common: they love to gorge on baitfish. So, if you can find birds dive-bombing the water, chances are there's a school of speckled trout below the surface sharing in the feast.

There are several species of birds that signal the location of speckled trout, but seagulls are by far the most reliable. When you launch your boat and start cruising around looking for fish, keep an eye on the horizon. When you see a flock of seagulls hovering above the water, set course and make your approach.

When you get near the birds, slow down and gently ease in until you're within casting range. Then, it's time to let the lures fly. You might be able to see what kind of bait the birds and speckled trout are busting — could be shrimp, mullets, or menhaden — but don't overthink bait or lure selection in this situation. When a feeding frenzy is happening, speckled trout will hit just about anything.

2. Spot Slicks

While you're searching the skies for birds, also keep an eye on the surface of the water for shiny patches. These "slicks" are the result of speckled trout feeding heavily on schools of baitfish or shrimp, then regurgitating their food to make room for more. Kind of gross, but it's a good indicator that there are fish actively feeding.

Generally, the smaller the slick, the more recently it was created. As time passes, the oils disperse and spread out, making the slick wider. You should fish both small and large slicks but try to key in on the smaller ones as the speckled trout are likely still hungry and ready to be caught.

3. Full Moon = Big Bites

The full moon tends to amplify fish activity, big time. This is especially true for the inshore saltwater areas speckled trout inhabit.

The few days before and after a full moon is typically when you have the most tidal movement. This movement tends to stir up and flush out baitfish from inshore areas. Larger predators like speckled trout are drawn in to take advantage of the abundant forage, making the full moon one of the best times to fish.

4. Big Live Bait Catches Big Trout

Although most speckled trout lures tend to be in the 3- to 4-inch range, don't be afraid to fish much larger live baits to catch the biggest speckled trout around.

The majority of speckled trout caught are typically in the 13- to 14-inch range, but every once in awhile you'll encounter specks pushing 26 inches or more. These big fish can fit very large baits in their mouths and most definitely will, given the opportunity.

If you want to specifically target monster speckled trout, try rigging up a 6 or 7-inch live croaker, mullet, or menhaden. Fish it free-line or on the bottom with a fish-finder rig. Keep a firm grip on your rod, because the fish that takes your bait will certainly be a giant!

5. Fish Live Shrimp to Fill Your Cooler

Now, if you're not concerned with catching behemoths, and instead want to bring home a cooler full of "eater-sized" specks, there's no finer bait than live shrimp.

Live shrimp are usually pretty easy to find in bait shops, and they happen to be at the top of the menu for speckled trout. Depending on the season, you can use a cast net to catch your own live shrimp, but this may take away from your fishing time.

There are several ways to rig live shrimp for speckled trout, but the most effective by far is the popping cork rig, which brings us to our next tip...

6. Pop That Cork

Perhaps the most effective speckled trout rig ever devised is the popping cork rig. The rig is very simple, using only a cork with a weighted bottom and a rattle, a leader, and a hook or jig head. If you don't want to rig your own, you can buy pre-rigged popping cork setups that use titanium wire and beads, but they essentially all do the same thing.

Popping cork rigs are incredibly versatile and can be fished both with live bait and soft plastics. If using live shrimp or baitfish, tie a standard saltwater hook to the leader, and if using soft plastics, use a 1/8 or 1/4 ounce jig head.

Regardless of the type of bait or lure you use, you fish a popping cork the same way: cast it out, let it sit, give it a good pop every 20 or 30 seconds, and set the hook when the cork goes under!

You can fish popping corks in almost any conditions, but they are particularly effective in murky or stained water. When you pop the cork, it creates a disturbance on the water's surface, getting the attention of nearby speckled trout. Then, when they get up close and see you have a tasty morsel hanging there, it's too good for them to pass up.

7. Prepare for a Long Day of Casting

When you find a school of active speckled trout, the action can be high-speed and intense. But there are slow times when you have to put in some elbow grease, making cast after cast to try and find some fish.

You'll have a much more enjoyable time if you come prepared with the right gear to make hundreds of casts in a day without fatiguing. A medium-light to medium action rod will handle any speck you hook into and is light enough that you won't get tired casting all day. Also, if you use a slightly longer rod — 7 to 7.5 feet — you'll have an easier time casting long distances over and over again.

Both baitcasting and spinning reels work well for speckled trout, and as long as it's saltwater-resistant and balanced with your rod, just about any reel will do. Spool up your reel with 10 or 12-pound test monofilament or braid and you'll be well prepared to limit out on speckled trout.


Next time you plan an inshore saltwater trip, remember these tips on how to catch speckled sea trout. Follow the birds, don't be afraid to throw big baits, and when in doubt, thread a live shrimp onto your hook and pop that cork.

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