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Spotted Seatrout (Cynoscion nebulosus)

Spotted Seatrout are excellent game fish to catch in the Florida flats. They have a brownish yellow color on their back extending to the sides and then blending into a silvery white and have a white stomach. They are mostly identified by their distinct black circular spots scattered near the top side of the fish as well as their prominent canine teeth. They are often mistaken for Weakfish(Cynoscion regalis) which are similar looking but are different. Sea trout are not really part of the trout family but are actually in the same family as Red Drum and Black Drum. Spotted sea trout are also commonly referred to as speckled trout, speckles, Spotted seateague, Simon trout, Winter trout, Nosferatu fish, Southern seateague, Salmon, Salmon trout, and black trout. or Specs. Seatrout are excellent table fair which makes them a highly prized fish to catch in Florida. They are also a great choice for food because they provide a great choice for a sustainable seafood. The larger trout are known as “Gator trout” or just “Gators”. They are larger than 25 inches and are much harder to ctach then the juveniles. Adult Sea trouts have been caught measuring up to 39 inches in length and weighing as much as 17 pounds. Gator trout are much more difficult to catch, which is why they are so big. The all-tackle world record for the largest Gator was caught in May 1995 by Craig Carson off of Fort Pierce weighing in at 17 pounds and 7 ounces. Juvenile and medium-sized seatrout are often found in schools but as they grow they tend to be loaners or sometimes roam in pairs. Seatrout often carry “spaghetti worms” which pose no threat for humans and the fish can be safely eaten once you remove the worms. Spotted seatrout is said to be in the top ten species for recreational fishing in Florida according to according to the NOAA.

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How to catch Spotted Seatrout in Miami

The best way to catch seatrout is by free lining live shrimp or small pinfish near the bottom of seagrass beds. Another popular method is by using a float or popper so the baits drift over the grass beds. Casting with soft-bodied jigs, top-water poppers and spoons can be effective. For days when the water is crystal clear bright colored lures work best but if the water is muddy then using a dark colored lure will be more effective. When setting the bait don’t pull to hard on the rod or you can easily pull the hook right of their mouth. If you catch a Trout that is not big enough it’s crucial to return them to the water as soon as possible because they are very delicate.

Where to fish for Spotted Seatrout

During the warmer months, Seatrout can be found inshore around shallow bays, oyster bars, seagrass meadows, deep holes, channels, mangrove-fringed shorelines and estuaries that hold plenty of fish for them to snack on. Although they feed near the top of the water column they often hide in holes along seagrass bottoms. The larger gator trout prefer fast moving water with plenty of places to hide. They are usually in deeper water from 15 to 20 feet around structures like bridges, docks, and pilings. When a cold front hits south florida the big Gator trout tend to move into much shallower water. Seatrouts are able to adapt to a wide range of salinities, so they can live in brackish or marine environments. The Florida keys and the surrounding are all great places to fish for spotted sea trout.

Best time of the year for Miami Spotted Seatrout fishing

Sea trout can be caught all year long in Florida especially in Key Biscayne, the Keys, as well as in the backcountry areas of Everglades national park. Febuary to December on the days before and after the new and full moons are the best time to catch them. When the tide is falling and during low tide is often the best time to fish for Sea trout. They spawn between May and September. When the water is warm they can often be found out in the bays in mud or seagrass flats. After a cold front mullet usually swim to shallow water where the water warms up quicker and the Seatrout is abundant.

The best bait to catch Spotted Seatrout

The best bait to catch sea trout is small pinfish and shrimp. They also eat a variety of dead bait such as sardines, ballyhoo, and pilchards. The larger gator trout mostly eat shrimp, crustaceans, finger mullet, and pinfish. GULP shrimps are also a great alternative to live bait. They last longer and can sometimes catch you more fish. Another option is to fish popping corks which in some areas are fairly popular. For the larger Gator trout, you want to stick with live shrimp or live pinfish. If your going to use a lure than a topwater plug can be very effective. A variety of other lures will work to catch seatrout including large shrimp patterns, Clouser Minnows, Deceivers, lead head jigs, MirrOlure MirrOdine Suspending Twitchbait, and subsurface topwater jerkbait. The almost alive shrimp, gulp shrimp, original Dalton special lure, Heddon Super Spook, Rapala Skitter Walk, Boone Spinana, Mirrolure Top Dog and Boone Castana are all great options. Pink is a vary popular choice for sea trout lures. Choosing the right colors is all a matter of trial and error. The key to choosing the right colors is to match the color of the baitfish in the area. They key is to be very quiet because the larger fish are more skittish and can be scared away very easily.

Florida Spotted Seatrout fishing regulations

Spotted seatrout is managed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for both commercial and recreational fishing in Florida. In order to keep a spotted seatrout in Florida, they must be at least 15 inches and cannot be over 20 inches. You are allowed to keep one sea trout that is over 20 inches. The daily bag limit for spotted seatrout is 4 per person in the Southwest and 5 per person in the Northwest zone. There isn’t any closed season so they can be caught year round. A current Florida saltwater fishing license is required to fish for all types of saltwater species in Florida. For a commercial fisherman, the fishing season for spotted Seatrout is from June 1 until October 31 and you can keep up to 150 per vessel as long as there are at least two or more licensed fisherman on board. Spotted seatrout management in Florida began in the late 1980s when their numbers started to decline. In 20010 a stock assessment was conducted that showed the spotted seatrout population as relatively stable and the goal of 35% SPR was obtained. You can obtain a license from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission by going online, calling or going to a bait and tackle shop.

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