Speckled Trout

❝Speckled trout or specks (technically, Spotted seatrout) are a favorite catch of saltwater anglers on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. These beautiful, tasty fish are hard fighters who are willing to hit both live and artificial baits. Speckled trout are abundant and readily available in the sounds, including those around Nags Head, Manteo, Manns Harbor, and Oregon Inlet. At times, you will also find plenty in the ocean.

Spotted seatrout caught on a MirrOlure®
Outer Banks specks

Speckled trout belong to the drum family, which also includes Black drum, Red drum, and Atlantic croaker. This family derived its name from the drumming sound that they produce through their air bladder.

Spawning Behavior

Speckled trout have a long spawning season that lasts from April to September. Spawning occurs at night, often around piers, pilings, bridges, points of land, and holes, and it frequently coincides with a full moon. North Carolina maintains a 14-inch limit that ensures that most of the females will have an opportunity to spawn at least once before we can keep them.

Speckled Trout Fishing Techniques

These fish are a blast to catch on light- to medium-weight tackle. Spinning, bait casting, or fly fishing are all suitable choices.

Lures

Use a ¼-oz lead head with some type of rubber body. Try curly-tailed, paddle-tailed, or split-tailed grubs, which are all effective with a hop-hop-drag style of retrieve. Make it behave like a shrimp. There is a wide variety of colors that can be productive such as chartreuse, dark green, or white. Use any of these colors alone or with tails of contrasting colors. In addition, two colors that I always use are 'salt and pepper' or 'rootbeer' tipped with green tails.

Spotted seatrout lures
speckled trout lures

More Tips

  • Hard-bodied baits such as MirrOlures® can entice savage strikes.
  • Use top water baits with a 'walk-the-dog' retrieve.
  • Chartreuse and white clouser minnows are effective patterns for flys.
  • A combination of live or fresh baits such as mud minnows, shrimp, finger mullet, and crab will produce results.
  • Use the click and splash of a popping cork to attract speckled trout from long distances.

The Popping Cork Technique for Speckled Trout

One of my favorite methods for catching speckled trout is using a popping cork, which clicks when you retrieve it. For this fun technique, use a jighead and grub or a baited hook on a two-foot piece of 12-pound leader.

Cast out the bobber and lure and, after the water settles, give it a couple quick snaps. The noise will attract feeding trout to your bait. When the bobber goes under, reel tight to the fish, and then lightly set the hook. Be gentle because specks have a soft mouth that easily tears.

This is an easy technique that will produce results for anglers of all skill levels.

Where to Fish for Speckled Trout

Some trout winter in the ocean and some go to the brackish creeks that empty into the western side of the sounds of the Outer Banks. In early spring these fish disperse throughout the sound and get ready to breed. Look for speckled trout along the edges of the marsh at this time. If you see bait jumping out of the water, you can expect to find trout there. These fish prefer low-light conditions and leave the shallow waters when the sun rises. Look for deep holes close to these spots or try the shade of the local bridges.

Speckled trout seem to move on a regular basis. You will discover that you catch a bunch and then you won't catch any as the fish have moved on in search of new forage. Hang in there—another group might move through to replace them.

Moving water is always the preferred feeding areas for speckled trout. Tidal currents, wind currents, and flowing creeks are all good places to fish. Find spots where the moving water bumps into still water—these are called 'rip lines' or 'edges.' Cast there! In addition, grassy flats can be a ton of fun with top-water baits, especially on low-light summer days.

Spotted seatrout (speckled trout or specks)
how to catch speckled trout
If you want to learn more about how to catch speckled trout on the Outer Banks, contact me about a half-day or evening fishing charter. Let's go speckled trout fishing!❞

Captain Lenny