A speckled trout’s life

Spotted seatrout (Cynoscion nebulosus), also popularly called speckled trout, are members of the sciaenidae family, which includes drums, croakers and weakfish. They are prized throughout their range, which may extend from New York to Florida and northern Mexico. North Carolina is the northern end of the range where fishermen should expect to see them year-round.

Speckled trout can tolerate wide variations in salinity but prefer low- to medium-salinity waters and brackish estuaries. Sometimes subject to experience cold-stun and cold-kill events during the winter, their saving grace is that they are prolific spawners and can rebuild after a widespread cold-stun kill in a short period of time.

Mike Loeffler, lead trout biologist with the NC Division of Marine Fisheries, said trout are prolific spawners and the closure of the fishery from last winter through June 15 and this year’s spawn should allow numbers to be replaced rapidly. Loeffler said trout normally spawn in North Carolina waters from April through October, with May and June being the peak.

Speckled trout spawn in North Carolina waters beginning in April and going through October, with each female releasing 3 to 20 million eggs.

Loeffler said research shows spotted seatrout sexually mature by age 1, males at around 8 inches and females at around 10 inches. The 12- and 13-inch fish that are required to be released are spawning fish that are already adding to the population. North Carolina manages speckled trout with a four-fish daily creel limit and a14-inch size minimum.

According to Loeffler, specks are capable of spawning repeatedly throughout the summer. At  the peak of the season, fish older than age 3 spawn every two days, while younger trout spawn every four days. Depending on age, a female speck will produce 3 to 20 million eggs per year. Spawning takes place on our near seagrass beds, sandy banks, natural sand, shell reefs, around the mouths of inlets and off the beach, and it peaks around the full moon.

About Jerry Dilsaver 1172 Articles
Jerry Dilsaver of Oak Island, N.C., a full-time freelance writer, is a columnist for Carolina Sportsman. He is a former SKA National Champion and USAA Angler of the Year.

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