Gone Outdoors

How to Identify a Saltwater Trout

by Joe Steel

Not to be confused with European sea trout, sea-running examples of brown trout (Salmo trutta), the seatrout found in the Atlantic waters along the U.S. southeastern coast and in the Gulf of Mexico are members of the genus Cynoscion. The most popular of the seatrout species is the spotted seatrout, commonly referred to as speckled trout. Known for its willingness to take both natural and artificial baits, the spotted seatrout also makes for fine dining.

Spotted Seatrout

With a body that is dark green or gray on top but silvery and white below, the speckled trout is so-called because of the numerous black spots on its back, dorsal fin and tail. The fish usually presents one or two prominent canine teeth on the upper jaw, and has no barbels and no scales on its dorsal fin. Males average 2 to 3 pounds and 19 inches in length, the larger females about 25 inches. The speckled trout's preferred habitat includes inshore and near-shore beds of sea grass, oyster beds, shallow estuaries and bays. During colder months they move out into deeper water to feed on baitfish, mullet, shrimp and crabs.

Silver Seatrout and Sand Seatrout

Silver seatrout prefer sand and sandy mud bottoms but migrate to inshore bays in colder months. They are distinguished by a pale, straw color on top, silvery sides and a white underside. The sand seatrout, found chiefly in bays and inlets inshore, is a pale yellow on top turning to silver and white below. Both species have yellow mouths, no spots on the back and 10 to 12 rays in the anal fin. Sand seatrout usually average under 1 pound, though larger specimens may be encountered in deep inshore holes or offshore. The silver seatrout is a slightly smaller size.

About the Author

Joe Steel is a Northwest-based editor, writer and novelist, former news editor of an outdoor weekly. He also was an editor at a Seattle-based political weekly and editor of a monthly business magazine. He has been published in the "Seattle Times," the "Washington Post" and the "Foreign Service Journal," among other publications.

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