Fly fishing for speckled or spotted seatrout is usually considered as a way of saving the day or passing the time when the premier other species such as tarpon, bonefish, permit, snook, and redfish aren’t playing ball.
The reason for this is that spotted seatrout or speckled trout, as they are most commonly referred to, don’t grow particularly big and they don’t fight very hard either. But, they are a species that is very willing to eat a fly and anglers can have a great time saltwater fly fishing for them.
Since they aren’t a “trophy species” there isn’t much info about fly fishing for them which I am here to change. Join me as we take a look at everything you need to know about speckled trout fly fishing from the gear and flies to the best tactics.
About Speckled Trout
Speckled trout are a part of the drum family and are closely related to redfish. They spend their time cruising around shallow areas and you can find them on the mud, sand, and grass flats all around the southern coastline of the United States.
They are the perfect species for anglers new to using a fly rod in salt water to target as they are ferocious predators that will eat any fly that comes near them. So once your find a group of trout, you’re chances of hooking up are high, and since they school up, you can catch 10 or so in one sitting.
Speckled trout don’t grow very big and the average size of smaller fish is around 3lbs while the biggest trout will hit about 7 or 8 lbs+. Anglers tend to go sight fishing for the larger fish and blind cast over shallow water grass flats to catch the smaller trout.
Where do speckled trout live?
Speckled trout populations start as far north as Chesapeake Bay in Maryland and run south all the way around the coast of Florida and west across the gulf coast to Texas – similar to redfish. They are an inshore species that frequent shallow water until they grow a bit bigger at which point they spend a lot more time feeding in deeper water.
You can check out our post here on Speckled trout world record if you are interested.
What do speckled trout eat?
Speckled trout will eat almost anything that they come across from baitfish to shrimp, crabs, and lots more. They are also very greedy fish and like to go after some big and filling.
This is especially the case with gator trout (large speckled trout) and when fly fishing for these larger specimens, you guys best be using a big fly.
What is the best time to be saltwater fly fishing for speckled trout?
You can fish for trout all year round but the time when the trout bite the most is when the water temperatures drop around fall and in through winter.
Along the gulf coast in Texas and Louisiana, the shrimp run happens this time of year and the trout go wild filling up on them, and along the Atlantic, the bays are filled with large mullet and sardines.
The trout will wait, hiding around oyster piles and grass flats waiting to ambush the shrimp and baitfish that run past them.
Can you sight fish for speckled trout?
Sight fishing is about as exciting as fly fishing gets in my opinion and speckled trout can be sight fished but it’s not that common and it’s for the big trout too. The big ones are difficult fish to fish for as they are wise and spooky, so you have to get it right, and this is only made harder by the excitement of sight casting to one.
In winter, you’ll want to head out on sunny days and with the hope of finding nice fish sunning themselves on the flats. You can also target bigger trout during May and June when they are feeding hard on large bait before they spawn.
When targeting these gator trout it’s best to wade slowly along the shoreline or be poled silently on a flats boat by a guide in the know.
What fly tackle do I need for Speckled Trout?
The general rule for picking the right tackle for targeting these fish is to go light and this applies to everything from your leader to your rod but not your flies.
When it comes to the right rods for catching these fish you need to drop down to 6 or 7 wt fly rod and leave your 8 and 9 weight rods for the likes of redfish and snook. The main reason for using lighter rods is so that you can enjoy the fight a lot more, as these fish don’t pull very hard once hooked.
Another benefit of using a lighter fly rod is how delicately you can present the fly, especially to a spooky gator trout. But, you’ll want a fast action rod as you’ll still have to cut through the wind which isn’t so each with a 6/7 wt.
When fishing for trout you’ll spend most of your time using a floating line since these fish tend to stay shallow in the water column.
But, there will be moments that call for a sinking line too, like when fishing a deep channel for example or when the fish hold deep on a shoal of baitfish or shrimp, so be sure to have one of these ready on a spool too.
Make sure each line you use is a weight-forward line designed for warm salt water. The heavier head will help you punch through windy days and get quick casts off to moving fish.
Any saltwater fly reel will do catch you a trout as they don’t pull particularly hard when you hook them and most of the time you won’t need to play them off the reel. But, make sure your reel is made for the salt or you’ll have problems with corrosion after your first day of fishing.
Leader & Tippet
If you want to catch more fish than your buddy then you better lengthen your saltwater leader a bit. Speckled trout aren’t stupid and while they are generally hungry, they can also be quite selective.
It’s best to fish a long 12-foot tapered leader with about 3 feet of 8-10 lb fluorocarbon tippet on the end. The extra length will ensure the fish don’t see your fly line and you’ll end up catching a lot more.
Speckled Trout Flies
When packing your fly box for a day of seatrout fishing you’re going to want quite a big range of sizes and colors. The rule to follow is subtle smaller flies for shallow waters and then big loud flies with wide saddle hackles for when you’re fishing deep.
One of the best flies to have is a clouser minnow with both bead chain eyes or lead eyes that allow you to fish it close to the bottom in shallow and deep water.
Make sure you have a clouser minnow in a selection of colors from red and white to chartreuse and white, and some more natural colors too. The best hook sizes for these flies is a range between #4-1/0 so you can change depending on where you’re fishing.
These flies designed by Lefty Kreh should be in everyone’s saltwater fly box and it works for a range of species. There are numerous color options to choose from and chartreuse and white is a favorite, particularly on the gulf coast.
These flies always feature a light bottom and colored top to imitate baitfish and come with a little flash tied to the hook shank. They are best fished in the surf on around the edges of deep channels and many a big trout has been caught on these flies.
Small fleeing shrimp flies with lead eyes are extremely effective when fishing shallow waters for seatrout since shrimp are a major part of their diet. Make sure you have a large selection of shrimp flies in different colors and sizes and each will need a weed guard too.
Foam Popper & Gurgler
Poppers and gurglers work really well for seatrout and they don’t need to be particularly special either. Any foam popper or gurgler fly will get the job done, just make sure it pushes quite a lot of water to get the trout’s attention.
There is nothing quite like seeing a seatrout come and engulf your fly off the surface. These flies work particularly well when cast over grass beds in the early mornings and late evenings. You should also switch to a popper or gurgler when the trout are crushing shrimp but ignoring your shrimp flies.
The seaducer fly is a bread & butter seatrout fly. The large head and light tail let it sink slowly while the hackles on the hook shank pulsate water and make the seatrout go crazy. It’s perfect for the shallowest areas and you want this fly in a range of colors from natural tan to hot pink.
Tip – If you tie your own flies or are just learning to tie, then these flies are great to start off with. They are very easy to tie and you’ll be able to tie some variations to suit where you’re fishing the most.
Tactics For Speckled Seatrout On Fly
Now that you know what gear to use and quite a lot about these fish, let’s take a look at the best tactics for catching them.
Wade Or Boat?
When fly fishing for speckled seatrout you’ll have the choice of wading or being poled on a flats boat. Both are very effective but if you’re new to saltwater then I’d recommend spending a day on a flats skiff with a guide. They will show you how to hook these fish, cast to them, what strip they like, and more.
Once you are confident in your abilities, wading the surf or bank of lagoons is an excellent way to enjoy some DIY fishing. Check out our post here for more tips on surf fishing.
I have always been an advocate of going fishing when you have the time, as just being out there is what it’s all about. But, if you can time your fishing windows, make sure you’re fishing when the tide is moving, in or out, it doesn’t matter.
Baitfish, shrimps, and crabs all move with the tide and the trout will wait in ambush for them and be actively feeding during these times.
Fish Around Depth Changes
Being ambush predators, seatrout love a depth change as it allows them to stay out of sight of bait and rush in to feed when they have the chance. This means you best fish around areas with channels, potholes, cuts, and this goes for in lagoons and when wading along the surf of sandy beaches. Here are some of our recommendations for the best waders for surf fishing if you’re looking for one.
Don’t cast your fly into the prime spot, fish around it and save the prime area until last so as not to spook fish holding in it. Seatrout have pretty good eyesight and if they see your fly scampering their periphery, they will devour it.
Seatrout will change how they want the fly to be stripped on any given day but, generally, you want your fly to sink before moving it, so wait a few seconds once it’s hit the water. Then it’s time to do long fast strips to imitate bait fleeing from the trout.
If this doesn’t work, experiment with letting the fly sink for longer or shorter, and with short/long/fast/slow strips until you work out what the fish prefer.
Strip Set = Hook Up
Remember that if you want to hook any saltwater fish with a fly rod, you must not lift your rod, you have to strip with your rod down to set the hook. This means once the fish has eaten your fly, keep stripping until you feel some tension and then let the fish run onto the reel while keeping your rod down at all times.
What are the best flies for speckled trout?
The most commonly used and successful flies for speckled trout include Clouser Minnows, Gotchas, Streamers, Mirrolures, and Soft Hackles. Other popular flies include Bucktail Deceivers, Borski Sliders, and Paddle Tails.
What is the best month to catch speckled trout?
The best month to catch speckled trout is usually in the spring, when the water is warming up and they are more active. In the northern part of the US, April and May are the best months, while in the south, March and April are the best months.
What is the best bait for catching speckled trout?
The best bait for catching speckled trout is live shrimp. Live shrimp is a natural and attractive food source for the trout, and it can be easily found at bait shops and online. Other good baits for speckled trout include minnows, soft plastics, Gulp! products, and artificial flies.
How deep do you fish for speckled trout?
Speckled trout can usually be found in shallow waters, usually less than 10 feet deep. However, they can also be found in deeper waters, up to 20 feet deep, depending on the lake or river.
What is the best time of day to catch speckled trout?
The best time of day to catch speckled trout is usually in the early morning or late evening, when the water is cooler and the trout are more active.