THE SPECKLED TROUT IS THE MOST intensely pursued fish on the Texas Coast. While redfish and flounder have huge followings, they are nowhere near the level of trout in terms of driving the sportfishing market and stirring the passions of a wide range of anglers.
Interestingly, many of the species most interesting traits remain hidden to the public. Here are 10 facts you probably did not know about Cynoscion nebulosis:
According to coastal fisheries officials with the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) a female spotted seatrout may spawn several times during the season. "Younger females may release 100,000 eggs and older, larger females may release a million eggs."
This is why the current management plan in Texas allows harvest of only one trout per day 25 inches or larger. This keeps large, egg-laden females in the population at a higher ratio.
Speaking of spawning, 1,038 speckled trout, ranging in age from one
to five years, were collected in a study by researchers in South Carolina to determine spawning potential, according to Lagniappe, the research publication of Louisiana State University (LSU).
As noted in my book "Texas Trout Tactics," spawning potential is crucial in terms of trout management, as size and bag limits are generally based on this principle.
"The smallest mature female was 9.8 inches long. By 10.6 inches, 50 percent of females were mature. At 11.9 inches, 100 percent of the females are mature in South Carolina (compared to 10.6 inches in Louisiana). The researchers found that females became mature about one full year after their birth. While not all age-one females are mature on their birthday, they can be expected to become mature before the spawning season ends."
Researchers found that trout at age one spawn once every 4.7 days; age two fish, every 4.2 days; and age three fish, every 4.0 days.
"This is quite close to what has been found for Gulf States trout. As to how many eggs were laid per spawn, the estimates were 145,452 eggs for age 1 fish; 291,123 for age-2 fish; and 529,976 for age-3 fish."
Did you know the trout that you catch that are croaking are males?
Male speckled trout will gather by the thousands to form what scientists call
"drumming aggregations," making all kinds of racket underwater.
According to a report from Sea Grant, administered by the National
Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
"During spawning season, males form drumming aggregations, which can number in the hundreds or even thousands of fish. Within these aggregations, each male vibrates his air bladder, producing a croaking sound. When combined with many other males sounds, the result sounds like drumming or roaring.
The hottest rumor in the Texas fishing world is that a 36-inch trout heavier than the current state record was caught, killed and eaten in Sabine Lake this spring. Or was it Port Mansfield? There is an email circulating in email inboxes showing an unidentified angler with a beastly trout but so far, we have not been able to track him down. Have you gotten this email? If so, we would like to hear from you. These rumors grow every time they are forwarded.
ure and no one has identified the angler. If you are the angler or know him, pleas e-mail us at email@example.com. We would love to get to the bottom of this story. Internet Photo
Did you know speckled trout have slightly different genetics from bay system to bay system?
This is why TPWD biologists only stock trout fingerlings whose parents were caught in the given system. Matagorda trout must go into the Matagorda area for example. The extent of these differences is not known but the state does not want to interfere with any unique traits developed in the individual systems.
The world record speckled trout weighed 17 pounds, 7 ounces and was caught by angler Craig Carson in the Fort Pierce, Fla. area. You hear little about trout fishing in Florida due to the popularity of their snook and tarpon but they do produce some extremely large fish.
Did you know speckled trout are cannibals? Researchers in South Carolina found smaller speckled trout in the stomachs of all age classes they studied and found many juvenile redfish. Shrimp are their favorite food for much of their life but once they get over 20 inches their diet dramatically shifts toward eating relatively large finfish.
Gary Stunz and David McKee of Texas A&M University conducted an interesting study related to catch and release mortality of trout. The following is from the conclusion of their project.
"Using a variety of angling techniques, we captured 448 spotted seatrout ranging from 250 to 760 mm total length (TL) and assessed mortality in replicate field enclosures. The overall short-term mortality for all treatments was relatively low (11 percent); the majority of fish survived. The exception was angler skill level."
"Angling by novices produced a significantly higher mortality rate than angling by skilled anglers; however, mortality averaged only 18 percent even for inexperienced anglers. To evaluate long-term mortality, we monitored 27 spotted seatrout held in a laboratory facility for 30 days; the fish showed no signs of long-term mortality. We observed 11 percent mortality during the first 48 h and no mortality during the subsequent 28 days."
Did you know the "slicks" anglers like to fish under are actually the result of trout barfing? When feeding heavily they regurgitate a portion of their food and when it is an oily item like menhaden, a small oil slick occurs.
A study conducted by Larry McEachron of TPWD in 1987 found that trout were the third most common species harvested by trotlines in the Texas black drum fishery. According to TPWD it was determined that using circle hooks reduced mortality of fish significantly; placing trotlines on the bottom reduced bycatch further without affecting targeted black drum catches.
These kinds of intensive studies and actions of conservation are one of the reasons Texas trout fishery is thriving and will probably continue to do so for many years to come.