The regional management plan of the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission (GSMFC) sheds light on an often-misunderstood part of speckled trout behavior: feeding. It shows that one researcher examined stomach volumes and concluded that spotted seatrout fed more heavily in early to mid morning.
According to GSMFC: “He also noted that while feeding spotted seatrout appeared to regurgitate portions of food, which floated to the surface and created an oil slick. This phenomenon would explain why fishermen often look for “slicks” when attempting to locate feeding and schooling spotted seatrout.”
GSMFC also noted that another researcher, “observed that record shrimp harvests were occurring during their food habits study; however, spotted seatrout were not utilizing them to any great extent. Although shrimp, were present, Miles (1951) found that mullet were the preferred food for spotted seatrout.”
Much of the research out there sheds light on why anglers catch relatively few huge speckled trout. A big part of it is rarity, but otherwise, anglers by and large are not fishing in the right spots or using the right bait.
According to Sea Grant Louisiana’s Jerald Host: “Aside from the fact that there are many more small trout than large ones, large speckled trout are very specialized creatures. Large trout are not as widely distributed as small trout. The largest trout are taken in the spring, next largest in winter, then fall and summer, out in the Gulf.
“Large but lesser sized trout are taken near beaches, lesser still in lakes and bays, and the smallest usually in the marsh. Anglers prefer to fish for specks in summer and the second preference is fall. Fishing is most intense in sheltered inside waters. More big trout are caught in spring because they move into shallow beach and bay habitats at that time for their first spawn of the season. The rest of the summer and early fall, the larger trout tend to stay in cooler Gulf waters and only periodically enter beach and bay habitats for subsequent spawns.
“Many of the large fish winter offshore, with a few wintering in the interior marshes, where they are very sluggish. Large trout also have very different food habits than school trout. Small trout eat large amounts of shrimp and other crustaceans. As trout become larger, their diet shifts toward fish, the larger, the better. Studies in Texas and Mississippi show that really big trout strongly prefer to feed on mullet; a large trout will find the largest mullet it can handle and try to swallow it. Often the mullet is half or two-thirds as large as the trout. The key to catching large trout is to fish where they are and use big baits.”
Chester Moore, Jr.