Speckled Trout

Cynoscion nebulosus

Last updated: July 13, 2023
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
© Dexterthebest/Shutterstock.com

Speckled trout are not actually a species of trout.


Speckled Trout Scientific Classification

Scientific Name
Cynoscion nebulosus

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Speckled Trout Locations

Speckled Trout Locations

Speckled Trout Facts

Shrimp, crustaceans, small fish
Main Prey
Fun Fact
Speckled trout are not actually a species of trout.
Most Distinctive Feature
Spots on their back and fins
Coastal waters
Bears, mammals, larger fish
Favorite Food
Number Of Species
Coastal Atlantic

Speckled Trout Physical Characteristics

  • Grey
  • Black
  • White
  • Silver
  • Golden
Skin Type
Up to 15 years
2-3 pounds
19-25 inches

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“Speckled trout aren’t actually trout!”


Although speckled trout are known for the speckled markings on their back and fins, Cynoscion nebulosus is actually a member of the drum family. Many fishermen like to fish for speckled trout. They live in grassy areas near the coast where their preferred food of shrimp and smaller fish can be found.

5 Speckled Trout Facts

  • Speckled trout make a drumming sound, typical of other members of the Sciaenidae family.
  • Speckled trout are not a species of trout.
  • These fish live in shallow, coastal waters.
  • They love to eat shrimp, crustaceans, and other fish.
  • One of the most popular ways to eat speckled trout is with butter, lemon, and herbs. They are delicious when pan-seared, grilled, or even baked.

Speckled Trout Classification and Scientific Name

Speckled trout are also known as spotted seatrout. They belong to the Cynoscion genus, which also includes other types of seatrout. They are closely related to sand seatrout, silver seatrout, and multiple species of weakfish.

As a part of the Sciaenidae family, they are characterized by the drumming sound most fish in this family make. There are just under 300 species in this family, and many are popular with anglers. They have a long muscle near their swim bladder—the organ used to control buoyancy. When this muscle vibrates, it creates the characteristic drumming sound. This sound does vary by species. For some fish, it is a mating call. Others might use it to communicate danger. These types of fish are commonly referred to as drums or croakers.

Drums and croakers belong to the Acanthuriformes order and Actinopterygii class. These include fish with ray fins. This means their fins have bones within them that create support and structure. They are part of the Chordata phylum and the Animalia kingdom.

Speckled Trout Species

There is only one species of true speckled trout — Cynoscion nebulosus. Some other species have spots or speckles on their bodies. However, this is the only species known as speckled trout. In different parts of the world, they go by many other names, such as speck, speckles, and even spotted weakfish. The names often focus on the speckled appearance.

This fish does not belong to the Salmonidae family, which most trouts belong to. Both families are members of the Actinopterygii class.

speckled trout

Speckled trout are also known as spotted seatrout.


Speckled Trout Appearance

One of the most easily recognized features of the speckled trout is its back. It has spots or speckles along its back, dorsal fins, and tail. They are darker gray on their backs and have silvery bellies. Their fins are yellowish gold, and their spots are black with white rings around them in various sizes on their backs and fins.

They have the characteristic protruding lower jaw that gives them the same appearance as trout and other drums. Speckled trout also have large upper canines. This helps them with their preferred diet of shrimp, small fish, and crustaceans.

They are usually between 2-3 pounds when fully grown. They can be measured between 19-25 inches. Females are generally on the longer side, with males tending to only get up to 19 inches long. This makes them great fish for anglers since they aren’t large enough to require specialized equipment to reel in.

Distribution, Population, and Habitat

These fish live in the Atlantic Ocean from New England through Mexico. They tend to be more common in warmer waters, although they are not uncommon up near Cape Cod. These fish are common in the Chesapeake Bay in the Spring, making them a popular fish for anglers.

They are more common in areas with plenty of food. This means they are often found in grassy waters close to shore. Juvenile speckled trout favor creek beds and places where they can find shelter from potential predators.

Predators and Prey

Larger fish, fish-eating birds, and mammals such as bears sometimes eat speckled trout. Due to their size and tendency to stay near the coast, they are suitable prey for animals and fish that live in these areas. Humans are also top predators, as well, because of their fishing popularity.

Speckled trout live in areas where their prey is abundant. When they are young and smaller, they eat shrimp and crustaceans. Larger speckled trout eat other fish.

Reproduction and Lifespan

Like other fish species, they lay eggs. In the Chesapeake Bay, they spawn from April through September. Every time they spawn, each female lays between 5,000-6,000 eggs. Even though not all make it to maturity, that is still a ton of new fish! After about one year, they are fully mature and ready to create the next generation.

They can live up to 15 years, although most do not live that long. This is due to predators, changes in their natural environment, or being caught by fishermen.

Speckled Trout in Fishing and Cooking

Fishing for speckled trout is a fun pastime for many. Because they tend to stay close to the shore and in shallow water, you won’t need a lot of specialized equipment. A simple rod and reel with their favorite food, such as shrimp, on the end, will attract them. Shallow water tends to be the best place to find them because it’s where their prey goes.

When you catch speckled trout, following the length and weight requirements posted in your area is essential. Some areas also require you to get a permit before fishing. Once you catch one, clean the fish and store it in an ice chest or cooler. This is a necessary safety precaution to ensure bacteria and other germs don’t grow on the fish. It also helps preserve the flavor.

Similar Fish to Speckled Trout

  • Also known as white trout, the silver seatrout is the smallest of the various Florida seatrout species.
  • The weakfish, Cynoscion regalis, is a marine fish of the drum family Sciaenidae.

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About the Author

Katie is a freelance writer and teaching artist specializing in home, lifestyle, and family topics. Her work has appeared in At Ease Magazine, PEOPLE, and The Spruce, among others. When she is not writing, Katie teaches creative writing with the Apex Arts Magnet Program in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. You can follow Katie @katiemelynnwriter.

Speckled Trout FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What do I look for when fishing for speckled trout?

Speckled trout can often be found where their food source is. This means that any area where shrimp, small crustaceans, and small fish are located often has speckled trout nearby.

What is the best month to fish for speckled trout?

The best time will depend on where you are fishing for speckled trout. They spawn from late Spring to late Fall. The end of this time period is often a particularly great time to fish for speckled trout.

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