Spotted Seatrout

Cynoscion nebulosus

Quick Facts

  • Species

    Native

  • Habitat

    Shallow, sandy-bottom areas. Most often found near bay grass beds, pilings, jetties and other structures.

  • Range

    Visit the Bay from April through November, leaving the Bay in autumn to migrate southward. Most common in the lower Bay, but found as far north as Annapolis.

  • Diet

    Feeds on small fish such as anchovies

  • Lifespan

    15 to 18 years

  • Status

    Stable

The spotted seatrout is a sleek, silvery fish with black, round spots scattered across the back. It visits the Chesapeake Bay from spring through autumn.

Appearance

The spotted seatrout has a sleek, elongated body that grows to 14 to 20 inches in length and weighs about five pounds. It has a silvery belly and a dark, grayish-green back with black, round spots scattered across its back and dorsal fin to its tail. Its sides are iridescent. It has a deep notch in its dorsal fin and a squared tail fin. Its large mouth has two large canine teeth in its upper jaw.

Feeding

One of the Bay's top predators, the spotted seatrout preys upon small fish such as anchovies. It feeds mostly in the morning.

Predators

Larger predatory fish prey on spotted seatrout, as well as ospreys and other predatory birds.

Voice

The seatrout makes a drumming or purring sound.

Sciaenid Acoustics Research Team, East Carolina University

Reproduction and Life Cycle

Spawning occurs from late May to July at night in the salty waters near the Bay’s mouth. Females may spawn 9 to 60 times and release as many as 3 to 20 million eggs during a single spawning season. Larvae hatch 18 hours after fertilization. Currents carry them to brackish-water nursery areas (usually shallow bay grass beds). At 6 to 8 weeks old, juveniles begin to form schools with individuals of similar size. They mature at two to four years old. Spotted seatrout can live for 15 to 18 years.

Did You Know?

  • The spotted seatrout is also known as specs or speckled trout.
  • A popular sport fish, the world record spotted seatrout weighed in at 17 pounds, 7 ounces.
  • The seatrout is a member of the drum family, which includes spot, weakfish, red drum, black drum and Atlantic croaker. All drums are able to make a loud drumming or croaking sound by vibrating their swim bladder using special muscles.

Sources and Additional Information

Quick Facts

  • Species

    Native

  • Habitat

    Shallow, sandy-bottom areas. Most often found near bay grass beds, pilings, jetties and other structures.

  • Range

    Visit the Bay from April through November, leaving the Bay in autumn to migrate southward. Most common in the lower Bay, but found as far north as Annapolis.

  • Diet

    Feeds on small fish such as anchovies

  • Lifespan

    15 to 18 years

  • Status

    Stable