Spotted seatrout (Cynoscion)
The spotted seatrout has a long, streamlined body similar to a freshwater trout, though it is actually a member of the drum family. Its coloration is darker over the dorsal area, usually a gray or greenish color shading to a silvery to white tone on the sides and underneath. The seatrout is also covered in black spots over most of its upper half as well as its dorsal and tail fins.
Spotted seatrout have large mouths with two prominent canine teeth and no barbels. Their lower jaw extends beyond the upper jaw, with the back of the mouth beginning under the eye.
Rather than specific location, water temperature (70 to 90 F) and water salinity (20 to 34 parts per thousand) are more important to the spawning of spotted seatrout. Spawning occurs at night in coastal bays and lagoons from March to November, peaking from May to July. Females may lay as little as 100,000 to as many as 10 million eggs (depending on the size of the fish) among the protective vegetation in parts of inland waters.
Spotted seatrout are opportunistic carnivores whose choice of prey depends on the size of the fish. Smaller seatrout feed mainly on crustaceans such as shrimp. Medium-sized spotted seatrout add small fish to their diet, and larger seatrout primarily feed on other fish such as anchovies, mullet and pinfish.
Spotted seatrout are found along the western Atlantic coast from New York to southern Florida and throughout the Gulf of Mexico.
Although they can occasionally be found in deep offshore waters, spotted seatrout usually inhabit inshore waters such as bayous, bays, canals, channels and estuaries. They are very common in shallow waters with grassy or sandy bottoms and will also be found consistently in salt marshes, tidal pools, flats and even several miles inland in coastal rivers.
Spotted seatrout prefer water temperatures from 58 to 81 F. Since cold water temperatures can be fatal, they tend to migrate whenever warm water and suitable habitat exist. When water temperatures decline in autumn they move into deeper waters in the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico. As temperatures begin to rise in the spring the fish return to inshore waters.
- The spotted seatrout will often lose one of its canine teeth while feeding.
- Millions of spotted seatrout were killed along the Texas coast in 1962 and 1963 because of unusually cold water temperatures.