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The spotted seatrout has an elongate, somewhat compressed body with a slightly elevated back. The head is long with a pointed snout and large oblique mouth. The dorsal fin is continuous or slightly separate. The fins are scaleless with the exception of 1-10 rows of small scales at dorsal and anal fin bases. The lateral line extends onto the tail which is a characteristic of all Sciaenids. The body of the spotted seatrout is silvery with irregular black spots on the upper half, from the dorsal to the caudal fin. The dorsal side is dark gray with bluish reflections while the ventral side is silvery to white. The dorsal fin is dusky while other fins pale are to yellowish in color. There is a black margin on the posterior edge of the caudal fin.


The spotted seatrout is a demersal fish that is found in brackish to marine water. It has been observed in shallow coastal and estuarine waters over sandy bottoms and seagrass to depths of 33 feet (10 m). This euryhaline fish also resides in salt marshes and tidal pools of salinities up to 75‰ (parts per thousand). During the warm summer months, spotted seatrout associate with seagrass beds, moving to deeper pockets of water in estuaries during the cooler months. They rarely migrate far from estuaries where they are spawned.


Newly hatched spotted seatrout are planktivores, feeding primarily on copepods. As spotted seatrout grow, there is a dietary shift to larger items including mysids and shrimp. The diet of mature spotted seatrout consists of fishes and crustaceans. Prey species include anchovies, pinfish (Lagodon rhomboides), silversides (Menidia peninsulae), mullet (Mugil cephalus), croaker (Micropogonias undulatus), menhaden (Brevoortia tyrannus), silver trout, snapper, gobies, sheepshead (Cyprinodon variegatus), grunts, toadfish, mojarras, and the occasional seatrout. Adult spotted seatrout swim in small schools with incoming tides and move into shallow areas to feed. Seatrout are ambush predators, making short lunges to grab prey with their front canine teeth prior to swallowing it whole.


The spotted seatrout is considered important in recreational and commercial fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico. Due to their habitat preference for marshes and estuaries, most of these fish are taken in state waters. Limited commercial harvest occurs in the waters of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Florida while this fish has been categorized as a gamefish in Texas and Alabama.


The spotted seatrout grows to a maximum length of 39 inches (100 cm) TL (total length) and a maximum weight of 17.5 pounds (7.9 kg). Males reach sexual maturity at approximately 2 years of age - 7.9-9.4 inches (20-24 cm) standard length (SL), while females mature at 3 years of age - 8.3-9.8 inches (21-25 cm) SL.


With a range limited to the western Atlantic Ocean, the spotted seatrout is found from Cape Cod, Massachusetts to southern Florida and throughout the entire Gulf of Mexico.


Florida Museum of Natural History

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