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AKA: speckled trout, southern spotted weakfish, speck

Description: The spotted seatrout has a long, slender body with a dark bluish-silvery-gray back and silvery sides. Its body is marked by round, black spots on the back, upper sides and extending into the second dorsal fin and the caudal fin. The upper jaw has two large, curved, canine-like teeth.

Size: Spotted seatrout, on average, are 15 to 25 inches in length and 2 to 4 pounds, but they grow to as large as 40 inches and 12 pounds.

Sometimes confused with: weakfish

Habitat: The fish is found in rivers, estuaries and shallow coastal waters over sandy bottoms. It is often associated with seagrass beds, as well as salt marshes and tidal pools of high salinity. Its geographical range runs from New York to the northern part of Mexico but the fish is rare north of Virginia. The fish is sensitive to freezing temperatures and populations north of North Carolina tend to migrate south for the winter. Even with North Carolina’s milder winters, a cold snap can cause a spotted seatrout kill.

Eating habits: Spotted seatrout feed on shrimp, crabs and fishes like mullet and Atlantic menhaden. Adults form schools and move onto shoals to feed with the incoming tide.

Life cycle: Spawning occurs several times during a single season from late April to early October in the deep parts of bays and adjacent grass beds. The fish can spawn, develop and spend its entire life in the estuarine environment. Spotted seatrout mature between age one and three and can live as long as 10 years.

Fishing tips: Anglers catch fish on light to medium spinning tackle using a variety of artificial bait. Popular baits include shrimp and minnows suspended from a float. Artificially scented lures are also popular.

N.C. Saltwater Fishing Tournament

Award for harvest of fish, 5 pounds or greater.
Award for live release of fish, 24 inches or longer.

See the list of weigh stations

Apply for a release citation online


Persons engaged in recreational fishing in North Carolina coastal waters are required to possess a Coastal Recreational Fishing License in accordance with G.S. 113-174.2.

Current Proclamations

Recreational Size and Bag Limits

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