Surf Fishing for Speckled Trout – All You Need to Know

You can call them speckled trout, spotted sea trout, weakfish, or simply “specks.” Whatever name you give them, they represent one of the most broadly popular fish in the U.S. Why do anglers love surf fishing for speckled trout so much?

Well, first off, speckled trout have a broad range. You can find them in waterways as diverse as Louisiana, the Chesapeake Bay, and Cape Cod. This wide geographic diffusion helps explain their broad popularity. Anglers from all over have experience with this fish.

Meanwhile, people like speckled trout in part because of their size. Record-setters can reach weights around 17 pounds. But you’ll likely catch much smaller individuals, meaning even inexperienced anglers have a shot at bringing them in. They are also comparably simple to handle.

On the small end, you’re looking at sizes in the range of 1-3 pounds. Larger examples will likely get close to 10 pounds.

Their taste doesn’t hurt either. Speckled Trout have a reputation as an excellent dinner. This contributes to their broad popularity in the fishing community.

Best Bait for Speckled Trout

As we noted, you can find speckled trout throughout the Gulf of Mexico and along the Atlantic coast. Their diet depends largely on the size. Smaller individuals will focus on food such as shrimp. Meanwhile, bigger examples of the species will receive their calories from other fish.

Live bait

If you’re looking to catch larger speckled trout, mullet represents a good choice. These small fish (roughly the size of a finger) represent a favorite meal for most specks.

Live mullet works great for speckled trout

For your bait, size matters. Using bigger bait will help you score larger speckled trout.

Still, specks aren’t exactly picky eaters. You can choose from a variety of live bait to entice them.

As we’ve mentioned, shrimp represents a good default option. This is especially true if you’re not too concerned about the size of your catch. (Specks of all sizes enjoy a good shrimp meal.)

Also, keep in mind that specks exist in a broad range. You can target these fish in Texas and Louisiana, or you can travel a few thousand miles and try your luck in Maryland. Consider the local habitat as you choose your bait.


You don’t need live bait to target speckled trout. With the right lures, you should have similar luck.

What strategy should you use? You can opt for either a jig or a topwater approach.

For you newbies out there, a jig comes with a lead sinker, which generates vertical motion (the lure moves up and down in the water). The advantage here is that you can target fish on various levels – either in deeper or shallower waters.

Conversely, a topwater technique concentrates on the surface. You create movement that draws the fish out of the deeper areas. As such, it’s more effective when the specks get more aggressive. Typically, that means turning to topwater when water temperatures start to rise.

Also see: 7 Types of Surf Fishing Lures You Should Own

Soft plastic baits

What kind of artificial bait works best for speckled trout? Obviously, you should target their eating habits when considering your options.

Given specks’ affinity for mullet, look for lures that resemble these fish. Meanwhile, plastic shrimp represent another good choice. Remember, this is a staple for specks, so it represents an excellent selection when picking your lure.

Learn more about the best soft plastic bait for surf fishing.

How to surf fish for speckled trout

Speckled trout earn the first part of their name through the black dots that appear on their bodies. You can find these “speckles” dotted along their fins and on their backs. (The species doesn’t earn the second part of its name – despite the moniker, speckled trout aren’t actually part of the trout family. Instead, they are part of the drum family.)

Otherwise, you can identify the breed by their purple sheen and by their teeth. Yes, we said their teeth. These fish feature prominent canines on their upper jaw.

You can also pinpoint certain speckled trout by ear. Males make a particular drumming noise caused by their air bladder. You won’t get this telltale purr from females, which also tend to be larger than their male counterparts.

Best time to fish for speckled trout 

During winter, specks like to head for shallower water. They do this for easier feeding. (Mullet, for instance, head for these areas during winter months).

You can use this tendency to improve your chances. Going into the shallow water can give you an advantage in your attempts to catch them. Meanwhile, in the summer, you’ll have to head out to deeper areas.

Given the preference for shallower areas, low tide often represents your best bet to catch a bigger speck.

You can also look to the moon to give you some guidance. Many anglers have found better luck in the days surrounding full and new moons.

Where to cast

Away from the shore, you can find specks in creeks and other shallow bodies of water. You want a low-wake approach. A fishing kayak is a great way to reach speckled trout. Or you can just throw on your surf fishing waders and go that route.

However, your approach in the surf is somewhat different. Speckled trout tend to congregate in troughs. Typically, these areas form between sandbars and the shoreline. Watch how the waves break – this will clue you into ideal spots to cast.

You’ll find a target-rich environment in these troughs. Speckled trout like to hunt in these narrow channels.

The current often churns the seafloor here, which are generally, relatively shallow. This shakes loose some of the specks favorite goodies. If you place your bait in these areas, you should have good luck.

For more info, check out our surf fishing casting guide.

Other tips

Ready to seek out some speckled trout? Here are a few other tips to keep in mind:

If You Make a Catch, Look for More

The bigger speckled trout tend to group together in feeding areas. After all, they are all competing for the same food. As a result, if you manage to make a catch, that fish probably isn’t swimming solo. Keep angling in the same area. You’re likely to make multiple catches.

Stay Stealthy

Most angling for speckled trout takes place in shallow areas. These fish react quickly to danger, so you should take a ninja mentality into your approach. Minimize your wake and watch your noise levels.

Keep Your Distance

The personality of speckled trout should impact your strategy in another way. Getting too close will only send them into hiding. Given that specks get frightened easily, you want to stay as far away as possible.

Wrapping up

Surf fishing for speckled trout is a lot of fun. They attack a variety of baits and the bigger ones put up a decent fight.

Remember to be patient. We’ve had days where they we didn’t get a single bite for hours, then out of nowhere the speckled trout were attacking our nonstop.

Good luck and happy fishing!

Check out our Beginner's Guide to Surf Fishing