Spotted Seatrout

Spotted Seatrout, Cynoscion nebulosus

The Spotted Seatrout, Cynoscion nebulosus, whose common Spanish name is corvina pinta, is a species in the Croaker or Sciaenidae Family, known collectively as berrugatras and corvinas in Mexico. This fish is also commonly referred to as the Speckled Trout. Globally, there are twenty-four species in the genus Cynoscion, thirteen of which are found in Mexican waters, three in the Atlantic and ten in the Pacific.

The Spotted Seatrouts have elongated and somewhat compressed bodies with an elevated back. They have a silvery coloration; their dorsal surface is darker with a tinge of blue. They are covered with numerous black spots above their lateral line, which extend into the caudal and second dorsal fins. Their fins are pale to yellowish and their caudal fin has a black margin. Their head has a concave profile and features a large oblique mouth with an orange interior, a projecting lower jaw, and a pair of canine teeth in the front of the jaw. They do not have barbells and their snout has two pores. Their anal fin has two spines and 10 or 11 rays; their dorsal fin is continuous or slightly separated with 9 to 11 spines and 25 to 28 rays. Their lateral line extends into the caudal fin.

The Spotted Seatrouts are found in shallow, vegetated, brackish, and marine waters at depths up to 30 feet. They are a euryhaline species and are capable of handling large changes in salinity. They prefer water temperatures between 16oC (60oF) and 32oC (90oF) and move to deeper waters to escape temperatures colder or warmer than this range. They reach a maximum 1.00 meters (3 feet 3 inches) in length and 7.7 kg (17 pounds) in weight. They consume shrimp and small fish and in turn are preyed upon by larger fish (alligator gar, barracuda, striped bass, and tarpon) and birds, especially brown pelicans and osprey. Many contain a tapeworm that is harmless to humans. Females, who are significantly larger than males, each release between 15,000 and 1.1 million eggs several times per year; eggs hatch into larvae within eighteen hours. They have a lifespan of up to ten years.

In Mexican waters the Spotted Seatrout are only found in all waters of the Atlantic.

The Spotted Seatrout can be confused with the Weakfish or Gray Seatrout, Cynoscion regalis (lacks black spots).

The Spotted Seatrouts are a major commercial and game fish in the United States for states adjacent to the Gulf of Mexico. Smaller fish are a targeted foe of recreational anglers using light weight spinning tackle and live shrimp as bait. Larger fish are difficult to catch and require live bait such as menhaden, mullet, pigfish or pinfish. They are considered an excellent food fish, however, care must be taken in handling it from landing to skillet, as the meat can deteriorate quickly. To address the significant decline in catch rates, the states of Alabama, Florida, and Texas have enacted major conservation programs which include various bans on commercial fishermen and daily catch and size limits as well as seasonal bans placed on recreational fishermen.

Spotted Seatrout, Cynoscion nebulosus. Commercial fish courtesy of Walmart, Cabo San Lucas, Baja California Sur, September 2008. Length: 24 cm (10 inches).

Spotted Seatrout, Cynoscion nebulosus. Fish caught in coastal waters of Tampa Bay, Florida, February 2015. Length: 51 cm (20 inches). Catch, photo and identification courtesy of George Brinkman, Guelph, Ontario, Canada.