Sea Trout: 'Everyman's Fish' Easy to Access in Florida

By: Terry Tomalin

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Sea trout have been called “Everyman’s Fish.” That’s because this species can be found in the western Atlantic from New York down the coast around Florida to the Gulf of Mexico and in almost all of our state's inland salt waters. These fish are easily accessible and anglers can wade, pole, paddle or motor the seagrass flats to catch them.

Adult trout feed mainly on shrimp or small fish. That's why most artificial lures, from hard-bodied topwater plugs to soft-bodied plastic jigs, will fool them.

Spotted sea trout prefer water temperatures between 58 and 81 degrees, and may die if caught by surprise and trapped in shallow water during a sudden cold front. In the colder months, spotted sea trout move off the shallow grass beds into the deep holes and canals where the water is warmer, making them a favorite target of winter anglers.

Most sea trout spawn before they reach the end of their first year, or when they reach an average length of 12 inches. A 5-year-old fish averages about 18 inches in length, and this species can easily live eight or nine years.

Older females spawn more frequently than younger ones and, as a result, play an important part in keeping population healthy. That's why the largest fish -- those 20 inches or longer, often referred to as "gator trout" -- are regulated by the state.

Trout never travel far from the seagrass beds where they feed and reproduce. That's why Florida has so many areas with great sea trout habitat.

Coming up: Practice Catch and Release

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