The Gulf Coast’s Other Trout

Catching seatrout doesn’t always mean seeing spots before your eyes!

August 2022

by Jimmy Jacobs

Photos by Polly Dean.

The fly line goes tight, with the feel of life on the other end. That tell-tale tautness, matched to a shaking of the head signals a fish has taken the fly. Then, the hooked fish comes to the surface

“It’s a trout,” the angler says, “I think?”

Once over the gunnel and into the boat, many visiting anglers on the Gulf Coast still will question what they’ve caught. If the fisherman happens to do most of his saltwater angling along the Atlantic coast, he’ll likely decide he’s caught a weakfish (Sciaenidee regalis). The weakfish, however, would be a rare catch in Gulf waters. In actuality, the fish is a sand seatrout (Sciaenidae arenarius), which also goes by the moniker white trout. Both species are related to and very similar to the spotted seatrout, but each is of a different species. The most common trait of the weakfish and the white trout is a lack of the black spots so prevalent on the spotted seatrout.

An average-sized Gulf Coast white trout.

The white trout is one of the most common fish found from southwest Florida around to the Bay of Campeche in Mexico. They inhabit inlets, bays and estuaries in the same habitat frequented by their close spotted cousins. Often the two fish are so closely intermingled that one might assume they school together. Also like the spotted seatrout, the white trout sports a pair of canine teeth that can make lipping them a bit painful.

White trout, however, are smaller fish, rarely topping 12 inches in length, though some fish pushing 20 inches will turn up in deeper offshore waters. Like the spotted seatrout, these fish can be found over sand or mud bottoms. White trout also congregate around hard structures such as shell beds or dock pilings.

Sand trout often are found around oyster shell beds.

From the angler’s standpoint the species’ most appealing traits are it is abundant, willing to strike a fly and quite tasty on the dinner table. Since they don’t reach trophy proportions that makes them an ideal, renewable fish for tablefare when cooked fresh.

Despite those endearing qualities, fly casters rarely target these fish. Consistently they are a by-catch when looking for spotted seatrout or redfish. That’s because they readily take any fly that resembles a small minnow or shrimp. But, since they do generally travel in schools, when you catch one, the opportunity to fill out a fish dinner can then be pursued.