Cynoscion Nebulosus

Sciaenidae

Perciformes

Onshore, Nearshore, Coastal River

3 - 17 pounds

12" - 39"

Spotted Weakfish Game Fish Quality Excellent
Spotted Weakfish Meal Quality Excellent
Spotted Weakfish Fly Fishing Quality Excellent

Spotted Weakfish

Spotted Weakfish
Also Known As: Seatrout, Speckled Trout, Spotted Squeteague, Spotted Trout  

Guides Who Fish This Species

Spotted Weakfish (Cynoscion nebulosus) Fish Description

The Spotted Weakfish (Cynoscion nebulosus) is a popular gamefish commonly found in the coastal waters of the Gulf of Mexico as well as in the South-eastern United States—from Maryland to Florida. Its popularity as a target by both recreational anglers and commercial fishers is due to its abundance in the said waters, the relative ease to catch the fish, and the excellent flavor of its flesh. Though the fish is also often called spotted seatrout, it is actually not a trout but a member of the drum fish family, which is known for making a croaking or drumming noise.

The Spotted Weakfish can easily be distinguished from other fish species through its compressed elongated body that is speckled with irregular faint spots on the top half. It’s mostly metallic silver in color but the upper half has a dark grayish or bluish tinge and the lower half is tan or white. Its dorsal fin is long and segmented into two parts—with the front part upright and spiny, and the back part leaning to the hind part of the fish. And like all Sciaenids or drumfish, it has a long lateral line that is faint and runs from the head to the tail base.

 

Diet and Size

Spotted Weakfish are known to be ambush predators wherein they would lunge at their prey who happen to pass by their turf. Their prey mainly consists of fishes and crustaceans, including shrimp, anchovies, pinfish, silverside, mullet, croaker, silver trout, snapper, gobies, sheepshead, grunts, toadfish, and mojarras.

Spotted Weakfish can grow as much as three and a half feet in length and weigh as much as seventeen and a half pounds. The average size, however, tends to be between twelve to sixteen inches in length.

 

Spotted Weakfish Interesting Facts

  • The biggest Spotted Weakfish on record weighs seventeen pounds and seven ounces, measuring thirty-nine inches long.
  • The world record Spotted Weakfish was caught by Orlando angler Craig Carson off Fort Pierce Inlet in Florida.
  • Their average lifespan is between eight to ten years.
  • They have large canine-like teeth that they use to grab unsuspecting prey.
  • Their meat is said to have an excellent taste and best cooked by steaming, broiling, or baking.
  • They are often found to have “spaghetti worms”, which are actually quite harmless to humans and these can easily be picked out when the fish is filleted.
  • Aside from humans, known predators of the fish include striped bass, alligator gar, barracuda, porpoises, and sharks as well as seabirds such as cormorants and pelicans.
  • The Spotted Weakfish spawns starting from spring until late summer. It usually spawns at night, with the males announcing their presence by making croaking sounds two hours before sunset. Although it would often stay in the oceanic coastal waters most of its life, it would move to bays and estuaries during spawning season. A single female can produce between 15,000 to 1,100,000 eggs per spawning and the eggs would hatch in just about eighteen hours after fertilization. The young spotted weakfish would form small schools of about fifty individuals per school and would stick together until they reach juvenile stage, in which they would head to their natural habitat of seagrass beds, sandy bottoms, muddy bottoms, and reefs.

 

Fishing Tips

Spotted Weakfish can easily be caught via fly-fishing as the fish is known to attack colorful lures, especially when they’re in hunting mode. They also tend to hunt from the bottom to the surface of the water so you wouldn’t really need to add weight to your lure as they’ll just try to get to your bait once they spot it. The best way to attract the fish to your area is to make it look like you’re your bait is just swimming casually near the water surface and the best way to do this is by retrieving slowly. But as soon as you see the fish approaching, reel in a little bit faster to make it seem like your lure is a fleeing fish and the Spotted Weakfish will try to strike faster and harder, thus, the hook will set to the fish’s mouth much deeper. You need to do this since the fish’s mouth is known to be soft, making it easy for hooks to pull loose, especially if the hook is not embedded in the mouth tightly.  

 

Habitat and Distribution

The Spotted Weakfish is endemic in the Western Atlantic Ocean, particularly from Massachusetts to South Florida; as well as within the inlets and estuaries along the country’s Atlantic seaboard. They can also be found within the entire Gulf of Mexico.

As a demersal fish, the Spotted Weakfish prefers to swim on or near the ocean floor, although they are found swimming near the surface when they’re hunting—which is actually quite often. The fish likes to hunt in shallow coastal and estuarine—in both salt and brackish—waters over sandy bottoms and seagrass with depths of up to thirty-three feet. They also tend to move closer to the shores and the shallower parts of the water during warm summer months and will only move to deeper parts of the ocean when it gets colder.