Virginia Speckled Trout Fishing Techniques

Speckled trout are among the most popular saltwater fish of the Chesapeake Bay and coastal estuaries of Virginia. Also known as spotted seatrout or simply “specks”, these beautiful fish have a sleek body, silvery gray back and white belly. The flanks and backs of the fish have an iridescent sheen and black spots. The dorsal and tail fin are also spotted.

Speckled trout are caught locally using a variety of methods including fishing with live bait, cut bait and casting artificial lures or by trolling. Shallow water fishing for speckled trout using artificial lures is popular in Virginia. Anglers cast small jigs, soft plastics and other lures around the edges of grass beds, stumps, points, rips and other likely areas. Fly fishermen also target these areas, fishing a variety of flies that mimic bay local baits such as bay anchovies, mullet, spot, shrimp or blue crabs.

In some areas, speckled trout can be caught by anchoring and bottom fishing with cut peeler crab or soft crab baits. Fish are sometimes caught in deep water along a channel edge, but most bait fishing for specks occurs around grass beds in 2-4 feet of water. In addition to peeler and soft crab baits, squid, bloodworms, cut spot, live spot and even chicken breast soaked in peeler crab oil are sometimes used.

Tides are sometimes important for catching speckled trout. Many Chesapeake Bay anglers prefer fishing the last 2 hours of the incoming current and the first 2 hours of the outgoing. If this coincides with dusk, the fishing is more likely to be good.

Shallow water fishing for speckled trout is done in a number of areas throughout the middle and lower Chesapeake bay. This region includes several small islands where speckled trout are found, such as Smith, Tangier, Watts, Fox, Parkers Islands and others.

Further south, several rivers and creeks along the lower bay feature habitat that speckled trout prefer, including eel grass beds, shallow oyster bars and other fish attracting structure.

Shallow water fishing can be very exciting as speckled trout, gray trout, croaker, striped bass, bluefish, black drum, red drum and other species share the same areas. This fishing is often best during the low light hours of early morning and again around sunset.

Anglers also fish by casting bucktails to structure such as rockpiles, jetties and shipwrecks. Popular lures include a plain white bucktail with a plastic worm and a piece of peeler crab. Other popular jigs for casting to structure include soft plastic lures in a variety of shapes and colors.

Speckled trout are sometimes caught while trolling with wire line. Often, catches are accidental but some anglers target gray and speckled trout with wire line. The Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel and other structures provide areas where trolling can be productive for trout, especially if targeting large speckled trout or gray trout (seatrout).