Fishing & Boating News

Sand Trout -VS- Gulf Trout

& (differences thereof )

by: Ed Snyder, Ed Snyder Outdoors

The smallest species of the sea-trout family is the sand trout.
Photo by Ed Snyder
Mid species of the sea-trout family is the Gulf trout- that grow to 6lbs.
Photo by Ed Snyder
(Sep. 06, 2011 - Bolivar Peninsula, TX.) Many anglers are familiar with the "sandy", or sand trout, but many anglers familiar with its cousin, the Gulf Trout, tend to umbrella these two species as one. But they are however different species with separate behaviors and spawning habits.

As far as taste between the two on the dinner table I prefer the gulf trout, finding them firmer with better flavor. The sandy can be mushy even after iced down when caught. The differences are you can freeze the gulf trout filets for at least three months, but the sandy cannot be frozen and must be cooked right away. But the flavor of the sandy is good.

Sand-trout are summer time fish and are plentiful around the beach areas as well as bays and passes. They are also fun to catch on small soft plastic crappie jig type jigs or lil fishy's, but will hit cut-baits and shrimp with gusto. Spoons and the new Gulp soft plastics are also deadly on these trout. They tend to be only3/4 to 1lb fish but if you get into a school of them you will be able to load up your cooler in a very short time.

Gulf-trout are normally Autumn fish when, around September/October, they begin schooling in very large numbers as they prepare to spawn. Here also when you locate these large schools you'll be able to load your cooler very quickly .

They too will hit artificial lures, but fresh cut bait is the key for catching numbers of them. What I'll do is cut up the first gulf trout I catch into 1 by 2 inch pieces (leaving the skin on) threading the hook, a #6 Aberdeen, in such a way as to leave the hook impaled through the skin and bare. If you were to rig with multiple hooks you'd probably catch several at a time. BUT the way these fish hit and fight I wouldn't recommend that. The gulf hits so hard that they usually will hook themselves. A fresh cut chunk of gulf trout will usually catch 6 or 10 trout before you have to change the bait. I've caught at least 160 of these fall run trout within just a couple of hours, but kept only what I needed for a fish fry.

Presently there are no limits on the sand or gulf trout as you can catch and keep as many as you care to clean. Also the gulf-trout are much bigger, running around 2 lbs or better. My largest though was a 6lb mega-gulf that I caught at Rollover Pass a few years ago.

Prime areas for catching the gulf-trout in the fall are Sea Wolf Park off of Pelican Island, Dollar Reef near Texas City Dike, Rollover Pass on Bolivar Peninsula, and San Luis Pass on the southern tip of Galveston. There are many other good gulf trout waters I'm sure, but these spots have been consistent with good catches for me over these past many years.

SAND SEATROUT - Cynoscion arenarius- Other names: sand-trout, and sand weakfish; Sand sea-trout, or sand trout, is common in the Texas bays and its range extends to the lower Atlantic coast. It is a major sport species in the Galveston Bay area. The maximum size is less than two pounds and feeds on small fish or crustaceans. The best bait is cut mullet or shrimp fished on the bottom. They are attracted to light and many fishermen have success using jigs under lights or around gas flares. It migrates to the Gulf only during cold weather. Spawning occurs in the spring. The sand trout is distinguished from the speckled trout by its absence of spots, and a pinkish sheen on the upper sides. It has one or two canine teeth on the point of the upper jaw. It closely resembles the Gulf sand trout, or silver sea-trout, which achieves a larger size. The best way to distinguish between these two species is to count the anal rays. The silver trout have eight to nine and the sand trout have eleven.

SILVER SEATROUT - Cynoscion nothus -Other names: sand-trout, gulf-trout, and silver weakfish; The silver sea-trout, or Gulf sand-trout, is found from Texas to Maryland but is most abundant along the Gulf coast. Its features closely resemble those of the sand trout, although it achieves a much larger size. Individuals have been recorded up to five pounds. It is primarily a Gulf species but is caught in Texas bays. The primary habitat is from three to 10 fathoms in the Gulf. Spawning is believed to occur in the fall. It feeds primarily on fish or crustaceans and the best bait is cut fish or shrimp angled on the bottom. The fighting ability of this species is well-known. The initial strike is very fierce, as if the fish took the bait at full speed, many a rod has been pulled from an unwary angler's hands. The eating quality is very good but the fish should be put on ice immediately after catching to retain its firmness and flavor.

Both the sandy and the gulf are fun to catch and provide excellent flavor for those family fish fries, but only if you put them on ice IMMEDIATELY after catching them. I've seen people stringing them up when caught and hanging them in the warmish waters. This is a no-no and will cause them to become mushy and strong flavored before cleaning. A cooler of ice would keep them fresh and firm until preparing them for the table. Sand trout aren't freezer safe and should be cooked the same day after catching.

Gulf trout can be frozen and my recommendation for freezing gulf-trout for future meals would be to put filets in a baggy with a tspn of real lemon juice mixed in the covering water. The lemon juice will help keep the filets firm and fresh for about 3 months.

My favorite way to prepare these trout is to filet them, soak filets in milk for 1 hour, coat in Cajun fish fry seasoning, then deep-fry in peanut oil. Serve with cottage fries and slaw and serve with a cold beverage. They are also excellent when prepared as beer batter fish. Using a mixing bowl, blend pancake mix and your favorite beer stirring constantly until you've have the consistency of pancake batter. Then dip each fillet in batter and drop in hot grease (peanut oil). When they float to the top they're done. Place filets on paper towels to drain, then serve HOT with your favorite chilled beverage.

Yet a third way for you waist watchers would be to saut? filet's in a nonstick skillet with a tsp of olive oil until golden brown, then remove and place on paper towels. Add romaine lettuce to fry pan to wilt then plate the saut?ed fillets on top of the wilted lettuce. Serve with dry slaw, toasted French bread slices, and your favorite chilled wine.
Top species of the sea-trout family is the speckled trout- that grow to 15lbs.
Photo by Ed Snyder
When the gulf trout, sand trout, and speckled trout run nightfishing under lights will load up your coolers.
Photo by Ed Snyder