The beat goes on… the drum beat that is!
Redfish (Sciaenops ocellatus) and speckled trout (Cynoscion nebulosus) are both members of the family Sciaenidae, informally known as the drum family. Of the 270 Sciaenidae species, 17 are found in the Chesapeake; some of the most recognized are croaker, spot, grey trout and black drum. Many members of this family have special swim bladders and muscles that can produce noise – hence the name “drum.”
Anglers are often surprised to learn that specks, despite their appearance, are not actually trout but drum. Only male speckled trout make noise which resembles a grunt. When you are fishing next time, take notice that plump, roe-laden females are silent but slender males produce grunts when you land them. It is believed that males make grunting noises to attract females during spawning. Here is a fantastic article by Jerald Horst of the Louisiana State University about speckled trout grunting behavior – http://www.seagrantfish.lsu.edu/resources/factsheets/grunters.htm. I learned a lot of new facts from the article. There are four specific types of grunting sounds and the majority of grunting occurs from sunset to three hours after sunset. Most important from an angling perspective, speckled trout do not feed when they are grunting.
Grunting and body shape can be advantageous for conservation minded anglers looking to take home a tasty meal of trout. In any fishery, it is important to protect breading females to ensure sustainability of the population. So try to release the potbellied females full of roe and keep those grunting males.
Impress your fishing buddies with this lesson in speckled trout “gruntology”!