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Fish Facts  »  Black Sea Bass


Black sea bass are fairly stout-bodied fish, with a long dorsal fin, and large pectoral and pelvic fins. The rounded tail sometimes has a long streamer trailing out from the top edge. Each gill cover has a flat spine near the outer edge. Mature males have a fleshy dorsal hump just anterior to the dorsal fin. The background color of the black sea bass (smokey gray, brown, or bluish black) is mottled with darker patches and light speckles. The belly is only slightly lighter than the sides. The dorsal fin is marked with whitish mottling, while all other fins have dark spots, Young sea bass are green or brown with a dark lateral stripe running from the head to the tail.


Black sea bass generally overwinter at depths from 240 to more than 600 feet, with fish inhabiting deeper waters in the New Jersey-New York region than in the mid-Atlantic region to the south. Few fish occur north of Cape May (New Jersey) in the winter, although some are known to travel extensively between Nantucket Shoals and Cape Hatteras at depths to nearly 1,100 feet. In the spring, this species displays a general northward and inshore movement, expanding its range as far north as Cape Cod from May to October. During the summer, adult sea bass gather around rocky bottoms, sunken wrecks, old pilings, and wharves. At this time of year they are most abundant at depths of less than 120 feet. Young-of-the-year and yearlings tend to summer in estuaries, which are critically important nursery grounds for this species. In southern Massachusetts, young-of-the-year start to enter estuaries in August and move offshore to depths of 180 to 360 feet during the fall. The largest adults in southern New England tend to begin their annual offshore and southerly migration as early as August, while juveniles and smaller adults migrate later in the fall.


Juvenile and adult black sea bass feed upon a variety of benthic (bottom-dwelling) invertebrate's suck as rock crabs, hermit crabs, squids, and razor clams.


The best time to fish for black sea bass is from May through summer, when they are closest to shore. Any underwater structures, such as those associated with wrecks, jetties, and piers, will attract this species. Although they can be found from near shore to depths of about 120 feet, the largest males tend to be found in deeper waters within this depth range. The black sea bass is predominantly a bottom-feeder, although it will occasionally strike at plugs, jigs, or lures. Thus, bait fishing with strips of squid or fish is the most productive method. The most commonly caught fish weigh from ½ to 2 pounds. You can receive the greatest enjoyment when catching fish in this size range by using a medium-weight-spinning outfit with 8-pound test line. Although a sea bass has a large mouth, use a #2 bait-holder hook tied above a small sinker; this fish normally hesitates to grab bait strung on large cod hooks.


The maximum size of a sea bass is 500 mm (19.7"), weighing 4.3 kg (9.5lb).


Massachusetts Division of Maritime Fisheries, Wikipedia

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