Sea Bass

Species Identification

The sea bass family is comprised of hundreds of different species, distributed throughout the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Ocean. This section will take an in-depth look at one of the most popular fish of the family for anglers, the black sea bass.


Appearance

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Black Sea Bass

Large black sea bass are black, while smaller ones are more of a dusky brown. The exposed parts of their scales are paler than the margins, giving the fish the appearance of being barred with a series of longitudinal dots. The belly is only slightly paler than the sides. The fins are dark with dusky spots, and the dorsal fin is marked with a series of white spots and bands. During spawning, males turn bright blue and have a conspicuous blue hump on their heads.

Maximum Size

Up to 23.5 inches (60 cm) and 8 pounds (3.6 kg). Larger black sea bass are males, and smaller ones are female.

Growth Rate

Slow.

Geographic Range

Along the U.S. Atlantic coast from the Gulf of Maine to Cape Canaveral, Florida, and in the Gulf of Mexico.

Habitat

Black sea bass inhabit temperate and subtropical waters. They prefer structured habitats such as reefs, wrecks, or oyster beds.

Life Span

Up to 15 years, although black sea bass older than 9 years are rare.


Food

Black sea bass are opportunistic feeders, eating whatever prey is available, but especially crabs, shrimp, worms, small fish, and clams.

Reaches Reproductive Maturity

Most black sea bass mature between the ages of 2 and 3.

Reproduction

Black sea bass change sex from female to male. Most females will change to males between ages 2 to 5; no females have been found among fish over age 7. Although some fish may have always been male, the majority of adult males are sexually reversed females. Researchers are not certain why females change to males but speculate that the relative scarcity of males in a spawning group may be the stimulus for a female to switch sex. Females produce between 30,000 and 500,000 eggs in a spawning season, depending on the size of the fish.


Spawning

Spawning begins in March off North Carolina and occurs progressively later (until September) further north.Black sea bass spawn in coastal areas at depths ranging from 65 to 160 feet (20-50 m) on the intercontinental shelf.

Migrations

Black sea bass in the Mid-Atlantic migrate to inshore coastal areas and bays in the spring and offshore wintering areas in the fall with changes in water temperature. In the South Atlantic, there is relatively limited migration.

Predators

Predators include little skate, spiny dogfish, monkfish, spotted hake, and summer flounder.

Information courtesy of NOAA.

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