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All There is to Know About Black Sea Bass

Black sea bass has a relatively short body but with prominent fins. The dorsal, pectoral, and pelvic fins are especially large.

a black sea bass swimming

Here’s everything you need to know about this unique type of bass!

Species Description

The tailfins are noticeable as well and may have three lobes. Black sea bass is, unsurprisingly, black in color.

a single black sea bass

However, this color can take some time to develop over the lifespan of this fish. Smaller black sea bass can be gray or light brown.

The only other exception to this color happens during spawning. At this time, males will turn blue as a sign of dominance.

This fish holds a few common names including rockfish or rock bass. They have a large range in the Atlantic ocean stretching along the entire length of the Eastern Seaboard.

fresh caught black sea bass for eating

At maturity, black sea bass can be anywhere from one to two feet long. They will weigh between two and eight pounds.

How to Identify

Along with the slightly oversized fins, there are a few more ways to identify black sea bass. Some of these features can be quite subtle.

a young black sea bass

For instance, a female black sea bass can have light vertical lines along their body. Black sea bass of either sex will have white stripes on their dorsal fins.

The ventral portion of this fish also tends to be slightly brighter in color.

Males have a lump on their heads. This lump is made of fatty tissue and forms just in front of the dorsal fin.

History

Black sea bass has been an important species in the western Atlantic ocean for many years.

a black sea bass swimming

This fish lends itself to both recreational and commercial fishing since it’s one of the tastiest fish out there.

Black sea bass lives in large numbers along the east coast of the United States. They thrive as far south as Mexico. 

In these areas, there are many black sea bass fisheries. Here black sea basses are grown as a reliable human food source.

World Record

Edward Llewellen caught a 425-pound black sea bass in 1903. This appears to be the largest catch on record. Another notable catch is credited to F.S. Scheck.

However, these records are for the giant black sea bass that lives in the pacific ocean. Records for the black sea bass that lives in the Atlantic are scarce.

Life Cycle

Black sea bass spawning happens in shallow waters between January and March. Once formed, the black sea bass matures quickly. It takes just two to five years for black sea basses to reach a mature size.

a single black sea bass

Interestingly, black sea bass are protogynous hermaphrodites. The majority of black sea bass begin their lives as females.

Then as these fish reach nine inches or more, some transition to becoming males. This happens in the fall after spawning is complete.

One female black sea bass can lay 500,000 eggs. When these hatch, the young black sea bass migrate away from the shoreline. They then live out a lifespan of 12 years.

Habitat

Black sea bass is an ocean-dwelling fish. In the wild, it lives along the east coast of North America.

a black sea bass

Because of many management efforts, this fish also commonly lives in constructed environments as well.

Diet

Black sea bass will eat both plants and other fish. In either case, black sea bass are bottom feeders.

a black sea bass

They often feed on different varieties of crustaceans.

Threats

Currently, the populations of black sea bass are large and relatively healthy. This is in part due to many governmental regulations. The goal of these regulations is to prevent overfishing.

fresh black sea bass

Fishing and other human activities are one of the main threats to black sea bass.

Trawling, for example, is especially damaging to aquatic habitats. That’s why it is banned in many areas of the South Atlantic.

How to Catch 

The large number of black sea bass makes them somewhat easy to catch. At times, anglers will accidentally catch black sea bass while looking for other fish species. 

person fishing with a spinning rod

Black sea bass is an aggressive fish especially before and during the spawning season. Use a ten or 20-pound test line to prepare for this. Live baits like squid and shrimp work best.

Where to Catch 

You are most likely to catch black sea bass in shallow areas that are also rocky. However, the older a black sea bass is, the more likely it is that they will be in deeper water. This depth can reach 80 feet.

the myrtle beach state park fishing pier

Black sea bass populations move throughout the year. As the weather becomes colder, they move further south.

Although they are saltwater fish, sometimes they move inland. They do this by following small river channels upstream.

How to Eat 

Black sea bass is a popular fish for eating. That is why it is so common in fisheries. The flavor of black sea bass is light and mild.

cooked black sea bass

This allows it to pair well with many different seasonings and cooking methods. The meat is firm and white.

Final Thoughts

That’s pretty much all the info we have on the popular black sea bass. It’s easy to see why they’re one of the fish that people love to target.

If you ever find yourself lucky to catch one of these fish, don’t hesitate to invite it home for dinner, depending on your local rules and regulations. So, gear up and get after them!

Rocco Smith

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