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Species contact: Mike Bednarski
Scientific name: Centropristis striata
Common names: Black sea bass, black bass, humpback (larger males), rock bass, sea bass, pinbass
Size: Up to 25 inches long, commonly 11-12 inches long
Color: Typically blue-black dorsally, fading to a slightly paler color on the belly. Each scale has a light blue-white center, creating stripes along the back and sides. The dorsal fin - and sometimes the anal and pectoral fins - has white lines or splotches. Juveniles go through four color phases: (1) light graywith small dark spots; (2) dark with pale white spots; (3) striped with a horizontal dark stripe; and (4) barred having 6 vertical stripes. Mature males have vivid blue-green around and above the eyes and on top of the head.
Body: Fairly stout with a large head and mouth. The first and second dorsal fins are attached. The pectoral and pelvic fins are large. The caudal fin sometimes has a long streamer trailing from the top edge. Both gill covers have a flat spin pointing down the body.
The black sea bass is closely related to other sea bass and sea grouper species. The most closely related species are the striped bass (Morone saxatilis), wreckfish (Polyprion americanus), and white perch (Morone americana)
Prey: Primarily crabs and shrimp but will also feed on small fishes, squid, razor clams, and barnacles
Predators: Documented predators include striped bass, bluefish (Pomatomus saltatrix), weakfish (Cynoscion regalis), bignose shark (Carcharhinus altimus), and dusky shark (Carcharhinus obscurus)
Black sea bass are protogynous hermaphrodites. Most individuals begin life as female, then undergo sexual succession and become functional males. When these fish first become mature, they produce eggs. The age of switching sexes is variable, however most fish do so before they reach six years of age. These fish reproduce from February to July. Spawning starts earliest in the southern portion of their range and progresses northward as spring passes. Off southern New England, black sea bass reproduce from mid-May to the end of June. The eggs are buoyant, floating in the water column until they hatch 1.5 to 5 days after fertilization. The larvae drift into bays, inlets, and offshore areas where they reach about 0.5 inches in length.
Common around rock jetties and over rocky bottoms in shallow waters. However, there have been reports of individuals in depts of over 425 feet and in offshore areas. Black sea bass generally overwinter in water 240 to 600 feet deep. During the summer, adult sea bass gather at depths of less than 120 feet. Young-of-the-year and yearlings tend to summer in estuaries. In southern Massachusetts, young-of-the-year start to enter estuaries in August and move offshore to depths of 180 t0 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.
Eastern coast of the United States from Maine to the Gulf of Mexico, with the most common area between Long Island, New York, and South Carolina.
There are two distinct stocks of black sea bass sharing an overlap in range. The northern stock migrates seasonally and spawns off of southern New England mid-May through June, while the southern stock spawns off of the Chesapeake Bay.
Commercial fishermen in Massachusetts landed roughly 250.000 pounds of black sea bass in 2012. Only commercial pot fishermen holding a sea bass pot endorsement are required to submit an annual catch report detailing pounds landed and pots fished by area and port of landing. The sea bass catch report is sent out with the renewal license application at the end of the year and is due as a requirement to renew the license for the next year. Even if you do not wish to renew your sea bass endorsement, you must submit the report to renew the license. Furthermore, if you do not intend on renewing your license, the Division would appreciate it if you submit the report anyway.
Note that fishermen may only sell sea bass to dealers authorized by MarineFisheries to buy directly from fishermen. Sea bass sold to un-authorized dealers is strictly prohibited.
Seafood dealers who wish to purchase sea bass directly from fishermen must hold a valid Massachusetts seafood dealer permit as well as submit a primary buyer and quota managed species application to MarineFisheries. Buying sea bass directly from fishermen without prior authorization is strictly prohibited. Once a dealer becomes a primary buyer, there are reporting requirements to must be met.
The best time to fish for black seas bass is from May through summer, when they are closest to shore. Any underwater structure - wrecks, manmade structures like jetties and piers, rock piles - will attract this species. They can be found near shore to depths of 120 feet at this time of year, with larger males closer to the further end of this depth range.
Bait fishing with crab, fish, or squid is the most productive method. Occasionally, black sea bass will strike at plugs, jigs, or lures. Although these fish have large mouths, use a smaller hook with a small sinker tied below it. The most commonly caught fish weigh from 0.5 to 2 pounds.
Mild, fresh, delicate flavored meat that is tender but firm. Raw meat is white and translucent, turning bright white when cooked.