Learn about black sea bass

Did you know the black sea bass can change its sex? Read on to learn more interesting facts about this popular New England fish species.

Appearance

  • Black sea bass average 11-12 inches in length, but can grow up to 25 inches. They are blue-black dorsally and paler on the belly. The primarily black fins often have white lines throughout. Adult males often have a pronounced hump on their heads with bluish-green coloration.
  • Black sea bass are fairly stout with a large head and mouth. The caudal fin often has a long streamer trailing from it. Black sea bass are close relatives to other sea bass and grouper species (e.g., striped bass, wreckfish, and white perch).
Black sea bass

Black sea bass facts

  • Species name: Centropristis striata
  • Black sea bass live along the Eastern coast of the United States, from Maine to the Gulf of Mexico. They are most commonly found between Long Island, New York, and South Carolina.
  • Black sea bass migrate seasonally, inhabiting inshore waters from the late spring through the fall and then migrating to warmer, deeper waters for the winter. Black sea bass are common in rocky, complex habitats. 
  • Ocean temperatures in the Northwest Atlantic have been gradually warming over recent decades; this warming trend has been associated with a northernly expansion of the black sea bass population. 
  • Black sea bass are protogynous hermaphrodites. This means each individual changes sex at some point in their life. Most fish do this before six years of age.
  • In New England waters, mature sea bass will reproduce from mid-May through July. The eggs float in the ocean until they hatch 2 to 5 days after fertilization. Larvae are carried into bays, inlets, and offshore areas. 
  • Crabs and shrimp are common prey of the black sea bass. The fish will also snack on small fishes, squid, clams, and barnacles. Predators of the black sea bass are bluefish, weakfish, bignose shark, and dusky shark.
  • Black sea bass is an important commercial and recreational fishery in Massachusetts waters. Commercially, black sea bass are commonly harvested with fish pots and to a lesser degree rod and reel. Be sure to review our commercial and recreational before hitting the water. 
black sea bass distribution map

Angling tips

  • Black sea bass are closest to shore during the summer months. You can find this species under a structure, like jetties, rock piles, or peers.
  • Efficient baits for sea bass are crab, fish, or squid.
  • Use a medium outfitted rod, 20-30 lbs mono or braid, leader with a single hook and weight or vertical jigs. 

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