The Black Sea Bass fish identification, habitats, characteristics, Fishing methods
The Black Sea Bass live near rock outcrops and shallow, rocky bottoms. Typically large-mouthed, bottom dwellers that are bluish black in color with light spots that form longitudinal stripes. Their scales are relatively large and their dorsal fin is continuous, but notched with 10 slender spines. This spike-finned fish changes sex over its lifetime: it starts out a female and becomes male as it grows older and larger. Black sea bass can reach up to 3 feet (91 cm) in length. Sea bass has firm flesh and tasty skin.
The Black Sea Bass, Centropristis striata, is a type of Serranidae family, Grouper Sea Bass Family, also known as: Black Bass, Common Sea Bass, Humpback (large Males), Rock Bass, Sea Bass, Pinbass, Blackfish, Black Will. Found in the western North Atlantic Ocean along the United States east coast from Massachusetts to the eastern Gulf of Mexico; most common from about Long Island, New York to South Carolina, from Maine to NE Florida.
The black sea bass have an oblong, moderately compressed, stout body that is 3 times as long (excluding the tail) as it is deep. They have a high back, large flat topped head with large oblique mouth, a slightly pointed snout. Their operculum has 3 flat spines and 1 sharp flat spine near the caudal end of each gill cover. Both dorsal fins are joined into 1 continuous dorsal fin and the tail or caudal fin is rounded to trilobed in between each point. The elongated top ray of the tail that sticks out past the rest of the tail, particularly pronounced in larger specimens, is the most distinguishing feature of this fish. The dorsal fin has deeply notched membranes and rows and stripes of white on black. The posterior spines on dorsal fin are shorter than anterior soft rays. Some scales on bases of soft portions of dorsal and anal fins.
Because of the high back, which creates a noticeable rise or hump just behind their heads, some large male black seabass are called Hampbacks. Females have unclear vertical bearings. The black sea bass have blue-black body with a pale blue center on each scale, which looks like horizontal lines running along the back and sides, blue streaks below the eyes, a striped or spotted dorsal fin with fleshy tips at the end of each spine and 3 points on the tail fin. Their maxilla is exposed and scaleless, reaching to below middle of eye.
Dorsal fin has 10 spines and 10 to 12 soft rays.
Anal fin has 3 spines and 7 soft rays.
Pectoral fins have 16 to 17 rays.
Large lateral-line scales 47 (46-49).
Lateral scale series 119 to 126.
Larger species are mostly black, while smaller ones are a dusky-brown.
Their exposed parts of the scales are paler.
Its series of small pale dots gives the fish the look of having bars.
The fish's belly will never be white.
The fins are dark. There is a filament on the end of the caudal fin.
Males during spawning period have a blue nuchal bump.
Maximum weigh is up to 6 lbs while an averages 1 to 2 pounds.
Maximum length 24 inches while the average is 13 inches.
Gill rakers on first arch are 21 to 29 (usually 22-28).
2 to 5 on upper limb, 14-19 (usually 14 to 18) on lower limb.
The large adult black sea bass is blue-black, while the smaller species are smoky gray or dusky brown. The exposed parts of scales are slightly paler than the margins, centers of scales pale blue or white, forming longitudinal series of silvery stripes. The belly is only slightly lighter in color than the sides. The fins are dark, and the dorsal fin is marked with a series of silvery white spots and bands. The upper portion of the caudal fin ends as a filament.
Adult males develop a conspicuous blue hump on the nape during the spawning season. Juveniles mottled with brown blotches and small white spots, a dark brown or black midlateral band from eye to base of caudal fin; large black spot at base of last 3 dorsal-fin spines; turquoise horizontal streaks on the lower part of head.
Adult black sea bass are considered to be a temperate reef fish. They are typically bottom dwelling marine fishes and are most often found on rocky bottoms near reefs, wrecks, oyster bars, pilings and seawalls. Often they are seen near jetties, piers, coral, rock, bridge pilings, breakwaters, and over beds of shells. Although not schooling fish, they can be found in large aggregations around structure or during inshore-offshore migrations. Adults migrate inshore and northward as water temperatures increase in the spring. They return to coastal and ocean waters, moving southward and offshore in the fall as water temperatures drop.
They can be found in inshore waters (bays and sounds) and offshore in waters up to a depth of 130 m (425') with other tropical reef fish such as snappers, groupers, porgies and grunts.
Black sea bass are opportunistic feeders eating whatever are available, preferring crabs, shrimp, worms, small fish and clams. Juveniles eat mostly shrimp, isopods, and amphipods
Black sea bass are hermaphrodites; most begin their lives as females and change to males at the age of 2 to 5 years. Large individuals are males, and smaller individuals are female. Females become mature by age’s 2-5 at a length of 7.5 inches (20 cm) and change sex the following year at a length of 23 cm. Males become mature when they are 9 inches long and develop an adipose hump on the nape. Spawning of black sea bass extends from January to June offshore in the South Atlantic region, peaking from March to May. Spawning in the mid-Atlantic region takes place in deeper waters off the continental shelf from June through October with a peak in July and August off the coast of Virginia, in May off North Carolina and from mid-May to July between Massachusetts and New Jersey. Female black sea bass can produces from 30.000 to 500.000 pelagic eggs depending on the size of the fish.
Black sea bass grows fast, a 1-year old fish is 13 cm, a 5-year old is 30 cm, and an 8-year old fish is only about 38 cm. Maximum age is supposed to be 20 years, but fish older than 9 years are rare. They can grow as long as 50 cm (20 in) and weigh about 3.5 kg (8 lbs).
Fishing methods are including drift fishing; jigging, still fishing, bait fishing. Most are caught from anchored or drifting boats by bottom fishing with baits or by jiggling with small metal jigs. Some are caught from docks, piers, or the shore. Black sea bass is eating whatever are available, preferring crabs, shrimp, squid, worms, mackerel jigs, small fish and clams. When hooked on light tackle, they fight hard all the way to the surface. The action is fast and vigorous, and in spite of its small size it is very much a game fish. The white, firm flesh is excellent eating.
In the winter, black sea bass leave the Bay for southern offshore waters. It appears off New Jersey in the first weeks of May, withdrawing in late October or early November, and wintering offshore at 55 to 130 m (180'-426') at temperatures above 8 °C (46 °f). In summer it is most abundant at less than 37 m (120'). The best fishing is in depths of 6 to 20 fathoms from May to June and from November to December, though they can be caught all year round. In the spring, wrecks, reefs and rough bottom in depths of 50 - 80 feet usually hold the most fish.