The Giant Sea Bass fish identification, its habitats, characteristics, Fishing methods
Despite its great size, the giant sea bass is an inhabitant of near-shore waters, particularly over hard, rocky bottoms and around kelp beds. The young can be found in depths of about 6 to 15 fathoms. Larger specimens can generally be found in depths of 15 to 25 fathoms. They range from Huboldt Bay in Northern California down to the Gulf of California. Giant sea bass is not only a formidable fish in size; it is also renowned for its lengthy life span. Mostly an eastern Pacific gamefish, specimens exceeding 500 pounds have been caught.
The Giant Sea bass, Stereolepis gigas, is a member of the Serranidae family, also known as the Black Sea bass, Seabass Japanese, Sea Perch, California Black sea bass, California jewfish, giant bass, black, Suzuki, Kokuchi-Ishinagi and Ishinagi-Zoku in Japanese, bar gigantesque in French, is a fish native to the northern Pacific Ocean. They occur in tropical and subtropical inshore waters of the northeast Pacific off the California and Mexico coasts, specifically from the Gulf of California southward to Humboldt Bay and Guadalupe Island. They have also been found off the Asiatic Pacific coast.
The Giant Sea bass has elongate body and dorsal spines that fit into a groove on the back. The first dorsal fin is very low and consists of 11 spines. The second dorsal fin is higher than the first, and consists of 10 soft rays. The first dorsal fin is separated from the second by a single notch. The presence of more spines on the first dorsal fin than soft rays on the second distinguishes the Giant Sea bass from similar related species, including the Jewfish, Epinephelus itajara, with which it has been confused in the past. The giant sea bass and its close relative the jewfish are the giants of the bass family.
The Giant Sea bass is greenish brown or black. All the fins are black (except the ventral fins which appear lighter because the white membrane shows clearly between the black spines). There is usually a white patch on the throat and underneath the tail, and the membranes between the rays are also light.
Giant sea bass are a robust fish, starting out life as a brightly colored orange to brick red juvenile with large conspicuous prominent dark spots and a few pale yellow blotches on the body; the fins are black or transparent. As the fish grows it loses the orange coloration and takes on a bronzy purple hue. The spots slowly fade as the fish gets larger and darker, with large adults appearing solid black to gray with a white underside. As with its close relatives, the groupers, giant sea bass are capable of rapid and dramatic color changes. Large fish retain the ability to display large black spots, and can take on a bicolor appearance (light below, dark above), assume white mottling, or simply change from jet black to light gray. Young fish remain orange with black spots at least until they are 20 to 25 cm long.
The giant sea bass has been known to weigh more than 600 pounds and measure more than 7 feet in length. The most common catch is in the 100- to 200-pound range, and much smaller fish are seldom caught. Large specimens are usually found in water deeper than 100 feet. Some of the largest giant sea bass are believed to be 75 years or older; a 434-pound fish was estimated by ichthyologists at between 72 and 75 years of age.
The Giant Sea bass has been seen over many varied habitats, including rocky reefs, kelp forests, sand/mudflats, and rarely open Ocean. The species are bottom-dwelling fish, are Inhabiting inshore waters, and preferring hard, rocky bottoms around kelp beds. The young occur in depths of about 6 to 15 fathoms, whereas larger specimens usually inhabit depths of 15 to 25 fathoms. Adult giant sea bass seem to prefer the edges of nearshore relatively shallow rocky reefs (10-40 m). Although the kelp may disappear due to a strong El Nino or overgrazing by sea urchins, giant sea bass will remain at the reef even in the absence of kelp. At certain times of the year adults can be found well away from the reef, foraging over sandy bottom for spawning squid.
The giant sea bass diet includes crustaceans and a wide variety of fish. Anchovies and croaker are a prominent food source off California, mackerel, sheepshead, whitefish, sand bass, and several types of crabs are also favored. Although these bulky fish appear to be slow and cumbersome, they are reputedly capable of outswimming and catching a bonito in a short chase. The most important prey items of the Giant sea bass are sting rays, skates, lobster, crabs, various flatfish, small sharks, mantis shrimp, blacksmith, ocean whitefish, red crab, sargo, sheephead, octopus, squid and an occasional kelp bass or barred sand bass.
Giant sea bass are not built for sustained speed, and the vast majority of their preys are organisms that live on the bottom. These organisms, located crawling across the substrate or buried just below the surface, are drawn into the mouth of a giant sea bass by the vacuum produced when the huge mouth is rapidly opened. Certainly some mid-water fish are ambushed and sucked in by giant sea bass lurking in the shadows of the kelp.
The giant sea bass reaches maturity by the age of 11 or 12 and weighs roughly 50 pounds, males became mature as small as 18 kg, and females mature at 23-27 kg. They create a large spawning aggregation that would bring a large number of giant sea bass together during a short period of time at specific locations and times to spawn. Spawning aggregations are formed and remain together for one or two months over the period of June to September. The ovaries of a 320-pound (145 kg) female fish were estimated to contain 60 million eggs.
Fertile, hydrated giant sea bass eggs are relatively large for a marine species, measuring about 1.6 mm in diameter. The eggs float to the surface and hatch in about 24-36 hours. The larvae drift and feed in the plankton for about a month before settling to the bottom and beginning their lives as juveniles. Giant sea bass have spawned in captivity several times. A single pair of giant sea bass has spawned in two successive years, spawning nearly weekly beginning in June and ending in August or September.
Fishing methods are live or dead bait fishing from an anchored or drifting boat with large natural baits. Fishing is best in the 10 to 25 fathom range. Diet includes crustaceans and a wide variety of fishes.