Black Sea Bass (Centropristis striata)


Black sea bass are members of the Serranidae family and are popular sportfish.

Identification

The black sea bass has a relatively stout body that is three times as long (excluding the tail) as it is deep. It also has a noticeably high back, a flat-topped head, a slightly pointed snout, and a sharp spine near the apex of each gill cover. The elongated top ray of the tail sticks out past the rest of the tail and is the most distinguishing feature of this fish.

The body color ranges from black to gray or brownish-gray. The dorsal fins are marked by several slanting white spots, and there also appear to be thin stripes on the sides, with wide vertical bands overlapping the stripes on some fish and a large dark spot on the last dorsal spine. The upper and the lower edges of the tail are white, as are the outer edges of the dorsal and the anal fins.

Size

Big sea bass range from 3 to 8 pounds, and the average fish weighs between 1 and 3 pounds; the all-tackle world record is a 10-pound, 4-ounce fish. Sea bass can grow to 2 feet long, averaging 6 to 18 inches. They are known to live for 10 years.

Life history

Black sea bass are hermaphrodites; most begin their lives as females and later become males. Large fish are males, and females reach reproductive ability in their second year. Transformation from female to male generally occurs between ages 2 and 5. Their protracted spawning season extends from February through May in the southern range and from June through October in their northern range.

Food and feeding habits

Clams, shrimp, worms, crabs, and small fish constitute the diet of the omnivorous black sea bass.

Other Names

blackfish, sea bass, black bass, black will, black seabass, rockbass, common sea bass, humpback (large males), pin bass (small specimens); Spanish: serrano estriado.

Distribution

Found in the western North Atlantic Ocean along the United States, the black sea bass ranges as far north as Maine and south to northern Florida, as well as into the Gulf of Mexico. It is most common between Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.

Habitat

The black sea bass is a bottom-dwelling species found around wrecks, reefs, piers, jetties, and breakwaters and over beds of shells, coral, and rock. Small fish are found in shallow and quiet waters near the shore, such as in bays, whereas most larger fish prefer offshore reefs, in water ranging from roughly 10 feet deep to several hundred feet deep.
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