Giant Sea Bass (Stereolepis gigas)


The giant sea bass, a member of the Serranidae family, is not only a formidable fish in size, it is also renowned for its lengthy life span.

Identification

The body of the giant sea bass is elongate and has dorsal spines that fit into a groove on the back. Greenish-brown or black, the giant sea bass has black or transparent fins, with the exception of the ventral fins, which appear lighter because of a white membrane 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.

Young fish are mottled with prominent dark spots and a few pale-yellow blotches on mostly brick-red bodies; these markings are periodically seen on fish up to and exceeding 25 pounds. The first dorsal fin is separated from the second by a single notch; the first is extremely low and has 11 spines, whereas the second is higher and has 10 soft rays.

Size/Age

The giant sea bass reaches maturity by the age of 11 or 12 and weighs roughly 50 pounds, although it has been known to weigh more than 600 pounds and measure more than 7 feet in length. The all-tackle world record is 563 pounds, 8 ounces; the most common catch is in the 100- to 200-pound range, and much smaller fish are seldom caught. Some of the largest specimens are believed tovbe 75 years or older.

Food and feeding habits

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.

Other Names

California black sea bass, California jewfish, giant bass, black, black sea bass; French: bar gigantesque; Japanese: kokuchi-ishinagi, ishinagi-zoku; Spanish: lubina gigante.

Distribution

Giant sea bass 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. In California waters these fish have been in short supply but were rebounding in the 1990s, due to a moratorium on keeping them.

Habitat

Inhabiting inshore waters, giant sea bass are bottom-dwelling fish, 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.
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