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black sea bass


Black Sea Bass are found in inshore waters (bays and sounds) and offshore in waters up to a depth of 425'. They spend most of their time close to the sea floor and are often congregated around bottom formations such as rocks, man-made reefs, wrecks, jetties, piers, and bridge pilings.

At Viking Village Black Sea Bass are caught in sea bass pots, by otter trawling, gillnetting and as bycatch in the tilefish and scallop fisheries. Consequently we have modest amounts of this species on a fairly regular basis.

Fishwatch Facts

•Geographic range: Along the U.S. Atlantic coast from the Gulf of Maine to Cape Canaveral, Florida, and in the Gulf of Mexico.


•Habitat: Black sea bass inhabit temperate and subtropical waters. They prefer structured habitats such as reefs, wrecks, or oyster beds.


•Life span: Up to 15 years, although black sea bass older than 9 years are rare. 


•Food: Black sea bass are opportunistic feeders, eating whatever prey is available, but especially crabs, shrimp, worms, small fish, and clams.


•Growth rate: Slow


•Maximum size: Up to 23.5 inches and 8 pounds. Larger black sea bass are males, and smaller ones are



•Reaches reproductive maturity: Most black sea bass mature between the ages of 2 and 3. 


•Reproduction: Black sea bass change sex from female to male. Most females will change to males between ages 2 to 5; no females have been found among fish over age 7. Although some fish may have always been male, the majority of adult males are sexually reversed females. Researchers are not certain why females change to males but speculate that the relative scarcity of males in a spawning group may be the stimulus for a female to switch sex. Females produce between 30,000 and 500,000 eggs in a spawning season, depending on the size of the fish.


•Spawning season: Spawning begins in March off North Carolina and occurs progressively later (until September) further north. 


•Spawning grounds: Coastal areas at depths ranging from 65 to 160 feet on the intercontinental shelf.


•Migrations: Black sea bass in the Mid-Atlantic migrate to inshore coastal areas and bays in the spring and offshore wintering areas in the fall with changes in water temperature. In the South Atlantic, there is relatively limited migration.


•Predators: Predators include little skate, spiny dogfish, monkfish, spotted hake, and summer flounder.


•Commercial or recreational interest: Both 


•Distinguishing characteristics: Large black sea bass are black, while smaller ones are more of a dusky brown. The exposed parts of their scales are paler than the margins, giving the fish the appearance of being barred with a series of longitudinal dots. The belly is only slightly paler than the sides. The fins are dark with dusky spots, and the dorsal fin is marked with a series of white spots and bands. During spawning, males turn bright blue and have a conspicuous blue hump on their heads.

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