The Black Sea Bass, Centropristis striata, is an exclusively marine fish, also known as sea bass and blackfish.


Off New Jersey, USA

It inhabits the coasts from Maine to NE Florida and the eastern Gulf of Mexico. They are most abundant off the waters of New York. They can be found in inshore waters (bays and sounds) and offshore in waters up to a depth of 130 m. 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.

Table of contents
1 General Characteristics
2 Life Cycle
3 Diagnostic Features
4 International names
5 External links
6 References

General Characteristics

Black sea bass, as their name goes, are usually black. But like many other types fish, they have the ability to adjust their color to blend in with the bottom. Their colors may take on a gray, brown, black or even a deep indigo hue. The sides of their body may have dark vertical bands. But most distinctive is their skin, when seen up close resembles a fishnet pattern, because of the dark color that appears in the margin of their scales contrasted with the lighter color underneath the scales.

The average sea bass weighs about 1 1/2 lbs. The world record bass is 9lbs. 8oz. But any sea bass above 5lbs. is considered a large fish. As a sea bass matures, there are slight variations in their proportions. The smallest sea bass are often nicknamed “pin” bass. Larger fish are nicknamed “humpback” bass because as they grow larger they tend to bulk out just behind the head.

Black sea bass feed on crab, bluecrab, juvenile lobster, shrimp, mollusks, small fish, herring, menhaden and squid.

In contrast to the Striped bass Morone saxatilis, it is strictly confined to salt water.

Life Cycle

The sea bass spawns when it is mature, at 19 cm, in middle of May to end of June. The eggs, 0.95 mm in diameter, are buoyant and their development time is 1.6 days at 23° C. The maximum size of a sea bass is 50 cm, weighing 4.3 kg.

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 at temperatures above 8° C. In summer it is most abundant at less than 37 m.

Diagnostic Features

  • the spiny and soft ray portions of dorsalis are continuous, so there is only one long fin instead of two short separate ones as for the Wreck Fish Polyprion americanus, Scup Stenotomus chrysops, Rose Fish Sebastes marinus, Cunner Tautogolabrus adspersus, Tautog or Striped Bass Morone saxatilis
  • rounded caudalis and pectoralia, short but high analis
  • compared to a tautog or cunner, its mouth is much larger, also the caudalis, pectoralia, and soft portion (11 rays) of dorsalis as long as spiny portion
  • compared to a wreck fish, its scales are much larger, the head outline and gill cover are smooth, and the caudalis is rounded at the edges
  • it is stout-bodied, three times taller than long (without caudalis), and has a high back, flat topped head, moderately pointed snout, large oblique mouth, eye set up high (not as high as in the above image due to its slightly oblique perspective), and one sharp flat spine near the caudal end of the operculum
  • the dorsalis originates at the anterior of the caudal end of the operculum, the soft portion of the dorsalis is more tall than long, the caudalis is rounded and in adults it is an elongated upper ray, the analis originates below soft portion of the dorsalis, which it resembles in its rounded shape and being more tall than long
  • the pectoralia is very long nearly towards the analis, rounded (best fieldmark), the ventralia is very large, originate posterior of pectoralia (whereas slightly caudate in Scup, Rose Fish, Cunner and Tautog, below in Wreck Fish)
  • scales are very large but it is naked at the head with adult males developing fatty bumps in front of the dorsalis

It often rests stationary or cruises slowly around structures. It occasionally rests on the bottom or other structures, staying either head-down or head-up. It enters the smallest corners and caves with a body angle above ground often ca. 40° down. The dorsalis is normally folded close to the body, and it is only spread out as an aggressive posture reaction to other sea bass.

International names

External links


  * McClane, A.J. (1978). McClane's Field Guide to Saltwater Fishes of North America. A.J. McClane. ISBN 0-8050-0733-4