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Article: Species Profile

Saltwater Marine Fishing Regulations Massachusetts Saltwater Fishing

Black Sea Bass

The black sea bass is one of the most valuable recreational fish species in Massachusetts waters. Members of the family Serranidae (that include other sea bass and groupers) they are extremely fun to catch and a delicious fish to eat. Inhabiting Atlantic coastal waters, black sea bass range from the Gulf of Maine to the Florida Keys, but they are most abundant in areas from Cape Cod to Cape Canaveral, Florida. Black sea bass prey upon many different animals including fish, crabs, mussels, and other invertebrates. As a very structure oriented fish, black sea bass inhabit reefs, rocky bottom, areas around pilings, wrecks, and jetties..

One amazing thing about black sea bass is that they are protogynous hermaphrodites. This means that many fish begin life as females and then between the age of 2-6 years will change sex to become males. This is not the only species of fish that makes this change as there are other groupers, wrasses, and parrotfish that do as well. There has been lots of research into the mechanisms for change in these fish; however, the exact reason and timing of change for each fish is not well understood. It may be based on the ratio of males to females in an area. Changes to the ratio, due to removals from natural mortality or fishing activity, may cause a larger female to transition to a male.

Male and female black sea bass can be distinguished by several external features when caught. Males tend to be darker in color with some having blue-green coloring around the eyes and on the dorsal side of the body. In the largest males there is also a hump that forms on the top of the head above the eyes in front of the dorsal fin. The males often have a long fin-ray that extends past the longest part of the tail fin. Female black sea bass are lighter in color and are more of a gray to brownish hue.

As a migratory species, black sea bass generally arrive in Massachusetts waters in early May. One of the ways to target black sea bass is to tip a hook with a piece of squid or crab and drop it down along with a weight to the bottom and wait for the bite. Anglers can also use baited or un-baited jigs dropped on structure to add movement that can entice black sea bass to bite.

However you get out on the water to catch black sea bass, just be ready. Once you hook into these fun to catch and eat fish, you’ll never want to stop!