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Black Sea Bass

Centropristis striata

Black sea bass are most often found in rocky areas around wrecks, pilings, buoys, jetties and other structures. (NOAA Photo Library)
Black sea bass are most often found in rocky areas around wrecks, pilings, buoys, jetties and other structures. (NOAA Photo Library)

The black sea bass is a striking, bluish-black fish that visits the lower Chesapeake Bay from spring through autumn.

Appearance:

  • Elongated, bluish-black body
  • Females are paler than males
  • Pale blue center on each scale, forming horizontal lines along the back and sides
  • Blue streaks below the eyes
  • Striped or spotted dorsal fin with fleshy tips at the end of each spine
  • Three points on the tail fin. The top point is the longest, and the fin is rounded in between each point.
  • Large mouth filled with pointed teeth
  • Juveniles are brownish with a dark, broad lateral stripe. They also have a dark blotch at the base of the spines on the back part of the dorsal fin.
  • Usually grows to 12 inches long, but can reach 2 feet long

Habitat:

  • Bottom-dweller
  • Most often found in rocky areas around wrecks, pilings, buoys, jetties and other structures
  • Juveniles live in deep, vegetated areas
  • Lives alone

Range:

  • Visits the lower Chesapeake Bay from spring through late autumn
  • May be found as far north as Solomons, Maryland
  • Leaves the Bay in winter for southern offshore waters

Feeding:

  • Preys upon crabs, mussels, razor clams and other fish
  • Feeds during the day when it can see its prey

Predators:

  • Larger fish such as bluefish, weakfish and striped bass
  • Sharks such as dusky sharks

Reproduction and Life Cycle:

  • Spawns from June-October in the coastal ocean waters of the Mid-Atlantic Bight, primarily between the Chesapeake Bay and Long Island
  • After spawning, larger females reverse sex and become males
  • Juveniles enter the Bay during spring, summer and autumn and remain until December. While in the Bay, they live among bay grasses and feed on tiny crustaceans.
  • Usually lives to 8 years old, but can live as long as 20 years

Other Facts:

  • Popular with recreational anglers
  • Loses its brilliant blue color when taken out of the water, turning a dull black and white
  • The lower Bay is an important nursery and feeding area for young black sea bass

Sources and Additional Information:




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