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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)
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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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