The black sea bass is a striking, bluish-black fish that visits the lower Chesapeake Bay from spring through autumn.
The elongated, bluish-black body of the black sea bass usually grows to 12 inches in length, but can reach up to 2 feet in length. Each scale has a pale blue center, forming horizontal lines across its back and sides. Blue streaks also appear below its eyes. Its large mouth is filled with pointed teeth. Its dorsal fin is striped or spotted with fleshy tips at the end of each spine. Its tail fin has three points; the top point is the longest, and the fin is rounded in between each point. Females are paler than males. 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.
Black sea bass are solitary bottom-dwellers, most often found in rocky areas around wrecks, pilings, buoys, jetties and other structures. Juveniles live in deep, vegetated areas.
Visits the lower Chesapeake Bay from spring through late autumn, reaching as far north as Solomons, Maryland. They leave the Bay in winter for southern offshore waters.
Black sea bass prey upon crabs, mussels, razor clams and other fish. They feed during the day when they can better see prey.
Larger fish such as bluefish, weakfish and striped bass feed on black sea bass, as well as sharks such as dusky sharks.
Spawning occurs from June through 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. Black sea bass usually live to 8 years old, but can live as long as 20 years.