Sea bass, not to be confused with freshwater bass, are an essential part of the marine ecosystems worldwide, featuring prominently along the Pacific coast, Atlantic coast, the Mediterranean Sea, and the Black Sea depending on the species.
While there are several species of fish with the name “bass” in their name, many of those are misnomers.
With that, we’ll dive into describing the types of sea bass and the white sea bass, which is actually from the croaker family.
Black Sea Bass
As the name would imply, the black sea bass is black with white bands on the dorsal fin and tail.
They live off the coast of the Atlantic and are especially prominent in crucial areas like Cape Cod and the Florida Keys. Black sea bass is short fish– only around a foot in length– but can weigh up to 5 lbs.
During the spawning season, the dominant males attract their mates by turning a vibrant blue color and brandishing a large hump on their heads.
This tells female black bass that they are the alpha, making them more valuable as mates. They are also hermaphroditic, which means that they can change their sex depending on the needs of their group.
The striped bass is an Atlantic coast native from the St. Lawrence River to the Gulf of Mexico.
They come in various colors, including blue, pale green, dusky brown, or black, with pearly bellies and distinct black stripes running from gill to tail. They reach an average length of 20-35 inches and weigh between 5-20 lbs.
Its popularity and prevalence have gained its status as the state fish of three states– South Carolina, Maryland, and Rhode Island– and the state marine fish of New Hamshire, New York, Virginia, and New Jersey.
European Sea Bass
A fiery, aggressive fish, the European sea bass, or branzino, is a favorite of sportspeople who enjoy a challenge.
They are quite large, up 40 inches long and 33 lbs. They frequent estuaries and lagoons near West Africa, the Mediterranean Sea, and North Atlantic Ocean, though they will transition to rivers.
The European sea bass is typically silver or pale metallic blue, with a pronounced lateral line and darker striping along their sides.
Younger fish are covered in shady spots, a form of camouflage to mask them from predators until they are large and robust enough to escape dangerous situations.
Giant Sea Bass
The enormous giant sea bass is not a true bass but a wreckfish. They are apex predators of the Pacific sea kelp forests they call home, sweeping through schools of mackerel, crustaceans, and many other smaller species to make their meal. The largest reported giant sea bass was 557 lbs, but average a much smaller 60 lbs.
In addition to their size, giant sea bass are distinct because of their enormous mouths and prominent black spots against their lighter grey body. As juveniles, the fish are bright orange but can change their colors to hide.
White Sea Bass / Croaker
White sea bass is, in reality, a species of croaker. They are abundant fish that live in the same range as the giant sea bass in the kelp areas of the Pacific coast, from southern Alaska to northern Mexico.
They are a brilliant silver color, so metallic that they flash white as they make their way through the water in large schools. Some have dark vertical bands or speckles on their backs.
This fish can emit a creaking sound by thrusting the muscles in their abdomen against their air-filled swim bladder.
While many fish classified as bass are not sea bass, their history as regional fare and fun sporting targets has solidified them as unofficial members of the genus.
Because this branch of the marine family tree includes so many illegitimate branches, the differences between the different types of bass are incredibly diverse.
Look out for the distinguishing features discussed in this guide to figure out what kind of fish you found.