American Oceans

Black Sea Bass

The Black Sea Bass, or Centropristis striata, is a genus of ray-finned fish in the Serranidae family. Residing in the West Atlantic Ocean, the Black Sea Bass is a temperate fish that lives coastal in the spring and summer but moves to slightly deeper water in the cold months.

black sea bass centropristis striata in ocean floor

They are found on the shores of Nova Scotia down to the Florida Coast. They are a popular and important species for fisheries because of their coastal proximity.

The Black Sea Bass is a bottom dweller and spends most of its time on the ocean floor. Other names for this fish include Blackfish, Rock Bass, Bluefish, and Tallywag.

Characteristics & Appearance

Black Sea Bass have long, plump, oval-shaped bodies. The bass is known for their big mouths and dusky coloring.

Weight & Length

The Black Sea Bass is a slow-growing fish. It takes two years for them to reach maturity. They grow to be 1 foot long and weigh about 5.5. pounds.

Black Sea Bass, or Centropristis striata

Most often, they are roughly 4 pounds. The largest the Black Sea Bass gets is 2 feet and 9 pounds.

Physical Characteristics & Color

The Black Sea Bass has a long, laterally compressed body. They sport a long dorsal fin with ten spines that peak in the front half. The Black Sea Bass has large pelvic and pectoral fins.

black sea bass with laterally compressed body characteristics

They have large, downward curved mouths. When it opens its mouth, this fish shows off teeth along the jawline and a patch of teeth at the front of its mouth.

The Black Sea Bass is usually black but can also be spotted as a dusky brown or gray, especially if it’s a smaller fish.

They have pale bellies relative to their colored backs and fins. Their fins have dark, dusky spots that form lengthwise stripes along their body. Their fins also have tiny, white flecks.

Black Sea Bass live underwater in Atlantic waters

Dominant males are larger than females and subordinate males. During spawning, their eyes turn blue or green.

The dominant males also form a bright blue bump on their heads. This bump is called a nuchal hump.

Lifespan & Reproduction

Male Black Sea Bass live up to 12 years while females live for eight years. They are late bloomers that do not reach sexual maturity for 1-3 years.

black sea bass eggs will hatch for reproduction

The smallest females produce as little as 30,000 eggs, and the largest can produce 500,000. Spawning occurs in the spring and summer while the temperature of the water is suitable for the eggs.

They go into deeper waters to spawn safely. Typically, the eggs will hatch after 75 hours in at least 61 degrees Fahrenheit waters.

Most Black Sea Bass are born female, but some turn male after 2-5 years, roughly 38%. This change occurs at the end of summer until spring after the spawning season.

Dominant males are aggressive in defending their territory while they attract females. Subordinate males are essentially indistinguishable from females and have to wait to reproduce.


The Black Sea Bass is a bottom dweller found along the North American Atlantic Coast. They reside on the ocean floor and congregate between rocks, artificial objects, wrecks, piers, reefs, and oyster bars.

They usually live at a depth of 20 feet near the coastline. They are common near rock jetties and anywhere with significant rock concentration.

They mostly live by the coast in shallow water but migrate into the deeper ocean during the winter and spawning.

Where Do Black Sea Bass Live?

Black Sea Bass are found all along the eastern coast. They are warm water fish and migrate according to water temperatures.

Their habitat stretches from Nova Scotia to Florida. Large pockets of Black Sea Bass are in Cape Cod and Massachusetts to Cape Canaveral. Warming water temperatures have allowed Black Sea Bass to extend their territory north.

When they remain stationary, they rest with their head down. They keep their dorsal fin tucked in. The juveniles always remain close to protective structures.

Food & Diet

The Black Sea Bass is a predatory fish. They use their mouths to catch their food. They rely on ocean currents to propel them towards prey. These fish have a broad diet. Daytime is when the Black Sea Bass does its hunting.

What Does Black Sea Bass Eat?

The Black Sea Bass does not discriminate what it eats. They will eat whatever is available to them. The Black Sea Bass is a carnivorous bottom eater fish.

They commonly consume crabs, shrimp, worms, and small fish. They are known to also eat barnacles, tunicates, and bivalves. Essentially, the Black Sea Bass preys on organisms at the bottom of the aquatic food chain.

Black Sea Bass do not have big teeth or a strong jaw, so they have to feast on small prey. They do bear a big mouth which is their primary hunting feature.

They can easily scoop and catch their prey by opening their large mouths. These fish follow and use swift currents to catch up to their food.

Black Sea Bass are capable of changing their color to match their environment. This ability assists them in hunting prey.

Black Sea Bass aggressively hunt the bottom of the ocean floor. Their prey is typically low-level organisms that also dwell in the bottom of the ocean.

Since they live in estuaries as protection, Black Sea Bass are left with small crustaceans, worms, and other small fish that fear predators.

Threats & Predators

The Black Sea Bass is a popular fish for recreational and commercial fishing. Black Sea Bass are the prey of many large fish and sharks.

Human Threats

Fishing for Black Sea Bass is a recreational activity along the East Coast. They are easy to catch because of their proximity to the shoreline, as well as their population abundance and docile nature.

They are sought after commercially as well. So much so that there are institutions in place to limit fishing on Black Sea Bass.

Climate Change & Global Warming

Climate Change has resulted in the warming of oceans. Black Sea Bass are warm temperate fish and traditionally live in the southern section of the Atlantic Coast.

The warming waters have allowed the fish to reside as north as Canada. They are now abundant in Northern Atlantic areas, perhaps too much so.


Black Sea Bass are preyed upon by several large fish. Known predators include monkfish, weakfish, bluefish, summer flounder, striped bass, and little skate.

Smaller sharks are also considered a predator of Black Sea Bass. Species like dogfish, bignose sharks, and dusky sharks.

Other Threats

Currently, the biggest concern for Black Sea Bass is their invasion of North Atlantic fishing. These areas rely heavily on lobster fishing, and Black Sea Bass are known to prey on crustaceans.

Fishermen in these areas call for fewer restrictions for fishing Black Sea Bass to prevent them from hunting on their most valuable resource.  

Conservation Status

As of 2021, the stock status has found that the Black Sea Bass north of North Carolina is not overfished. The stock status of the South Atlantic in 2019 has found the same.

Several regulations protect these fish from overfishing. The population is above target in the mid-Atlantic.

Fun Facts About Black Sea Bass

  • Black Sea Bass are bluer in color when underwater but lose that color when taken out.
  • The largest Black Sea Bass, caught in Virginia, weighed 10 pounds and 4 ounces
  • Scientists believe that Black Sea Bass changed sexes as a response to the lack of males in their spawning group
  • Used as a good practice fish for hook and line fishermen
  • They are well defended from bottom trawlers because of their affinity for living near rocks and structures
  • Easily caught in pots because they are attracted to structures
  • In 2020, recreational fishermen caught over 9 million pounds of Black Sea Bass

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