Black Sea Bass
Black sea bass is a relative of grouper and is a popular fish along the U.S. Atlantic coast. The fish is named for its black colour, although smaller fish can be a dusky brown. They are reported to grow up to two feet (600 cm) and nine pounds (4 kg). Found only along the U.S. Atlantic seaboard, the fish can be found from Cape Cod to the Gulf of Mexico.
Black sea bass are black and have fins with dusky spots. The dorsal fin is marked with a series of slender spines, white spots and bands. During spawning, dominant males turn bright blue and have a blue hump on their heads. It is one of the best small fish to bake or grill whole, due to its relatively simple bone structure.
In the Mid-Atlantic, black sea bass migrate seasonally as water temperature changes. They generally migrate to inshore coastal areas and bays in the spring and offshore in the fall. They are bottom-dwellers and are most often found on rocky bottoms near reefs, wrecks, oyster bars, pilings, or jetties. They grow slowly and mature around two to three years old. Most begin life as females and become males between the ages of two and five. Females produce between 30,000 and 500,000 eggs in a spawning season. Spawning takes place in the deeper waters off the continental shelf from June through October with a peak in July and August off the coast of Virginia. Males gather a group of females to mate with and aggressively defend their territory. Black sea bass generally eat whatever prey is available, including crabs, shrimp, worms, small fish and clams. Females can live up to eight years of age; males live up to 12.
This fishery uses a large cone-shaped net that is dragged along the seafloor to catch fish. As the net is towed at low speed, hydrodynamic forces push two "otter boards" outwards opening the mouth of the net and capturing fish in its path.