Sea Bass, Black
The species is easily identified by body shape, fin characteristics and color. Overall, the color is black for the larger individuals and arid, dusky-brown for the smaller ones. The exposed parts of scales are paler than the margins, giving the fish the appearance of being barred with a series of longitudinal, pale dots. The belly is only slightly lighter than the sides, and is never white. The fins are dark, and the dorsal is marked with a series of white spots and bands. The upper portion of the caudal fin generally ends as a filament. During the spawning season, large males have a conspicuous blue nuchal hump.
The black sea bass (Centropristis striata) is an exclusively marine fish. It is a type of Grouper (Serranidae) found more commonly in northern than in southern ranges.
It inhabits the coasts from Maine to NE Florida and the eastern Gulf of Mexico. There are three large biomass populations of black sea bass: one off the coast of Georgia and South Carolina, one in the area of the Chesapeake Bay, and one off New York. They can be found in inshore waters (bays and sounds) and offshore in waters up to a depth of 130 m (425'). They spend most of their time close to the sea floor and are often congregated around bottom formations such as rocks, man-made reefs, wrecks, jetties, piers, and bridge pilings.
The sea bass spawns when it is mature, at 190 mm (7.5"), in middle of May to end of June. The eggs, 0.95 mm (.03") in diameter, are buoyant and their development time is 1.6 days at 23 °C (74 °f). The maximum size of a sea bass is 500 mm (19.7"), weighing 1 p
It appears off New Jersey in the first weeks of May, withdrawing in late October or early November, and wintering offshore at 55 to 130 m (180'-426')at temperatures above 8 °C (46 °f). In summer it is most abundant at less than 37 m (120').
Black sea bass are protogynous hermaphrodites, meaning that they generally first mature as females and some later become male. The sex change generally occurs when the fish are between 9 1/2 and 13 inches long, over the winter.