Black Sea Bass

Black Sea Bass

(Centropristis striata)

Also known as Blackfish, Rock Bass, Black Bass, and Tallywag


Adult Black Sea Bass are blue-black in color, hence its name, but have paler colored bellies. Smaller fish can be more of a dusty brown. Adults average about 11-12 inches in length but can reach a maximum of 25 inches. Black Sea Bass are a stout-bodied fish with a large head and mouth. Typically, the fins are black and have white spots or bands. The single continuous dorsal fin has 10 spines and 11 soft rays, while the caudal fin is rounded with a single upper ray extending out longer than the rest. During spawning adult males have a distinct blue-green hump on their heads.


Living along eastern coast of the United States, Black Sea Bass have a geographical range from Maine to the Gulf of Mexico, but are most common between Long Island and South Carolina. Notably, rising ocean temperatures have been credited with expanding their range northward. Driven by changing water temperatures, Black Sea Bass migrate seasonally. From late spring to fall they are found inshore and migrate offshore to winter in warmer, deep waters. Generally bottom-dwelling fish, they prefer structured rocky habitat but can also be found in open-shelf waters.


Black Sea Bass are protogynous hermaphrodites, meaning that they change their sex during their lifetime. Typically, they begin as female, then between the ages of 2 and 4 begin the transition to male. Males are aggressively territorial and have a group of females they mate with and defend. As opportunistic foragers, Black Sea Bass will consume anything that comes their way, but they prefer crabs, shrimp, worms, small fish, and clams. The best time to see Black Sea Bass while diving is during the summer months when they are closest to shore.

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Written by M. Cote Updated 3/11/2019 CAL