The black sea bass (Centropristis striata) is an exclusively marine fish, also known as sea basses and blackfish. 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. They are most abundant off the waters of 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.
Black sea bass, as their name indicates, are usually black. But like many other types of fish, they have the ability to adjust their color to blend in with the bottom. Their colors may take on a gray, brown, black or even a deep indigo hue. The sides of their body may have dark vertical bands. But most distinctive is their skin, when seen up close resembles a fishnet pattern, because of the dark color that appears in the margin of their scales contrasted with the lighter color underneath the scales.
The average sea bass weighs about 1½ lb (680 g). The world record bass is 9 lb 8 oz (4,309 g), but any sea bass above 5 lb (2.3 kg) is considered a large fish. As a sea bass matures, there are slight variations in their proportions. The smallest sea bass are often nicknamed “pin” bass. Larger fish are nicknamed “humpback” bass because as they grow larger they tend to bulk out just behind the head.
In contrast to the Striped bass Morone saxatilis, it is strictly confined to salt water.
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 4.3 kg (9.5lb).
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').
It often rests stationary or cruises slowly around structures. It occasionally rests on the bottom or other structures, staying either head-down or head-up. It enters the smallest corners and caves with a body angle above ground often about 40° down. The dorsal fin is normally folded close to the body, and it is only spread out as an aggressive posture reaction to other sea bass.