Black Sea Bass
Availability? Black sea bass is available Jan-Feb and Oct-Dec.
What? Amongst the most popular fishes, black sea bass (Centropristis striata) is a pretty opportunistic feeder and eats anything that crosses its way. Adult sea bass are aggressive bottom feeders and are not picky; their menu consists of a wide variety of crustaceans, fishes, mollusks, and worms.
Black sea bass primarily depend on their vision and hearing senses. They use it to find their prey and grab them. They have an internal otolith. This allows the species to react and listen to sounds from kilometers away. They communicate with their surroundings via tactile, visual, and auditory means. Black sea bass have a large swim bladder which produces thumps and grunting noises.
Where? The adult varieties of the black sea bass have their habitat near the Atlantic Ocean. You can spot them in the Gulf of Maine, all the way to the Florida Keys. The majority of black sea bass migrate north to spend their summers in the waters of New England. Nowadays, black sea bass have pushed themselves towards the Gulf of Maine because of the gradual increase in temperature there.
Black sea bass are found in association with structured habitats. The young black sea bass usually stay in estuaries or backwaters to prevent themselves from predators. Still, the adult ones spend their majority of time around their habitat in shoals, reefs, rock piles, wrecks, and jetties.You can find them around the undersea layouts, looking for shelter near offshore rubble and reefs. Being in the ocean world, black sea bass are surrounded by many marine organisms like shrimps, small fishes, clamps and crabs. The plant species that surround it are seagrass, kelps, and phytoplankton.
Appearance? Black sea bass is a long dorsal finned, stout-bodied fish. This species of sea bass draws its name from its appearance, as it is black in color with dusky spots on the fins and white spots, bands, and slender spines on the dorsal fin. The tail of the black sea bass is quite round, and possesses a long streamer on the top. At the time of spawning, the dominant males transform their shade to bright blue. As for newborns, they are brown with dark stripes running down the body. Black sea bass grow slowly, up to 2 feet and 9 pounds.
Life cycle? All sea bass are born females, but when they become 2-to-5 years old, and 9-to-13 inches in length, some change sexes, and become males. It is unclear why the sex change occurs, but there is some scientific research suggesting the lack of males in a local spawning group may be the cause. The change happens during the fall and winter after sea bass finish spawning.
Giant black sea bass attain maturity at the age of three years. The spawning time in the life of a black sea bass comes from June to October, off the coast of Virginia. This spawning occurs in the ocean. The males gather around the females to fuse and defend their area. The females give birth to around 30,000 to 500,000 eggs during spawning. The newborn enters the bay in either summer, autumn or spring. They stay there until December or January. When in the bay areas, these fishes live on small crustaceans.
Environmental factors? There are two stocks of black sea bass: Mid-Atlantic and South Atlantic stocks. According to the most recent stock assessments, both the Mid-Atlantic and South Atlantic stocks are not overfished and is not subject to overfishing. Spawning season shows that the black sea bass population has been stable, and its conservation status at present is of Least Concern. Though, efforts for their conservation are being lead by different divisions of Marine Fisheries Management through measures such as catch limits, close season, and permits to catch the fish. In recent times, black sea bass have moved north towards the Gulf of Maine due to changes in ocean temperature.
Taste! Even though their filets are on the smaller side, many people consider sea bass to be the best eating northeast inshore fish. Their meat is tender, translucent, breaks into small flakes, and is mild in flavor. Sea bass are not an oily fish and they can be cooked in a variety of ways. However, they can be tedious to fillet because of their rib cage bones. Black sea bass has a mild, fresh, somewhat delicate flavor and a tender but firm texture. Uncooked flesh should be sparkling white and translucent, not opaque. The firm, lean meat cooks up snow white. Be careful handling whole fish; a jab from the dorsal-fin spines can be very painful.
Storage? Store your fish at 40°F or lower. We recommend not storing in the fridge for much longer than 2-3 days. If you have a whole fish, gutting it as soon as you can is best, even if you won’t be cooking it right away. Leftover cooked fish can be stored for up to 4 days. If you’re not going to cook your fish soon, you can keep it in the freezer for 2 to 4 months.
To freeze, pat the fish dry. Wrap fillet(s) with a couple layers of plastic wrap or foil. Place fillet(s) into a freezer bag or airtight container, or wrap tightly in aluminum foil. If using a freezer bag, press out any excess air and seal as tight as possible. Try not to put more than one pound of fillets in each bag. This will allow the fish to freeze more quickly. You can freeze for 2-4 months. If freezing whole fish, make sure that your fish is gutted and scaled before freezing. Learn more at fishadelphia.com/whole-fish.
Sources: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NMFS-NE-149), On The Water, Kidadl, Seafood Source