Game Fishing > Saltwater Fish > Black Sea Bass

Black Sea Bass

Black Sea BassThis huge salt-water giant is another ocean wonder taken on rod and line within the last few years; its fighting qualities mainly consist in bull­like resistance, savage tugs, and towing the boat and anglers, sometimes for hours till tired. Then it is gaffed and rolled into the boat. It does not, like the tuna or tarpon, make long rushes, or leap above the surface, but generally goes deep down and along.

It is common both on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, where it has been caught weighing up to 500 pounds. In its general structure it closely resembles the fresh-water bass, and is often miscalled the black grouper, and Florida jewfish, but the two latter are distinct species.

Along the California coast, especially around its islands, there are vast submarine forests of great density, immense, broad, deep-green leaves, growing to a length of several hundred feet, sway­ing back and forth in the current, forming a forest maze of sea-weed so thick as to be hidden from human eyes. Here, in the deep blue water is the home of the gigantic black sea-bass. Innumerable smaller fish of many kinds swim in and out of the tangled mass, while the monsters slowly move among them, at times darting after them churning the water into a veritable maelstrom.

To such an environment the seabass is supposed to arrive in April. About July and August, the fish spawns, and fish caught at this time are filled with enormous masses of eggs which are deposited under the weeds in shallow water about twenty feet deep near the shore. During this time the fish are voracious, eagerly taking various baits. About the last of November they become scarcer and are rarely caught.

It is supposed they run in schools at this season, and retire to deep water. The young of the black sea-bass are never caught; it is believed they stay and feed at the bottom below the weeds, and then go out to the ocean, and do not return till mature fish. Small fish under 100 pounds are rarely, if ever, seen.

Fishing for this giant as a sport has long been in vogue at the islands off Los Angeles County, and previous to 1895 they were caught entirely by hand lines; but about that time a large fish was taken with rod and reel by Gen. Charles Viele. Since then that method has been employed; it is a sport for two men in a staunch boat, but to try it single-handed is a dangerous experiment, especially for a novice, as a large fish may tow a frail craft out to sea and so capsize it. Expert and bold anglers have done it, but they are men who thoroughly understand the difficulties and dangers to be encountered.

The tackle used for this gigantic fish is identical with that used for tuna fishing; some use the wire Tackle leader, a few feet longer, and above it a fifteen-foot upper leader of strong cod line to give the boatman purchase in gaffing. The fishing is done from an eighteen-foot launch, light enough for the fish to tow readily, large enough to hold, besides two anglers and boat­man, three bass of 200 pounds each.

The launch is anchored near the weed beds, the anchor being buoyed so that it can be tossed over the moment the strike comes. Various baits are used, a live whitefish, or one-half a barracuda, also three or four pounds of albacore. These are taken on or very near the bottom.

At times there is a long and tedious wait for the strike, and when it does come, it is slow and deliberate, as becomes so dignified and portly a personage; after about twenty feet of line is gone and the bait properly in its mouth, a good solid strike is made; then the angler must be prepared for a violent shock, so strong and heavy, that it is enough to turn the boat completely of round and away in an instant, the reel working at utmost speed; the question of the length of time that the battle lasts depends entirely upon the size of the fish and the expert way in which the angler plays it; some bring it alongside in a remarkably short time for so heavy a quarry. It is then gaffed, the boat heeled over to the edge of the water, and the fish rolled in.

The Florida jewfish is found all along shore on the Indian River and various places round the peninsula. It grows to an immense size and is caught near shore at the and town of Tarpon, Aransas Pass. Its capture is identical with that of the sea-bass and the play is the same except that they have a habit of running to a deep cavern in the rocks and there sulking.

What is known as the large black grouper, also caught on the Florida Keyes, attains a weight of over 600 pounds, but it is comparatively scarce compared to the jewfish and bass.