Game Fishing > Sea-Bass Family, Serranidae > Sea-Bass


Sea-BassThe sea-bass is known in various localities as black sea-bass, black will, black harry, hannahills, humpback, and also by names belonging rightly to other well-known fishes, as blackfish, bluefish, and rock-bass. The name sea-bass, however, is in most general use, and is the most distinctive and appropriate. Linnaeus described it briefly, in 1758, and named it striatus, or "striped." He afterward received specimens from South Carolina, which in 1766 he named atraria, or "black­ish," but the older name must hold according to the law of priority.

It is confined to the Atlantic coast, with range extending from Cape Cod to Florida, but it is most abundant along the coast of New Jersey. It has a robust body, its depth not quite a third of its length; the back is elevated over the shoulder, the "hump" being more prominent in males during the breeding season. The head is large and thick, with a large, oblique mouth, leathery lips, and projecting lower jaw. The fin rays are long and slender, and the caudal fin is double concave.

Its color is bluish black, sometimes greenish black or dusky brown on the back and top of the head, lighter on the sides and belly. The edges of the scales being dark, give a mottled, streaked, or reticulated appearance. The dorsal fin has several series of bluish white elongated spots; the other fins are bluish or dusky, and are more or less mottled.

Young specimens have a broad dusky band or stripe along the sides, which later becomes broken up, forming cross shades. The sea-bass, as its name implies, is a sea fish, seldom entering brackish water. It congregates in large schools about the offshore rocky reefs and shoals, and about old wrecks, feeding on crabs, shrimps, and other marine organisms, often in company with the tautog and porgy. It is a deep-water fish, and of course a bottom feeder. It spawns in summer, between May and August, depending on the temperature of the water, but usually in June.

The eggs are quite small, about twenty-five to the inch, and hatch in from four to six days. Its usual weight is from one-half to two or three pounds, occasionally weighing ten or twelve pounds. It is very voracious and will take almost any kind of bait that is offered. It is taken in large numbers by market fishermen on hand-lines and clam bait. It commands a ready sale, being a good food­fish, with firm, flaky flesh of a fine savor, and is highly valued for chowders.

It is a hard-pulling fish on the line, boring toward the bottom with vicious tugs. A light cane chum rod is very suitable, or perhaps the Little Giant rod is better. It is seven and one-half feet long and weighs eight ounces, and will bear the strain of such sinkers as must be used. The line should be braided linen of small caliber, and a multiplying reel should always be used. A short leader of three or four feet, and Sproat hooks, Number 1-0 to 3-0, on silk­worm fibre and a sinker adapted to the strength of the tide, make up the rest of the tackle.

As the fishing is done from an anchored boat a landing-net should be provided. With the tackle just mentioned, at slack tide, and with clam, shedder-crab, sandworms, or shrimp bait, the angler can enjoy a good measure of sport with the sea-bass. Where the tide runs very strong, compelling the use of heavy sinkers of from three to six ounces, a striped-bass rod should be employed, especially in water from fifteen to thirty feet deep.