Black Sea Bass: Centropristis striata
Update: The recent federal black sea bass stock assessment update found black sea bass were no longer overfished or undergoing overfishing. Based on the rebuild status of black sea bass, the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council has proposed to more than double the current annual catch limit. NOAA Fisheries approved this request and it will go into effect Sept. 23, 2013. Learn more about the recent updates to the Atlantic black sea bass fishery.
Gulf State Waters
Atlantic State Waters
Minimum Size Limit
10" total length
13" total length
Daily Bag Limit
100 pounds per person
5 fish per person
- Legal Gear: hook and line, spears
- Reef fish gear required:
- Gulf: circle hooks, de-hooking device
- Atlantic: de-hooking device
Habitat and Fishing Tips:
Black sea bass, which are often called “rock bass,” prefer natural, hard bottom areas and limestone ledges. While they are most commonly caught along Florida’s central and northern coasts, they sometimes venture to south Florida waters during cold winters. Mature black sea bass generally prefer depths of 20 to 80 feet but juveniles can also be caught in shallower water over sea grass and near jetties and reefs. Like many other members of the grouper family, black sea bass prey on fish, squid, shrimp and other crustaceans.
Anglers commonly catch black sea bass incidentally while bottom fishing for grouper or snapper. While smaller than most other members of the family, black sea bass are aggressive and fun to catch, especially if you scale back to lighter tackle. Light to medium weight spinning or bait casting tackle with 10 to 20 pound test line is sufficient. At times (especially during the winter months) black sea bass are so hungry and aggressive that they will hold on to your lead all the way to the surface or the bottom of your cooler. Good baits for black sea bass include squid, shrimp or cut bait, or jigs tipped with squid. As a food fish, black sea bass are excellent and known for their firm white flesh and mild flavor.
Gulf Federal Waters Rules
Atlantic Federal Waters Rules
Atlantic federal waters
NOAA Fisheries Service determined that the 2010-2011 recreational annual catch limit (ACL) of 409,000 pounds for black sea bass (set in Amendment 17B) was reached before the end of the fishing year. As an accountability measure, the recreational fishery for black sea bass in federal waters of the South Atlantic closed Feb. 12, 2011, and reopened June 1, 2011. This action was intended to prevent overfishing of black sea bass.
When final recreational landings for the 2010-2011 fishing year became available, NOAA Fisheries Service determined that the ACL was exceeded by 67,253 pounds. In response, NOAA Fisheries Service reduced the 2011-2012 recreational ACL from 409,000 pounds to 341,747 pounds to account for the 67,253 pound overage.
NOAA Fisheries Service has determined that the 2011-2012 recreational annual catch limit has been reached. As a result the recreational sector for black sea bass in federal waters of the south Atlantic closed October 17, 2011 and reopened June 1, 2012.
In an effort to keep anglers from exceeding the annual catch limit for black sea bass in future fishing years, NOAA Fisheries Service approved regulations that reduce the recreational bag limit for black sea bass from 15 to five per harvester per day in federal waters of the Atlantic. This bag limit reduction took effect June 22, 2011, in Atlantic federal waters only.
Charter and headboats that hold federal snapper-grouper permits are required to abide by these federal rules, even in state waters. The recreational bag limit for black sea bass harvested in state waters of the Atlantic will remain at 15 per harvester per day for anglers who are not fishing from federally permitted vessels. State waters extend three nautical miles from shore into the Atlantic.
On July 1, 2012, the recreational minimum size limit was increased from 12 inches total length to 13 inches total length in federal waters.
The recreational harvest of black sea bass in Atlantic federal waters closed Sept. 4, 2012.
The FWC made several changes to black sea bass management in Atlantic state waters at its Dec. 5, 2012, Commission meeting in Apalachicola. Changes include increasing the minimum recreational size limit from 12 inches total length to 13 inches total length and lowering the bag limit from 15 fish per person to 5 fish per person. These changes became effective Feb. 18, 2013.
For more information:
Image Credit: Diane Rome Peebles