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Black Sea Bass

(Centropristis Striatus)

Other Names: Sea Bass, Black Bass, Bass, Humpbacks, Seabass

General Information

Black sea bass are fairly stout-bodied fish, with a long dorsal fin, and large pectoral and pelvic fins. The rounded tail sometimes has a long streamer trailing out from the top edge. Each gill cover has a flat spine near the outer edge. Mature males have a fleshy dorsal hump just anterior to the dorsal fin.

The background color of the black sea bass (smokey gray, brown, or bluish black) is mottled with darker patches and light speckles. The belly is only slightly lighter than the sides. The dorsal fin is marked with whitish mottling, while all other fins have dark spots, Young sea bass are green or brown with a dark lateral stripe running from the head to the tail.


NJ Fishing Season



2018 Black Sea Bass Seasons and Limits
Open Season Minimum Length Possession Limit
May 15 to June 22 12.5 inches 10 fish
July 1 to Aug 31 12.5 inches 2 fish
Oct 8 to Oct 31 12.5 inches 10 fish
Nov 1 to Dec 31 12.5 inches 15 fish

NJ Seabass Regulations History
  2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021
Bag Limit 25 25 25 25 25 25 25 25 25 15 10 15 15 15 10
Size Limit 12.00 12.00 12.00 12.00 12.00 12.50 12.50 12.50 12.50 13.00 12.50 12.50 12.50 13.00 12.50

Sea Bass Sizes 

The largest black sea bass weigh up to 10 pounds. However, most adults do not exceed 1.5 pounds. A 12.5-inch fish  generally weighs in a little over 1 pound, while an 18 to 20-inch fish weighs about 3 pounds.

Current Records
Catch Place
Catch Date
IGFA World Record
  10 lbs. 4 oz Virginia Beach Virginia Jan 1, 2000 Alan Paschall
NJ State Record
  9 lbs. 0 oz. Voyager Party Boat Dec 12, 20015 *Steve Singler 

 *Steve was fishing with a Shimano rod and reel with 40-pound PowerPro braided line.   Clams on 3/0 hooks served as the bait.   He was bottom fishing in 180-200 feet of water when the big fish bit.   Steve's Black Sea Bass weighs 11½-ounces more than the previous NJ State Record.



Food (Bait)

The black sea bass is predominantly a bottom-feeder, It prefers small baits such as shrimp, small crabs, squid, and clam.  It is an opportunistic feeder and as such, when angling for Sea Bass the angler should seek to 'match the hatch'.  When sand eels are prevalent, small jigs such as Ava and Deadly Dick lures are extremely effective for catching sea bass.  It always pays to have some Gulp on hand as well.


Angling Tips

The best time to fish for Black Sea Bass is from May through summer, when they are closest to shore. Any underwater structures, such as those associated with wrecks, jetties, and piers, will attract this species. Although they can be found from near shore to depths of up to 120 feet, large males tend to be found in deeper water. In addition to bait on the bottom It will strike at plugs, jigs, and bucktails. The most commonly caught fish weigh from ½ to 2 pounds. Although a sea bass has a large mouth, use a small bait-holder hook as the fish tends to shy away from larger hooks.


The black sea bass has an unusual life cycle: most individuals are hermaphroditic, reproducing both as female and a male at some time in their lives. Although some fish are males from the time they reach sexual maturity, most produce eggs when they first mature. At some subsequent point the ovary tissues in these fish become non-functional, while at the same time testes commence production of sperm. The age at which individuals "switch" from female to male is variable, although most fish have done so before they are 6 years old. In heavily exploited populations in which larger, older males are selectively harvested, the resulting death of males causes females to change sex at a younger age and smaller size than would be the case in populations less depleted by fishing. The effects of reduced abundance of males and reduced average size of females on the reproductive capacity of sea bass populations is not fully understood.

Black sea bass reproduce from February to July, with the spawning season starting earliest in the southern portion of their range and progressing northward as spring passes. Off the New Jersey coast, they reproduce from May until the end of June. The eggs are buoyant, floating in the water column until they hatch 1 ½ to 5 days after fertilization. The larvae drift in bays, inlets, and offshore areas; they become bottom-dwelling when they have grown to about ½ inch in length.


Black sea bass generally over winter at depths from 240 to more than 600 feet, with fish inhabiting deeper waters in the New Jersey-New York region than in the mid-Atlantic region to the south. Few fish occur north of Cape May (New Jersey) in the winter, although some are known to travel extensively between Nantucket Shoals and Cape Hatteras at depths to nearly 1,100 feet. In the spring, this species displays a general northward and inshore movement, expanding its range as far north as Cape Cod from May to October. During the summer, adult sea bass gather around rocky bottoms, sunken wrecks, old pilings, and wharves. At this time of year they are most abundant at depths of less than 120 feet. Young-of-the-year and yearlings tend to summer in estuaries, which are critically important nursery grounds for this species.


Like any fish, immediately placing Sea Bass in a well iced cooler will maintain the quality of the fish.  Bleeding the fish in not necessary.  The firm, white flesh of this species is a favorite of many. Bass are easy to fillet, especially when chilled, and yield a thick slice of meat.  Smaller fish are typically not filleted but rather gutted and scaled to later be cooked 'in the round'.  A top quality fillet knife is necessary as while the fish are not hard to clean, they are not very big and you don't want to waste much meat.


Try broiling black sea bass fillets. When broiling, fold under the thin section from the tail area to allow more even cooking. Place the fish in a greased pan; sprinkle with fresh ground pepper and paprika, and dot with butter or olive oil. Broil 5 to 6 minutes on each side, depending upon thickness, until the fillets are golden-brown. Be careful not to cook too long, as the fillets will dry and become somewhat leathery.Chinese restaurants will serve delicious whole deep-fried bass as "Hunan fish."




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