Centropristis striata

This popular bottom fish features a moderately stout body, high back, flat-topped head, and moderately pointed snout. Like that of many fish that inhabit rocky bottoms, the color of the sea bass varies, ranging from smoky gray to dusty brown to blue-black, sometimes with a mottled or barred appearance with longitudinal spots of a lighter shade. All black sea bass begin life as females and then change into males at the age of two to five years.

Black sea bass range from Cape Cod to northern Florida and are most abundant off the Mid-Atlantic coast. The fish spends the summer off
New Jersey and northward, then migrates both south and offshore for the winter. Sea bass feed on crabs, lobster, shrimp and mollusks. They are harvested commercially by traps and otter trawls. Sea bass are also sought by recreational anglers. Handle the black sea bass with care because of its stiff dorsal spines. This species averages 1-2 pounds and rarely exceed 5 pounds.


Chef Edward J. Hennessy, of Regency Caterers, Wilmington, Delaware, describes bass: "Bass is a most confusing word, since it applies to many unrelated fish. Examples of some saltwater fish referred to as bass include rockfish (striped bass), grouper, and black bass. Even the red drum is sometimes considered part of the bass family. The freshwater white bass is mated with an ocean rockfish to produce a farm-raised hybrid striped bass or sunshine bass for the commercial market.

"The small-mouth bass is a freshwater treat for the angler who brings it home since he will never find it commercially. As with the brown large-mouth lake bass, it tends to be less fatty than the sea bass, so care must be taken not to overcook it."

Chef Hennessy's favorite preparation for sea bass is to marinate it in milk and lemon, then saute it in butter, and serve it with lemon and parsley. The meat is firm, white, and mild-flavored. In Oriental restaurants, sea bass are often steamed almost whole. They are drawn (scaled and eviscerated), and then the whole fish is steamed for a very dramatic presentation. You may remove the head if you prefer.