- Black sea bass have dangerously sharp spines on their dorsal fin that can puncture human skin.
- The all-tackle world record for black sea bass is 9 pounds, 8 ounces.
- When hooked in deep water and brought quickly to the surface, a black sea bass will often regurgitate its stomach contents.
Warsaw grouper (Epinephelus)
The body coloration of the Warsaw grouper is grayish brown to dark red brown, with scattered small white spots on the sides and dorsal fins. The fins are dark brown, except for the white splotchy first dorsal fin. The first dorsal fin has 10 spines, distinguishing it from all other grouper; also, the very long second spine distinguishes it from a similar looking grouper, the jewfish, which has a shorter spine. The second dorsal has 13 to 15 rays. The anal fin has 3 spines and 9 rays, and the pectoral fins have 18 to19 rays. The caudal fin is more or less truncate. Young Warsaw groupers have a yellow tail and a dark saddle on the caudal peduncle. The body shape is typical of all groupers tapered at both ends with a large mouth and eyes and a thick tail section.
Warsaw grouper are found in the western Atlantic, from Massachusetts to the Gulf of Mexico, and south to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, though they are rare in the West Indies. They are most common along the Florida coasts.
Warsaw grouper prefer water temperatures around 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Adults live in deep water on rocky bottoms, ledges, drop-offs, reefs, wrecks, jetties, pilings and oil platforms. They can be found at depths ranging from 40 feet to more than 1,700 feet, but they typically stay at depths of 300 to 650 feet. Juveniles can be found around jetties and shallow reefs and in estuaries and bays.
Warsaw grouper spawn in their native waters in April and May. This occurs over reefs and wrecks at depths of 30 to 200 feet. Eggs are scattered and fertilized in the open water and on the substratum, and are not guarded. Hatchlings stay near the surface and around vegetation, then move inshore. They move offshore after a one or two years.
Though it sometimes cruises for prey, the carnivorous Warsaw grouper is mostly an opportunistic feeder. It hides in some structure, waiting for unwary prey to approach. When it does, the Warsaw darts out to engulf it, then retreats into the darkness. It feeds on live crabs, lobsters, shrimp and bony fish, though it will also eat dead fish.
The Warsaw grouper is considered a trophy fish because of its large size, and has white, flaky meat that is excellent broiled or in chowder. They do not occur near shore, so a boat is required for fishing. The best location is over an irregular, rocky or corral-filled bottom at a depth of 300 to 500 feet. Heavy tackle is essential for this fish because of its immense weight and its habit of taking the bait and wedging into some structure. Wire leaders are a must. In addition, the Warsaw is considered one of the best-fighting groupers, even the smaller specimens.
Live bait like a porgy or small amberjack is best, though whole squid and cut fish work as well. Jigs and jigging spoons are popular artificials.
- Warsaw grouper are common around oil platforms, and because of their enormous size, often frighten divers working on the platforms. However, they are not dangerous, and are not known to attack humans.
- Like other bottom-dwelling fish, the Warsaw grouper's air bladder usually ruptures when it's pulled from the depths and into a boat; therefore, when caught, they are almost never released, and those that are will rarely, if ever, survive.
- Although the Warsaw grouper is more abundant than its even larger cousin, the jewfish, it has been designated by the National Marine Fisheries Service as overfished. A quota of one fish per trip per vessel is observed or enforced, depending on location.