- 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.
Black grouper (Mycteroperca)
Black grouper have the typically stout body and large mouth of the grouper family. Like many bottom fish, black groupers can be a variety of colors including olive, gray or reddish brown to black. There are dark gray rectangular markings and brassy blotches on the side and back. The outer third of the second dorsal, anal and tail fin are black. The first dorsal fin has spines while the second has soft rays. The tail is unforked and shaped like a broom.
Black grouper are found in the western Atlantic Ocean from New England to southern Brazil, though they are not common north of the Carolinas. They inhabit the southern Gulf of Mexico but not the northern portion.
Adult black grouper are an offshore and deep-sea species, often stationing themselves just above the bottom over reefs or wrecks in water 60 to 300 feet deep. They may be found in shallower water during the cooler seasons. They are a non-schooling solitary species, known to hide out in caves, crevices on reefs and shipwrecks. They are also a warm water species that prefers tropical waters. Young black grouper usually inhabit shallow waters closer to shore over reefs or in estuaries, particularly around jetties, piers, wrecks and bridges. Some of these young stay in these environs their entire life, but most migrate farther out to sea.
Very little is known for certain about the black grouper’s spawning habits. It is believed that they spawn between January and March near the Florida Keys and later in the season in cooler water; for example, they spawn from May to early August off Bermuda. Spawning occurs near offshore reefs in large aggregate numbers between 30 to 200 feet. No nest is built and the buoyant eggs float until hatching. After hatching, the young hang near the surface and around vegetation before moving inshore.
Black grouper are opportunistic feeders that will chase food but most often hunt by ambush. They are carnivores, feeding largely on fish such as small grunts and coronet fish and larger crustaceans. Along with their cousins, the red grouper, they prey heavily upon shrimp and squid. Young black groupers feed mainly on crustaceans.
Black grouper are excellent fighters and food fish, although their flesh can occasionally cause ciguatera, a potentially fatal toxin to humans that is commonly acquired from eating reef fish. Large baitfish such as blue runner, snappers, bonito and mullet are used to lure black grouper, though jigs and jigging spoons are also used, especially when tipped with natural bait. These should be fished on the bottom, especially right on top of reefs.
- Although black grouper are abundant they are a shy species and will swim away if approached by scuba divers.
- The world record for black grouper is 114 pounds.