- 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.
Nassau grouper (Epinephelus)
Nassau grouper have strong, robust bodies and large mouths with teeth on both the jaw and roof of the mouth. Coloration is highly variable, because not only is there a wide range of possible colors (from a copper-brown to pinkish-red to an orange-yellow) but individuals have the ability to change their color from pale to almost black to blend into their environment. The features that are constant include a dark brown stripe that runs from the tip of their snout up through the eye to the beginning of the dorsal fin (which looks like a tuning fork), black dots around the eye, a large black blotch on the base of the tail fin and five dark vertical bars down the side. There are two connected dorsal fins and the tail fin is slightly rounded instead of forked. The fins are often tipped with yellow.
Nassau grouper are found in the western Atlantic Ocean in tropical areas off Florida, Bermuda and throughout the Caribbean Sea. They are present as far south as southern Brazil and will occasionally stray as far north as the Carolinas. They are common in the southern part of the Gulf of Mexico, specifically near the Yucatan Peninsula and the Florida Keys, but not in the northern part.
Nassau grouper inhabit areas of inshore and offshore reefs, wrecks, jetties and pilings and depths up to 300 feet. They prefer warmer water and rarely are found outside of the tropics or subtropics. Outside of the large gatherings for spawning, Nassau grouper are solitary creatures that prefer to dwell alone in caves or crevices in coral reefs. Younger Nassau grouper are found closer to shore, often hiding in sea grass beds. In addition to migrating for spawning Nassau, grouper prefer to establish a territory.
As with other grouper, Nassau grouper may change gender during their life from female to male. During spawning season, they form very large schools, with reports of as many as 100,000 fish in the Bahamas in January, and smaller groups of 30,000 reported in other areas. Nassau grouper spawn during the months of December through March, always at or near the time of a new moon. Eggs are fertilized externally and both predators and currents affect the successful hatching of the floating eggs.
About half of the Nassau groupers diet consists of fish (occasionally including other Nassau grouper), with the rest being crabs, shrimp and other crustaceans. Nassau grouper often eat queen conchs after other predators have pulled out the soft animal in the shell, and occasionally pull them out themselves. They have also been known to eat moray eels. They do not feed in groups but rather hunt individually. Young Nassau grouper eat mainly crustaceans.
Nassau grouper take a variety of natural baits and some artificial lures, mainly jigs. They often prefer baitfish such as blue runners, pinfish, mullet, grunts, pilchards and scads. Though shallow fish can be found on occasion, most Nassau grouper are caught while bottom fishing in deep water reefs and rocky areas. They are known to fight hard and make runs toward crevices and holes, which can often fray and cut an anglers line. Due to this factor, and the possibility of encountering a large specimen, fairly heavy line (15 to 30 pounds), stout rods and high-capacity reels are typical tackle selections. The species is especially vulnerable to overfishing because of their large gatherings for spawning, where they can be exploited in large numbers. They are also often caught by spear guns and in traps.
- The Nassau grouper is the most important commercial grouper in the West Indies.
- Because they are prized for their meat, Nassau grouper are in danger of being overfished, a fact that scientists admit needs further study before they can state this definitively.
- The all-tackle world record is a 38-pound, 8-ounce fish caught in the Bahamas.
- Nassau grouper are so friendly to scuba and skin divers that humans can actually swim up to one and scratch them under their chin.