- 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.
This highly popular sport and food fish is perhaps the most sought after member of the tuna and mackerel family. The streamlined body tapers towards the head and tail and is typical of other tuna and mackerel. However, the thickest part is closer to the second dorsal fin, while it is closest to the first dorsal fin in other tunas. This shape, combined with a powerful, crescent-shaped tail, and small scales that make its surface smooth, make the albacore one of the fastest fish on earth.
Coloration is metallic dark blue on the back while the sides and belly are white or silvery white. There are no stripes or spots, only gleaming shades of blue, silver and slight green. The lack of stripes or spots distinguishes the albacore from other tuna. The pectoral and tail fin are dark blue, and the pectoral fin is unusually long, reaching to beyond the anal fin. There are small yellow finlets on the back and belly that extend from the anal fin to the tail. Albacore have small, teeth-like ridges in a beak-like mouth.
Albacore are found in all three warm-water oceans, the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian, and migrate widely among these oceans, as well as in seas such as the Caribbean and Mediterranean. In the western Atlantic, they range from Nova Scotia to Brazil, and in the eastern Pacific they range from Alaska to Mexico. The largest fishery is in the Pacific Ocean, and albacore are known to migrate the Pacific between Asia and North America.
Albacore are a warm-water fish most often found in waters between 56 and 77 F, though they can tolerate waters as cold as 50 F for short periods of time and larger specimens are usually caught in the cooler portions of their range. They are known to form mixed schools with other kinds of tuna, mainly skipjack, yellowfin and bluefin. These schools often follow schools of baitfish for easy access to forage. An offshore species, albacore tend to seek out areas where warm water meets cold. They suspend high in the water column but usually roam above water that is several hundred feet deep.
Albacore spawn mainly during the summer season of the hemisphere in which they reside. In the northern hemisphere of the Pacific, albacore spawn off the coast of North America from July to October. Spawning occurs in roughly the same offshore environments they normally inhabit. Females usually release over one million eggs, and after spawning neither sex guards the eggs, which are scattered, externally fertilized and free-floating. The eggs hatch within a few days. Young albacore will usually remain in the same general area for two years.
Albacore have very high metabolic rates and have to feed almost constantly. The bulk of their diet is various baitfish, specifically small fish such as sardines and anchovies. They will travel in schools and follow large schools of these and other forage fish. Both schools are typically found in the vicinity of floating objects, such as sargassum, kelp, as well as rigs and wrecks. Most of their feeding takes place near the surface, but they will also feed at midrange depths. Albacore also eat squid and small shrimp.
Although albacore are fished extensively commercially, they are also widely pursued by sport fishermen. Their speed and strength help them put up a tremendous battle when hooked, and when a school is found, the action can be non-stop. One successful technique is to locate albacore by fast trolling with feathered jigs and then switching to live bait such as anchovies and herrings once their location is discovered. Many times the biggest fish are at the bottom of a school, so anglers often probe depths of 50 feet or more to reach them.
Medium-weight boat rods with spinning or conventional reels and 20- to 40-pound line are standard albacore tackle. Some anglers employ fly-fishing gear and streamer flies. Making a chum line with ground or chunked baitfish is a popular method of attracting the fish for bait-fishing and fly-fishing presentations.
- Albacore are the only tuna allowed by the Food and Drug Administration to be marketed and sold as white meat. Because of this distinction, albacore is the most prized tuna meat in the United States.
- Albacore is considered inferior to other tuna meat in Japan for the exact same reason. Only some members of the billfish family (marlins, swordfish) and the mako shark are faster. Albacore have been recorded going over 55 knots.
- Close to 200,000 tons of albacore are harvested every year, most coming from the Pacific Ocean.