The Black Sea Bass is actually a member of the grouper family and each fish makes for a couple sweet tasting white meat fillets. They are known as
“protogynous hermaphrodites” which means they start as females and end up as mature males. The males will develop a big hump on the top of their heads and can turn into a gorgeous light blue to purple coloration.
During the colder months in the Northeast, our biomass of Black Sea Bass will push out to deeper waters east of Cape Cod, typically staying in depths from around 250 – 550 feet deep. When the water temperatures rise, they move in to shallower inshore waters from 10-120 feet deep. For 2019 in Massachusetts, May 18th is the start of the Black Sea Bass Season and it stretches until September 8th. These fish occupy waters along the east coast from the Gulf of Maine all the way down to the Florida Keys. Fortunately for anybody fishing Cape Cod waters, we have one of the healthiest biomass of Black Sea Bass on the east coast.
For a beginner boat owner/angler making the trip to Nantucket Sound and putting some Black Sea Bass on the deck is a great place to start. If your boat is on a trailer, dropping in to Bass River in Yarmouth, or Saquatucket Harbor in Harwich makes for an easy and inexpensive trip to the fishing grounds.
If you have good sonar/side scan capabilities on your boat (or even kayak), then looking for any rock piles, deep drop-offs or holes anywhere in the Sound can hold lots of Black Sea Bass. Fortunately for us, the powers that be have created a few artificial reefs that are always a good place to start.
In 1978 the town of Yarmouth’s Department of Natural Resources along with the Division of Marine Fisheries created a 127-acre artificial reef two miles south of Bass River known as “The Tire Pile.” This man made structure has 2,500 different “reef units” consisting of tires filled with concrete. All kinds of bottom fish who call the inshore waters of Cape Cod home frequent these structures. Although Black Sea Bass is the most popular fish in this area, it is not out of the ordinary to hook in to tautog, scup, and fluke while dropping the right baits around these structures, all of which make for great table fare.
The newest artificial reef in Massachusetts is known as the “Harwich High School Reef.” In 2016 the town of Harwich along with the Department of Marine Fisheries got together and sunk 1,600 cubic yards of concrete rubble from the demolished Harwich High School. The remains of Harwich High now reside at the bottom of Nantucket Sound about two miles south of the entrance of Saquatucket Harbor. In only two years, this new structure has shown some promising results. The Department of Marine Fisheries has declared that no commercial fishing for Black Sea Bass will be allowed within 100 square-meters around the 10-acre site to help the chances of holding fish for many years to come.
One of the many reasons why Nantucket Sound is my favorite place to target Black Sea Bass is because of the shallow waters. This makes it easy to use lighter weight jigs and utilize the lightest gear possible which makes for the best fight, giving the fish a chance to take line and really put a good bend in the rod.
I wasn’t introduced to Black Sea Bass fishing until a few years back when I was invited on a trip into Nantucket Sound by Goose Hummock Shop’s manager, Danny Jones and our close friend, Captain Rich Haight. We left out of Bass River at 6 a.m. and were back at the house enjoying cold beverages and filleting our limit of this tasty fish by early afternoon. I quickly fell in love with this fishery.
My first Black Sea Bass trip I brought along two of my lighter vertical jigging combos I usually use for targeting striped Bass. I had my Shimano Trevala rod rated for up to 135 grams (about 5oz), matched with a Shimano Stradic 5000 size reel, as well as a Shimano Trevala conventional rod rated for up to 168G (6 oz) paired with a Shimano Calcutta conquest 400 reel. Both reels were spooled with 30 pound Power Pro braid and 20-30 pound fluorocarbon leaders. I also brought along my box of mostly Shimano Butterfly and Lucanus Jigs, as well as Spro bucktails.
For many years the most popular way to fool these fish on to a hook was bait. The most commonly used bait was squid, clam, or crab. Even now, probably the most talked about and used technique to catch Black Sea Bass while in the 15-35 foot depth range is to put a strip of squid on to a 1-2.5oz bucktail jig and drop it to the bottom bouncing it around any structure that could be holding fish. This was the technique I started with, but found that holding bottom with the wind and tide conditions was difficult and I was catching a lot of undersize Black Sea Bass (under 15 inches), scup and sea robins. I then dug in to my box and tied on a 4 oz Shimano Butterfly-Flat Fall jig and quickly noticed a huge difference in the quality of fish I was catching. Pretty soon both Danny and Captain Rich tied on 3.5-5oz Butterfly jigs from Shimano and within a little over an hour we had a cooler full of mostly 20+ inch Black Sea Bass and we were headed back to the dock.
I tend to invest more money in my gear than the average angler because of my huge passion for the sport, as well as being a bit of a “gear junkie.” Although most of the gear I spoke about using is on the slightly more pricey side, here at the Goose we can get you outfitted with good quality, affordable gear, as well as the advice and tips and tricks to get you landing these beautiful fish in no time. Check out some of our other recommended Black Sea Bass Gear available at the Shops or on TheMightyFish.com.
Sea Bass Cooking!
Caught and cooked on Cape Cod MA, Simeon Watson of the Goose Hummock Shops demonstrates a unique way to cook Black Sea Bass. Italian inspired whole fried Black Sea Bass.
David Bailey of the Goose Hummock Shops shows a few different ways to prepare Black Sea Bass.
1. Pan seared black sea bass with mediterranean vegetables
2. Grilled black sea bass with mango salsa and sweet plantain.