*Management Update*: The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC)
made several changes to black sea bass management in Atlantic state waters at its Dec. 5
Commission meeting in Apalachicola. These changes will go into effect Feb. 1, 2013 and
will help rebuild the Atlantic black sea bass population for future generations of recreational
and commercial fishers. Changes include increasing the minimum recreational size limit
from 12 inches total length to 13 inches total length and lowering the bag limit from 15 fish
per person to 5 fish per person. Learn more by reading the news release.
**Closed in Atlantic Federal waters Sept. 4,2012.
Habitat and Fishing Tips:
Black sea bass, which are often called “rock bass,” prefer natural, hard bottom areas and
limestone ledges. While they are most commonly caught along Florida’s central and
northern coasts, they sometimes venture to south Florida waters during cold winters.
Mature black sea bass generally prefer depths of 20 to 80 feet but juveniles can also be
caught in shallower water over sea grass and near jetties and reefs. Like many other
members of the grouper family, black sea bass prey on fish, squid, shrimp and other
Anglers commonly catch black sea bass incidentally while bottom fishing for grouper or
snapper. While smaller than most other members of the family, black sea bass are
aggressive and fun to catch, especially if you scale back to the lighter tackle. Light to
medium weight spinning or bait casting tackle with 10 to 20 pound test line is sufficient. At
times (especially during the winter months) black sea bass are so hungry and aggressive
that they will hold on to your lead all the way to the surface or the bottom of your cooler.
Good baits for black sea bass include squid, shrimp or cut bait, or jigs tipped with squid.
As a food fish, black sea bass are excellent and known for their firm white flesh and mild
Atlantic federal waters
NOAA Fisheries Service determined that the 2010-2011 recreational annual catch limit
(ACL) of 409,000 pounds for black sea bass (set in Amendment 17B) was reached before
the end of the fishing year. As an accountability measure, the recreational fishery for black
sea bass in federal waters of the South Atlantic closed Feb. 12, 2011, and reopened June
1, 2011. This action was intended to prevent overfishing of black sea bass.
When final recreational landings for the 2010-2011 fishing year became available, NOAA
Fisheries Service determined that the ACL was exceeded by 67,253 pounds. In response,
NOAA Fisheries Service reduced the 2011-2012 recreational ACL from 409,000 pounds to
341,747 pounds to account for the 67,253 pound overage.
NOAA Fisheries Service has determined that the 2011-2012 recreational annual catch limit
has been reached. As a result the recreational sector for black sea bass in federal waters
of the south Atlantic closed October 17, 2011 and reopened June 1, 2012.
In an effort to keep anglers from exceeding the annual catch limit for black sea bass in
future fishing years, NOAA Fisheries Service approved regulations that reduce the
recreational bag limit for black sea bass from 15 to five per harvester per day in federal
waters of the Atlantic. This bag limit reduction took effect June 22, 2011, in Atlantic federal
Charter and headboats that hold federal snapper-grouper permits are required to abide by
these federal rules, even in state waters. The recreational bag limit for black sea bass
harvested in state waters of the Atlantic will remain at 15 per harvester per day for anglers
who are not fishing from federally permitted vessels. State waters extend three nautical
miles from shore into the Atlantic.
On July 1, 2012, the recreational minimum size limit was increased from 12 inches total
length to 13 inches total length in federal waters.
The recreational harvest of black sea bass in Atlantic federal waters closed Sept. 4, 2012.
Learn more about this closure.
Image Credit: Diane Rome Peebles
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission • Farris Bryant Building
620 S. Meridian St. • Tallahassee, FL
32399-1600 • (850) 488-4676
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Atlantic black sea bass recreational, commercial changes approved