Sea Bass and Blackfish fishing on the Jersey Shore and New York Bight

Blackfish & Sea Bass


Tautog or Blackfish, are another great Fall catch in our area. Blackfish generally are a coastal species found on the Atlantic coast of North America, from the outer coast of Nova Scotia to South Carolina. Adult Blackfish (generally greater than about 8 inches) are found in vegetation, rocks, natural and artificial reefs, pilings, jetties, mussel and oyster beds, shipwrecks, submerged trees, logs and timbers, and similar complexly structured coastal habitats. In late Fall, when water temperatures drop, there is an overall migration to offshore areas with rugged topography in waters 75-150 feet deep. They are a relatively long-lived fish, with the oldest fish examined by the scientific community estimated to be a 34-yr-old male although a 36.5-inch, 22.5-lb Blackfish, caught off New York in 1876 could have been older.

Black Sea Bass are a relative of grouper and are found along the U.S. East Coast from Cape Cod to the Gulf of Mexico. They prefer structured habitats such as reefs, wrecks, or oyster beds. In the Mid-Atlantic (north of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina), Black Sea Bass generally migrate to inshore coastal areas and bays in the spring and offshore in the Fall. Black Sea Bass grow slowly, up to 2 feet and 9 pounds and are protogynous hermaphrodites. That is, most Black Sea Bass start out as females, and as they mature and grow, they become males. Black Sea Bass often eat whatever prey is available, but they especially like crabs, shrimp, worms, small fish, and clams. Large Black Sea Bass are black; smaller ones are more of a dusky brown. The belly is slightly paler than the sides. The fins are dark with dusky spots, and the dorsal fin (which has some sharp spines) is marked with a series of white spots and bands. The United States is the only source for this fish. Black Sea Bass have a mild, fresh, somewhat delicate flavor and a tender but firm texture. The meat is snow white when cooked. Black sea bass are a good low-fat source of protein and magnesium with each four ounce raw serving having about 100 calories, 18g protein, 2g fat, 0 carbs, and 0 sugars. See our recipes section for some preparation suggestions.


To catch Black Sea Bass and Blackfish, we generally anchor near or over their habitats - rocks, wrecks, reefs, and other broken bottom and submerged structures. While Sea Bass tend to school around the structures, Blackfish like to live and hover inside. Catching these fish (while not losing a lot of rigs on the structures) takes a sharper touch. With the sinker on the bottom, a patient and observant angler holds a steady, tight line from sinker to reel to feel the difference between the nuisance nibbles of small perch and the weighty tug of a Blackfish or Sea Bass. Then, a quick stab of the rod to set the hook followed by an immediate but consistent reeling usually keeps your tackle and catch free from the structure. Crabs and or clams are the typical bait of choice. As always, our rental rods come complete with everything you need to start the day, but if you prefer to bring your own gear, a sturdy rod with 20 to 30 pound test monofilament and a simple conventional reel is best. There's a reason Blackfish are called the "poor man's lobster" - it's because their meat is tender but firm and succulent with a slightly sweet flavor. Check out our recipes section for some preparation suggestions (the batter-dipped fry recipes are great for Blackfish, while the broiling and fillet recipes are particularly good for the Sea Bass).