Historically, when we think about the Block Island fishery, the first species of fish comes to mind is the iconic striped bass, followed closely by the voracious blue fish, and taking up the rear to complete the catching triad is the succulent summer flounder, also known as fluke. For the past few years however, there's a been a surge in the popularity of another target species that’s arguably the tastiest in Block Island waters and that's the sensational black sea bass!
The black sea bass, centropistis striata, is a member of the grouper family. It has an interesting life cycle. They are protogynous hermaphrodites, which means they are all born as females, yet when reaching a certain age of maturity become males. Larger mature dominant males grow a lump, called a “nuchal hump” in front of their dorsal, which is why they are often referred to as “knot heads.” The black sea bass has long been in New England waters but has taken a firm root on the fishing grounds in bigger numbers in the past five years. They are found as far south as Florida and, as of recent reports, all the way to Maine. These fish have the reputation as schoolyard bullies of the fishing ground. They are quite territorial, and will often hit a lure, or bait, not for nourishment, but rather out of territorial aggression, just to kill it or move it out of its space! They love mollusks and crustaceans but will eat pretty much anything.
The presence of the black sea bass offers wonderful angling opportunity for anglers of all ages, looking for a "Block Island Angling Experience", and offers exquisite table fare! The fishing methods employed to catch the black sea bass are effective and easily learned when fishing on a local Block Island charter boat. The black sea bass, aside from being readily caught, are also hard fighters and bend the rod deep when being pulled from their bottom dwelling lair!
As for table fare, few species of fish rival the palatable nature of sea bass fillets. They give up firm white meat and need nominal culinary ability to prepare. Simply flour-dredging the fillets and sautéing in olive oil perfectly treats this fish or grill it whole to be served family style. If you see it on a local menu – get it, it will be one of the freshest fish caught locally.
Black sea bass fishing is an awesome family activity and great fun. Anglers can keep 3 fish each that are over 15 inches. So, if you wish to put bountiful, most delectable fillets on your plate, hire a local charter boat and fill the cooler. Our boat Harley, with Capt. Hank at the helm, offers “bottom dweller trips” that target black sea bass, fluke, and porgy and is very kid friendly. Call Block Island Fishworks for reservation or referral for a local charter boat to take you on an adventure!
Enjoy your Block Island visit and Cath ‘em Up!