The season is on in Massachusetts for one of the tastiest fish in the sea: the elegant Black Sea Bass. Black Sea Bass are actually cousins to the grouper and their stocks can be separated into two divisions: the Mid-Atlantic and South Atlantic fisheries. The Mid-Atlantic stock consists of fish from north of Cape Hatteras, NC all the way to Maine and the fish are usually caught in inshore waters during the summer months. The South Atlantic stock has a winter fishery that takes place from south Cape Hatteras, NC down to the Gulf of Mexico.
The Massachusetts fishery is a part of the Mid-Atlantic stock which today is considered a rebuilt, sustainable fishery. Black Sea Bass are considered incredible table fare. Their flesh is silky white with tender, firm meat that is sweet, yet briny with shellfish undertones. They feed on crabs, shrimp, small fish and clams and their delectable flesh resonates with a mouth pleasing bouquet of ocean flavor. Their skin is best served crispy, and if this result is achieved, it can remind one of bacon of the sea.
In Massachusetts the quota is very small, only 263,000 lbs, so fishing will most likely be closed in a couple of weeks. They are harvested by hook and line and the highly desired bigger fish are usually in the 3 lb range. Trophy size 5 lb fish are even harder to find. The males can be distinguished from the females by their enlarged foreheads, and few people know that they are actually hermaphrodites, changing sex at least once during their lifetime.
The Black Sea Bass is an American success story and the Massachusetts fishery produces some of the highest quality and best tasting examples. You have only a few weeks to get these fish on your dinner table and I highly recommend you take full advantage. There are few things better than a perfectly seared piece of Black Sea Bass done right with crispy skin. The beauty is in the simplicity, the flavor is in the fish.