Common name: Bass (sea bass)
Latin name: Dicentrarchus labrax
Record weight: Although bass of over 25 pounds have been captured by commercial fisherman, the shore and boat records are remarkably similar at 19lb and 19lb 9oz respectively.
Distribution: Bass are found right around the coast of Europe from Scandinavia to the Mediterranean. Most common in warmer shallow water, particularly around the South Coast of England and France. Found mainly around rocky coasts where they come into very shallow water, often less than a metre deep. Most common close to shore during the Summer months.
Features: Few fish can be mistaken for the steely grey bullish looking bass. From it's large muscular mouth to the thick sharpened rays in the dorsal fin, the bass is a formidable looking fish. The two dorsal fins are of equal length, and the bases just touch in the middle.
Diet: Young bass are normally found feeding on small invertebrates in estuaries and close to the shore. Molluscs are generally the major part of the diet, although other seasonally available prey, such as peeler crabs can make up the bulk of the diet for a time. Large bass become much more piscivorous, feeding upon young herring off shore and young mackeral and sand eels when close to shore.
Spawning: Bass move inshore to spawn during March through to June. There are now several marine protection areas around the coast of Europe designed to protect the bass whilst spawning and to give the young fish a chance to grow before being subjected to the trawlers. Bass are scatter spawners, the eggs are carried by the currents, being fertilised and then developing in the water column. By spawning in coastal areas the young fish have a good chance of finding large amounts of microscopic invertebrate food that form vast clouds in the nutrient-rich water.
Growth: Bass are known to be very slow growing, and this is the main reason for their apparent rarity in recent years. Large bass may take several decades to grow and so once caught by trawlers they will not be replaced. Strict size limits, exclusion zones and cleaner coastal waters are all helping populations of bass to become re-established in many areas of Europe where over-fishing has seriously depleted the population. When sport fishing, catch and release is encouraged to protect this fine sporting fish.