JACKOSNVILLE, Fla. – Fishing for black sea bass will open for a full year starting April 1st in Federal waters of the Atlantic. NOAA Fisheries Service released a South Atlantic Fishery Bulletin announcing the opening. They expect Black Sea Bass fishing to remain open for the full year because the recreational catch limit (1,001,177 pounds whole weight) is not expected to be exceeded. They note the past three fishing year's estimates came in substantially below this level.
The minimum size limit to keep a black sea bass is 13" total length, according to the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council's website. The bag limit is 7 fish per person per day. The site also notes that non-stainless circle hooks are required for all fishing for snapper and grouper species.
A Fishery Performance Report from November of 2017 notes, "In terms of observations possibly tied to recruitment, fishermen in Florida report seeing all sizes of black sea bass. They see small black sea bass in stone crab traps in the rivers and there is an abundance of small individuals close to shore in 50 feet of water around Ponce Inlet. In that area, fishermen have historically observed small black sea bass in the rivers. There is interest to explore whether the red snapper closure has affected the abundance of small black sea bass in the rivers.
Fishermen report a higher abundance of black sea bass on natural reefs than on artificial reefs
throughout the region. Off Florida, fishermen have observed black sea bass gorging themselves
on small crabs, worms, clams, scallops etc. (even baby turtles) on live bottom areas. On artificial
reefs off North Carolina, fishermen report that black sea bass may become momentarily
abundant but the fish do not remain there long enough for anglers to have continued access to
Asked whether the size of black sea bass being encountered has changed over the past 5 years,
fishermen from Florida maintain that it has not. However, the size of fish available to catch is
tied to water temperature. Larger individuals are typically encountered during winter"