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Giant Sea Bass

Stereolepis gigas

Physical Characters : The body of the adult giant sea bass is elongate, with dorsal spines that fit into a groove on the back. The head is robust, and mouth is large with teeth in the back. Giant sea bass are usually reddish brown to dark brown in color on all but their stomachs and, at times, many have dark spots on their sides. Perch-like in appearance, juvenile giant sea bass differ radically from adults and are often mistaken for a different fish. Coloring on juveniles is distinct with the body being sandy red with white and dark patches spread along the sides.

Range : Giant sea bass occur throughout the Gulf of California and from Cabo San Lucas, Baja California, to Humboldt Bay, California. In California, the appearance of this species north of Point Conception has been sporadic.

Natural History : Giant sea bass feed upon a wide variety of items. Small fish taken of this species off our coast contained mostly anchovies and white croakers. Pacific mackerel, jack mackerel, sheephead, ocean whitefish, sand bass, cancer crabs, and red crabs have all been found in the stomachs of large giant sea bass. By their very bulk they appear to be slow and cumbersome, yet they are capable of outswimming and catching a bonito in a short chase. Giant sea bass apparently do not mature until they are 11 to 13 years old. A fish of this age will weigh between 50 and 60 pounds. The ovaries of a 320 pound female weighed 47 pounds and contained an estimated 60 million eggs. This fish was ready to spawn and the larger eggs were about 0.04 inch in diameter. The main spawning season for giant sea bass occurs during July, August, and September.

Distribution : There has been a moratorium, which will probably last many years, on landing giant sea bass in California. All fish must be returned alive to the water. Occasionally, marine fish taken by anglers will "float" to the surface as their gas bladders expand. They may be returned by carefully inserting a hypodermic needle through the side of the fish into the gas bladder and allowing the air to escape. Please be aware that it is illegal to take or possess giant sea bass.

Habitat : They normally live in deep rocky environment.