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Black Sea Bass
As you walk around the Gulf Coast, several seafood restaurants, Beauvoir, on the wall of the Bass Pro Shop in Pearl, and other places, you will see a reproduction of a 1906 photograph of Captain John T MacDonald , taken at Pass Christian. It features MacDonald, a renowned local fisherman, standing proudly next to a fish, rod in hand. The fish is a giant, taller than the angler by at least two feet and more than twice as tall around. The monster creature weighs 440 pounds, is 8 feet, 1.5 inches long, and has a circumference of five feet 10 inches. It’s a Black Sea Bass, and there are still some in the Gulf with your name on it. Just a little smaller…
About Black Sea Bass
Known by its scientific name Centropristis striata, the black bass is a type of grouper (Serranidae) found in coastal inshore waters (bays and straits) and offshore in waters up to 400 feet deep. They lay eggs in the first part of the year (January-April) and during this time they move closer inland. As a juvenile fish, they are dark brown with a lighter belly, this brown turning black when mature. They look a lot like a large freshwater bass (which they are not related to) and their dorsal fin has white spots and bands. These bars are delicious, having pure white flesh.
The current black bass, also called rock bass, is reported to reach a maximum length of 24 to 25 inches and live for 15 to 20 years. The typical size of an adult fish is 5 to 10 pounds. The current MDMR has acknowledged that all tackle records are a 14 oz fish (they are not often recorded and are sometimes confused with striped bass which is more common). There is currently no state fly record for this species. The IGFA World Record All-Tackle Black Sea Bass weighs 10 lbs 4 oz. specimen captured off Virginia in 2000. This takes us back to 1906 and the Goliath…
… MacDonald fish
Perhaps the most famous of these fish ever caught in Mississippi waters was this remarkable outsize beast MacDonald. The famous photograph, taken in 1906 Pass Christian, shows Mississippi captain John T. MacDonald standing next to the Black Sea bass he caught in the Gulf of Mexico, with a rod and reel. It was caught in Tarpon Hole, a place still known today by locals as the main deep-sea fishing ground. MacDonald’s story was featured in Ripley’s Believe It Or Not and traveled the world, appearing in newspapers from Singapore to Seattle. While Captain McDonald’s fish looks more like a giant Black Sea bass (which doesn’t live in the gulf) or maybe a mixed grouper (which is more plausible), his record was nonetheless impressive.
Captain McDonald operated the 42ft fishing schooner “Queen of the Fleet” and was subsequently elected mayor of the pass no less than three times. The original photograph of Captain John and his fish is now the property of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. Queen of the Fleet was sunk in 1923, raised and then used to train Merchant Navy Cadets during World War II and currently resides as the Governor Stone Museum Ship at Ft Walton in Florida.
Fish for black bass today
Although highly regulated in Atlantic and Florida waters, the Mississippi DMR is more lenient in Magnolia State waters when it comes to bass. Current regulations do not mention any limits on bass in state waters.
These groupers spend most of their time hovering above the bottom and like to cool their heels around bottom structure such as deck pilings, construction raps, artificial reefs, wrecks, piers and discarded. As such, these bad boys love the diet of shrimp, crab, and little minnows. A good tip for artificial bait is to use a smaller jig head equipped with a 10-20 pound test and drag lightly on the bottom in waters less than 40 feet deep. Since the Mississippi Sound rarely provides deeper, this works close to shore.
These sturdy mini groupers are bantamweight fighters that give a good fight, especially on light tackles. Although not very common in the Sound, they are there and promise a fight out of all proportion to their size.
No wonder Captain MacDonald isn’t smiling in his famous photo, he’s probably tired.
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