June 22nd, 2011 by Richard Lord
Andrew Syvret reports that a spotted bass, Dicentrarchus punctatus, was captured by Lee Allen off the west coast of Jersey, Channel Islands on 8 June 2011. This is the second one he has seen. The fish was caught with a live sand eel. It appears to be a new British angling record so it has been frozen for shipment to the UK to have its identity confirmed by the relevant authority.
The spotted bass has spots on the flank. The seabass, Dicentrarchus labrax, can have spots on the flank when juvenile but adult seabass never have spots.
The most reliable way of separating the two closely related species is by the shape of vomer tooth patch in the roof of the mouth.
The European seabass has a vomer tooth patch that is crescent shaped. The vomer tooth patch of the spotted bass is anchor-shaped; there is a rearward extension of teeth on the vomer along the midline of the roof of the mouth.
Spotted bass also has ctenoid scales between the eyes on the top of the head. Ctenoid scales have small teeth on their rear edge. The European seabass has cycloid scales, which lack the teeth.
The Bass Anglers’ Sportfishing Society (BASS) website shows a side-by-side image of the two species.
Andrew Syvret reports that spotted bass don’t grow as large as seabass, and the muscle seems to be much less firm.
The previous spotted bass that Andrew Syvret reported was captured in a gill net in a water depth of 7 to 10 metres off the south-east coast of Jersey on 23 September 1996. The fish had a fork length of 398 mm.
At the time of the 1996 spotted bass capture off Jersey, Dr Graeme Pickett of CEFAS suggested it was only the third or fourth he had heard of in British waters in over 20 years, but since then, others have claimed to have caught several.
There is little doubt that spotted bass have been captured in Guernsey waters too, but they may have been dismissed as a variant of the bass rather than as a separate species.
Guernsey recreational fisherman John Dunne wrote on 30 June 2009 that he caught a bass with spots on a spinner at Pembroke early one morning a few years beforehand. Unfortunately he did not photograph the fish because it weighed only 1 lb 8 oz (0.68 kilograms) and was too small for the competition he was participating in.
According to the European Federation of Anglers the heaviest rod and line caught spotted bass weighed 2.35 kilograms (5 lbs 3 oz). It was caught at Royan north of Bordeaux, France on 5 July 1997.