What Do Sea Bass Eat?

Read this article about sea bass feeding habits before you fish for them. It gives you plenty of information on their aggressive tendencies.

What do Sea Bass eat in their day-to-day lives? Sea bass have a varied diet consisting of everything from insects like nymphs, beetles and grasshoppers, to fish eggs, leeches, molluscs, crusteteans and even larger prey like mice and other fish.

While Sea Bass are surprisingly selective eaters during different seasons and at certain periods of the day, the also tend to be very opportunistic and will gorge themselves when the getting is good.

Don’t miss our Complete Guide to Fly Fishing for Bass.

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What Do Sea Bass Eat?

Sea bass foods of choice are different than what freshwater bass would eat! Since they inhabit saltwater, their main diet includes crabs, mussels, clams and other smaller fish.

What Do Sea Bass Eat

You’ll find that they spend the majority of their time feeding on the bottom in areas with quite a few rocks. They’re especially popular around pilings, buoys, jetties and even shipwrecks.

Sea Bass Eat Crustaceans

Since sea bass don’t have massive teeth that allow them to crush their prey, they have to be more picky about the things they choose to eat. While crustaceans can have hard exoskeletons or shells, sea bass still choose to eat them if they have the opportunity.

A freshwater shrimp in a white background

Shrimp

Shrimp are an easy choice for sea bass. Black Sea bass live off the east coast of the United States all the way from Maine down to Florida.

In their travels, they often stumble upon large shrimp pods. These shrimp are easy targets for a cruising sea bass.

Shrimp are easy to hunt and can be extremely filling, so if they get a chance to eat them, they will. Shrimp aren’t always the most active of prey. They can be counted on as an easy meal.

Use Avalon Shrimp if you’re looking to land some sea bass.

huge crayfish on a white background

Crayfish

Juvenile sea bass choose to live in estuaries. They do this in an attempt to avoid being food for larger fish that are more in the open water. Estuaries hold large amounts of crayfish.

These portions of the water where freshwater meets saltwater are usually a hotbed for smaller fish and all sorts of different types of prey.

Joe’s crayfish jig gets low enough in the water column to entice all of the fish in the area. Let this bounce along the rocks and wait for the fish to strike. Stay patient with it.

An aquatic sowbug on a white background

Sowbugs

In the northern Gulf of Maine, Sowbugs are fairly common. As of late, sea bass are moving upwards into this gulf in an effort to escape the warmer temperatures found near Cape Cod and further south.

They’re not an overly common food option for sea bass, but they’re learning to eat them as they adapt to a new environment. They aren’t huge, but they’re easy for them to hunt and can be extremely filling.

Rouse’s J-Dub Sow Bug is the ideal option for any angler looking to represent one of these in the Gulf of Maine.

Sea Bass Eat Mammals

At the top of the list for sea bass are mammals. Sea bass are bottom feeders, and they don’t spend much time feeding near the surface of water. They congregate near the rocks and near large structures where most other small mammals can be found.

alligators for sea bass food on the white background

Alligators

Sea Bass that live in the Florida Keys upwards along the coast of the Carolinas are known to go after alligators.

When they move into the estuaries and freshwater discharges, they find alligator eggs and eat them if they get the chance.

Obviously, they’re wary of getting close to these deadly predators, but they’re known to be bold if they get a chance.

A close up picture of a baby tortoise as fishing bait

Tortoise

Like most animals that live in the ocean, the sea turtle hatch is a common time for sea bass to feed.

They’ll take whatever small sea-turtles make their way towards the bottom or swim near buoys or other structures close to shore. Sea bass are rarely going to say no.

If it looks appetizing and they know they can eat it, they will. You won’t find sea bass rejecting much of anything.

Sea Bass Eat Amphibians

While there aren’t many saltwater amphibians, the select few are eaten by sea bass. Sea bass are one of the few saltwater species that gravitate towards estuaries and some freshwater areas. They’re often mistaken for striped bass!

Most saltwater amphibians live in brackish water that’s not fit for many fish species. However, some do live in the mangroves where sea bass spend quite a bit of time hiding and hunting.

A frog on a white background

Frogs

There are a few saltwater frog species like Tiger Frogs and Clawed Frogs! These are hot commodities in the mangroves, so whatever fish species can get to them first will do their best to make a meal out of them.

There are also crab-eating frogs that are rumored to live on the east coast of the United States, but they’re most commonly found in Asia.

Simple popper patterns work well to imitate frogs. If you’re fishing estuaries, mangroves or any other type of brackish water, they’re worth a shot. You never know what’s going to hit!

Sea Bass Eat Mollusks

Mollusks are some of the easiest foods for sea bass to find. Wherever sea bass live, they can easily find a wide variety of mollusks. There are three primary classifications of mollusks that sea bass like to prioritize: bivalvia, gastopoda and cephalopoda.

sea bass food

These are all found throughout the mangroves and any sort of tidal system. Estuaries and areas near shore hold hundreds of varieties of all of the following mollusk species.

snail on a white background

Snail

Snails are always going to be something that sea bass eat. As mentioned earlier, sea bass like to spend time feeding near the bottom.

Snails generally live in areas with vegetation, rocks and mud. All three of these things are favorites for sea bass!

Snails crawl over rocks and feed on algae, so if a sea bass sees one crawling around, they’re going to their best to try and eat it.

There are a few different types of saltwater snails, and they’ll crawl up into their shell when they sense danger, but sea bass have the strength to break down the shell and get the necessary meat.

mussels on white background

Mussels

Mussels are stuck all over pylons, buoys and pilings. Spending time scuba diving or even driving under a bridge will show you how many thousands of mussels are found all over the ocean.

Mussels make an extremely easy and delicious meal for sea bass. Any permanent structure below the surface is likely going to be covered in them.

If the mussels haven’t fully stuck themselves to the structure, the bass will eat them.

At times, mussels have to move to different areas with more food and different water qualities, and bass will eat them in their transition periods. If sea bass aren’t able to find anything else appetizing to eat, they can always count on mussels to eat!

Squid for sea bass food on a white background

Squid

Squid are another saltwater species that are a found in a variety of areas in the ocean.

Mangroves and open water all hold different species of squid. Some can be extremely large and others are just the right size for sea bass.

Sea bass can be anywhere from 5 inches to 3 feet! No, they’re not large, but they’re aggressive and can eat something that’s upwards of half of their body length.

The shell of a squid is on the inside, but it’s not extremely large or challenging for bass to penetrate. Plus, they’re very appetizing and have all of the necessary nutrients for bass to survive. A squid swimming near a piling or under a mangrove tree is an easy target.

Sea bass have the same hunting tendencies as their freshwater relatives, so they are exceptional ambush predators. They take every opportunity to hide and pounce on unassuming prey.

Octopus for sea bass food on a white background

Octopus

Octopus are exceptional at hiding. Therefore, it’s not always easy for sea bass to find them. As a result, it’s a fair fight.

Both are ambush predators, so if a sea bass is able to locate one before it knows what is around, they will take advantage and eat it.

The octopus has to be very small! The average sea bass is only around 4-pounds, so they’re not able to eat an average size octopus.

They have to find a juvenile otherwise an octopus would be able to escape.

Octopus live near the pilings or other wreckage. It’s easy for them to move around and find smaller prey that make for simple meals. They aren’t an overly common option for sea bass, but they’re a treat if they’re able to find a small enough one to eat.

clams for sea bass food on a white background

Clams

Clams are extremely common food for sea bass. Clams have those hard shells, so the sea bass have to work hard to digest and break through the hard shells.

They don’t have the teeth to easily snap the shells. However, they do love eating them, so they’ll go to the work to digest and break them apart and get to the meat.

Another reason sea bass love clams is because they’re easy to find. Clams are almost everywhere in the ocean. If the floor has rocks and mud, then clams are guaranteed to be burrowed deep into it.

Bass are determined, so when they find one, they’ll look for as many as they can find. Again, their ambush tendencies are too hard for them to ignore. Their first instinct is always to feed, and clams are too tempting for them to ignore.

scallops for sea bass food on a white background

Scallops

Scallops become a part of the diet of a sea bass in the warmer parts of the year.

As the temperatures warm in the southern United States, the sea bass move north and find their way into the healthy scallop populations off the coast of Massachusetts, Virginia and New Jersey.

They can even be found north into Maine, but the populations are largest a bit further south. Scallops usually live fairly deep, so the bass have to be eager to find them.

If the scallops aren’t in the very deep water, they’re usually hiding under rocks, coral and any sort of debris on the ocean floor. Sea bass have to get creative to swim into the tight spaces that scallops like to live.

Again, they have to be opportunistic since they have hard shells. Even though their teeth are dull, sea bass find a way to eat them if they have the chance.

oysters for sea bass food on a white background

Oysters

Finally, oysters are the last type of mollusk that sea bass choose to eat. Oysters fuse together as they grow making them an easy target for fish looking for an easy meal.

Oyster beds are huge, and they usually are formed on shells, rocks, piers and any other permanent structure under the surface.

They’re an easy target for cruising sea bass. Sea bass have to get creative with how they crush the oysters to get to the meat, but they do.

Dental plates allow them to gain access to most of the oysters they’re able to find.

Sea Bass Eat Worms

Worms aren’t a common sight in saltwater, but they do find their way in to mangrove patches or other brackish water near the shore. If a sea bass does find a worm, they’re guaranteed to eat it. If the juvenile sea bass make their way into the freshwater areas, then they’re more likely to find them.

They’re not too far removed from their freshwater relatives, so they know how delicious worms are! Sea bass will also find worms in estuaries.

A close up picture of an earthworm as fishing bait

Earthworm

Earthworms can be washed into the water after a hard rain. If a juvenile sea bass sees one of these floating around, they’ll pounce.

These are fairly rare in saltwater, but it definitely happens due to the large amounts of precipitation and storms that occur on the coast.

The closer a sea bass is to a freshwater discharge, the more likely they are to find an easy meal in a worm.

Sea Bass Eat Smaller Fish

Smaller fish are likely the most common food that sea bass eat. They’re carnivores, so the large amount of meat that they get from a fish is hard for them to ignore. Plus, a smaller fish is far easier for them to digest than a mollusk.

The small amount of bones are easy to pass through or even spit out if they don’t want to eat them. Sea bass are known to eat fish that are upwards of half of their body length, so they are extremely aggressive!

A close up picture of a minnow as fishing bait on a white background

Same Species Minnows

Like other bass, sea bass will eat their own species when given the chance. The larger sea bass are nearly two feet long, so they take the chance to eat juvenile sea bass if they’re living in the same area.

Those six inch to foot long sea bass are extremely easy targets, and they’re plenty filling for any sea bass that’s twice their size

A close up picture of a minnows as fishing bait on a white background

Other Small Fish

Sea bass eat pipefish, pollack, mackerel and megrim. As mentioned earlier, they’re living near pilings, bridges, buoys, walls and any other areas that can provide a decent amount of cover.

Most other smaller fish live in these areas as well. Sea bass are the most effective ambush predators of the smaller saltwater fish populations.

Until those pipefish, pollack, mackerel and megrim become larger, sea bass will take advantage of every single opportunity they get to eat them.

All of those fish have the potential of growing to be at least the same size, but in their juvenile stages, they don’t stand a chance against a hungry sea bass.

Sea bass blend in to the darkness under the surface near the bottom, so most fish don’t even see them coming! It’s one of the main advantages that sea bass have. They aren’t vibrant under water like many other saltwater species.

Sea Bass Eat Moss & Algae

Plants are always going to be a part of the diet for bass. Moss and algae grow near the bottom where sea bass spend the most of their lives. It helps sea bass digest their food, and it’s always going to be an easy meal.

It’s not going to be something they constantly strive to eat, but if it’s available and there is little else to eat, they’ll target it.

Sea Bass Eat Stones & Rocks

Stones and rocks end up in the stomaches of sea bass because they’re eating things attached to the stones and rocks. Whether it’s a crustacean or a mollusk, they’ll accidentally eat their fair share of stones and rocks. It’s never on purpose!

Sea Bass Have a Seasonal Diet

Sea bass feed depending on where they’re living. Since they migrate up and down the coast, their preferences change on their environment.

A giant sea bass in the kelp.

Their migration pattern is fairly extensive, so make sure you know what they eat based on the location they’re currently living and the time of year.

What Do Sea Bass Eat in Winter?

In the winter, sea bass are living down near the Florida Keys. The temperatures are warm, and the food is likely plentiful. When they’re in the keys, the fish are eating crustaceans and small fish.

Shrimp are very popular options for them. They’ll also spend time feeding on mollusks. Crabs, oysters and clams are at the top of their list for winter foods.

The small fish like mackerel and blue runners are easy targets and give them plenty of food as they prepare to migrate north as the temperatures get too warm. The sea bass spawn begins during the winter, so females are busy laying eggs and protecting them.

What Do Sea Bass Eat in Early Spring?

In the early spring, the sea bass are preparing for their migration north. They’re in a feeding frenzy that includes everything mentioned on the list.

Mollusks, amphibians, crustaceans, worms and other small fish can be found in their stomachs. They’re spending time around buoys and pilings in search of whatever food they can find.

What Do Sea Bass Eat in Summer?

In the summer, sea bass are north near Cape Cod and upwards towards Maine. Here, the fish are busy eating mollusks. Mollusk populations off the upper Atlantic Coast in the United States are massive, so sea bass put their jaws and digestive systems to work.

If the sea bass have found their way into estuaries, then they’ll be eating smaller, juvenile fish! Cod and even striped bass can be in their diets.

The sea bass spawn can last through July, so females are likely not eating as much, but the males are aggressive and doing some feeding!

What Do Sea Bass Eat in Early Fall?

In early fall, the sea bass are waiting to make their way south as the water temperatures drop. Plus, they’re likely ravenous from the spawn, so they’re eating whatever they can possibly find.

Wherever they are, small fish are likely the primary targets. These are the largest meals and easiest for them to digest. The more they can eat, the better.

What Do Sea Bass Eat in Fall?

In the fall, the sea bass are likely on their way back down the coast. Along the way, they’re eating enough to fulfill all of their needs. Mollusks, crustaceans, amphibians and small fish will likely be in their diets.

When Do Sea Bass Feed?

Sea bass are ambush predators, so they like to feed in the softer light of the day where they’re not as easily seen.

What Do Sea Bass Eat at Dawn?

At dawn, sea bass will aggressively feed. They don’t seek out any other different types of food at this point of the day! They eat what they can easily ambush. This usually tends to be mollusks and smaller fish.

What Do Sea Bass Eat at Mid-day?

At mid-day sea bass are likely laying low and digesting their food. If an easy meals falls in front of their face, they’ll be sure to eat it, but the middle of the day is spent for rest and digesting time!

What Do Sea Bass Eat at Sunset?

At sunset, the sea bass feeding frenzy reappears. They’re busy sneaking around rocks, buoys and pilings in search of any prey that isn’t able to hide in time to escape them. Small fish are the most heavily targeted this time of day.

What Do Sea Bass Eat at Dusk?

At dusk, you’re going see sea bass slow down on their feeding. They’ve likely gotten their fair share of food during the sunset, but if they can grab a quick meal of a mollusk or a crustaceans, they will.

What Do Sea Bass Eat at Night?

At night, the large sea bass come out to feed. They’re looking for smaller sea bass and any other fish that are around half of their size.

black sea bass fly fishing

These make for wonderful meals, and they’re enough to sustain them throughout the rest of the night until morning.

Conclusion

The sea bass population is thriving, and they have plenty of food to eat all across the world. Their feeding habits are similar to those of freshwater bass, so they don’t want to spend time cruising the open water in hopes of getting lucky.

They want to sneak around and wait in hiding for the perfect opportunity. They’re an amazing fish to target, and they are some of the best hunters in all of the ocean.

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Disclaimer: IntoFlyFishing.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Please see our Privacy Page for more information.

My name is Danny Mooers and I’ve been fly fishing for five years. As soon as I went to college, I dove headfirst into my obsession for fly angling. Every spare weekend or long break was dedicated to finding fish. I’ve fished all over North America in search of trout, salmon, steelhead and everything in between. I currently write articles for Guide Recommended and Reel Adventure Fishing. Fly angling is one of the most challenging yet rewarding hobbies any person can have. Don’t be afraid to give it a try.  It’s an addicting activity that tests everything from your fine motor skills to your patience, but it’s well worth your time.

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