Scientific names: Lateolabrax japonicus
Common names: Japanese sea bass, sea bass, Suzuki, (Chinese) rih ben jhen lu
Habitat: Bays, lagoons, surf, near-shore reefs, harbors and estuaries.
Size range: Can grow to over a meter, but more commonly found in the 50-70 cm range.
Angling tactics: Similar to those for barramundi. Live baits and lures fished near the surface alongside structure seem to work best. Many anglers favor lighter saltwater rods (or medium to heavy freshwater) rigged with 12 to 16-pound line.
From Tokyo Bay to Hong Kong Harbor, the Japanese sea bass or suzuki is one of the most popular inshore fishing targets in East Asia. Part of the reason for its popularity is ease of access, since it is as at home congregating around man-made structures such as piers and jetties it can easily be fished from shore. Hong Kong anglers often go out at night in small boats at the peak of the flood tide and cast lures into the shadow of moored container ships for trophy sized sea bass.
Sea bass are usually found near the surface, making them prime targets for plugs, poppers and saltwater flies. Many of the tactics used in North America for striped bass seem to work well for suzuki, and the two species are comparable in other respects, such as migrating from brackish estuaries and bays to deeper water to spawn. Striped bass and Japanese sea bass are similar enough in flavor and texture that farmed U.S. hybrid striped bass has been introduced into Asian markets as a suzuki substitute.
Individuals of the one or two kilogram size are frequently found in estuaries, but larger specimens in the 10 kg range are not unheard of in harbors and river mouths.
In Taiwan sea bass are often found alongside barramundi on the island’s west coast, but the bass are somewhat more tolerant of cooler water and therefore range further north into the Danshui and Keelung Harbor areas. Also like barramundi, sea bass are farmed extensively in Taiwan and can be fished for in commercial ponds.
Though generally referred to as suzuki in Japanese sport fishing circles, that name actually applies one of five stages of the fishes development. Those stages and corresponding names are:
l under 30cm "Hanego"
l from 30 to 50cm "Seigo"
l from 50 to 70cm "Hukko"
l from 70 to 90cm "Suzuki"
l over 90cm "Nyudo"
The Japanese consider suzuki to a harbinger of good luck and it is highly prized by sushi chefs for its delicate flavor.