Understanding the stress responses of organisms is of importance in the performance and welfare of farmed animals, including fish. Especially fish in aquaculture commonly face stressors, and better knowledge of their responses may assist in proper husbandry and selection of breeding stocks. European sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax), a species with high cortisol concentrations, is of major importance in this respect. The main objectives of the present study were to assess the repeatability and consistency of cortisol stress response and to identify differences in liver transcription profiles of European sea bass individuals, showing a consistent low (LR) or high (HR) cortisol response. The progeny of six full sib families was used, and sampled for plasma cortisol after an acute stress challenge once per month, for four consecutive months. Results suggest that cortisol responsiveness was a repeatable trait with LR and HR fish showing low or high resting, free and post-stress cortisol concentrations respectively. Finally, the liver transcription profiles of LR and HR fish showed some important differences, indicating differential hepatic regulation between these divergent phenotypes. These transcription differences were related to various metabolic and immunological processes, with 169 transcripts being transcribed exclusively in LR fish and 161 exclusively in HR fish.