Have you been wondering if you can eat bass fish? I know, there’s nothing like eating fresh fish caught by yourself. But there are so many myths and misconceptions regarding bass consumption. Though a highly-sought sport fish, most people hesitate to eat it. So, can you eat bass?
In this article, I will address most of your questions and concerns regarding bass fish. From its taste to cooking methods, to fishing tips, and the best bass fishing places in the US, I will give you a wealth of information about this popular fish species.
What Is Bass Fish?
Bass refers to a species of fish that are valued for both sport and food. They include freshwater bass that resides in rivers or lakes and saltwater bass that are marine. The most popular of all is the black bass that comes in different varieties like largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and spotted bass, among others.
Can You Eat Bass?
Yes, you can eat bass fish. Since bass fish consumption is not very normalized socially, most people avoid eating them. Most anglers catch bass for sport and release it. But, as long as you research your fishing area, adhere to the local rules and laws, it’s absolutely fine to catch bass and fry them up for dinner.
However, Maine’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention advises against consuming the striped bass as there are high chances of it containing toxic chemicals like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB).
Can You Eat It Raw?
Though raw fish can be delicious, we wouldn’t recommend consuming raw bass fish, especially saltwater ones. Bass fish contains bacteria, parasites, and sometimes even traces of mercury. Consuming them raw can lead to a parasitic infection.
If handled properly, freshwater bass is considered safe to consume raw. Though be forewarned that they may not taste as good as when cooked. If you plan to use raw bass in sushi or other similar recipes, make sure to keep them in really low temperatures, below freezing point, to kill germs.
The final decision is up to you, but it’s better to not give raw fish to small children.
What About Pregnant Women?
Pregnant women are not advised to consume bass owing to high chances of mercury poisoning. Even if you do, take care to see that you only consume the ones from freshwater sources and only a few times a month.
If you have no idea of the fish’s origin, it’s highly recommended to not eat it as some lakes and rivers are prone to pollution. Polluted waters can contain contaminants like PCB that most fish tend to absorb.
It’s also good to steer clear of striped and black bass as they are known to possess high mercury levels. There are also chances of bass containing pathogens like listeria that can lead to infections and food poisoning, especially in cases of improperly cooked fish.
Is It Healthy to Eat?
Yes. Bass fish is very healthy and nutritious. Bass fish contain a large amount of protein, an average of 15 grams in 62-gram fillet. Bass is also low in calories and fat, making them a great choice for fitness freaks who want a lean and fit body.
Like most fish, they are high in omega-3 fatty acids that are known to lower cholesterol and blood pressure while also reducing the risks of heart diseases.
Bass is also an excellent source of Vitamin B12, phosphorus, calcium, and manganese that can help in maintaining bone strength and health. Besides, Vitamin A, an antioxidant responsible for the vision and eye health, is also found in abundance in bass.
However, excess of anything is unhealthy. It’s advised to consume a maximum of six fillets a month to allow the body to process the excess.
Nutrition Facts for Bass
Three ounces of raw bass (about 85g) has 97 calories, 16g of protein, 3.1g of fat, and no fiber, sugar, or carbohydrates. Bass is a good source of Vitamins like B12.
As bass is low in calories and high in omega-3 fatty acids, selenium, and protein, it helps significantly with lowering the risk of cardiovascular illness and cancer and helps lower cholesterol and blood pressure.
Bass also has high amounts of minerals such as zinc, calcium, selenium, and magnesium, making it great for maintaining bone health.
What Does Bass Taste Like?
Though the bass taste majorly depends on its place of origin, size, cooking methods, and preparation, it almost always tastes good.
The taste of bass also depends on the water in which they were caught. Bass found in freshwater with plenty of food to eat generally tastes very good. However, if you catch bass from a tangy or foul-smelling swampy area filled with algae, it’s better to avoid them as they can taste like their source.
Remember, algae bloom in summer and lakes tend to be cleaner during the cold season. Hence, it’s best to eat bass caught during the early or late season and avoid eating them during summer.
It’s also worthwhile to note that saltwater bass is fatter and tastier as compared to the freshwater ones. However, in terms of health and safety, it’s better to consume freshwater bass.
Largemouth or Smallmouth?
Of the different types of bass fish, largemouth and smallmouth bass are the predominant ones. Both have distinct tastes. Let’s take a look at some of their properties.
If caught from fresh, clean water, largemouth bass can make for a decent lunch. Largemouth bass has a firm yet tender texture to their white meat fillets. They also have a fishy taste and flavor with very few bones in them, ensuring a better and more convenient eating experience.
When compared with the smallmouth bass, the meat is slightly watery and dense. Make sure you clean it well. When cooked right, largemouth bass can be delicious. If you don’t appreciate the fishy smell and flavor, you can always mask them with seasonings.
If you’re put off by the fishy smell of largemouth, you can try smallmouth bass. It has a milder, less muddy, clean smell and a different taste than largemouth bass. Its meat is also slightly flakier than largemouth and is meatier and less fishy.
You should opt for smallmouth fish if you like to prepare your fish without using strong spices and enjoy the taste of fish meat alone.
However, much of the smell and taste depends on its habitat and its diet and is also based on your personal taste.
Freshwater VS Marine Bass
• Found in freshwaters like lakes, streams, and rivers
• Comparatively safer to consume as there are lesser chances of them containing chemical pollutants
• If handled correctly, it can be consumed raw
• Usually don’t have a strong, fishy smell and has a mild flavor
• Found in saltwater or waters from the seas or oceans
• Relatively unsafe to consume as there are high chances of them contain traces of mercury and other harmful toxins
• Not safe to consume raw
• Comparatively tastier than freshwater bass but possess a strong fishy smell
What Size Bass Should You Eat?
The size of the bass also affects its taste and smell. Large-sized bass has a stronger smell and taste, and its meat is not as tender and soft as small-sized ones. Try to pick bass that is less than 14 inches or 35 cm in length as that’s the ideal size for consumption.
Younger bass has meat that’s more tender with better flavor. The older and larger a bass gets, the harder and stronger its meat and taste get. This is true for both largemouth and smallmouth bass.
Another thing to remember is, older bass fish tends to amass more toxins and pollutants over the years. Additionally, it’s easier to cook small-sized bass fish. However, before you take home a smaller fish, make sure to check the permissible limits in your area and release the ones that fall below those limits.
How to Cook Bass
Let’s now take a look at some bass cooking methods and recipes along with steps to prepare it for cooking.
Owing to the bass fish’s unique texture, it is important to thoroughly clean it before cooking. You can also debone the fish to create boneless fillets or cook it whole once cleaned properly. Here are some steps to follow.
#1. Descale the fish by raking the blunt side of a knife along the sides of the fish, from its tail to head until the skin feels smooth. You can also use a fish scaler to do this.
#2. Use cold water to rinse the fish.
#3. Using a sharp knife, make a cut under the head, and don’t stop until you hit the spine.
#4. Using the spine as a reference, start from this cut and move through the belly along the fish’s side until you reach the tail.
#5. Push the knife to the other side and keep cutting through.
#6. Remove the fish’s internal parts, separate them from the belly, and thoroughly clean it. You can also make fillets by separating the meat from the bones.
#7. Ensure to thoroughly remove the blood before cooking. Soak the fish in a bowl of cold water and keep switching out the water until there’s no more blood.
· Cooking Methods
Filleting can be the best way to cook bass, followed by one of the following cooking methods:
• Deep frying
Here are some simple and delicious bass recipes for you to try. You’ll need either a fire, stove, or grill to cook your bass. Depending on your fillet size and heat, most of these recipes will only take 10 to 15 minutes.
Image source: Pinterest
A simple, basic recipe.
#1. Dry your fillet using a paper towel. You can score the fillet in 2–3 spots to prevent it from curling and to enable the seasoning to penetrate easily.
#2. Generously season both fillet sides with lemon, pepper, and salt.
#3. Melt about 2 tablespoons of butter in a pan over medium flame and place the fillet. Cook for 5 minutes.
#4. Turn the fillet over and squeeze some lemon drops into the pan. Cook for another 5 minutes.
#5. Remove from the pan and serve.
Tip: Before seasoning the fillet, you can also coat the fillet pieces in a mixture of beaten eggs and milk. Then cover them with panko crumbs, seasoned breadcrumbs, or flour.
Image source: Pinterest
If you’re thinking of cooking your fresh catch outdoors, this may be the best recipe to consider. You’ll need a grill for this recipe.
#1. Dry your fillet using paper towels.
#2. Season them using lemon, pepper, and salt.
#3. Grill the bass fillets over a medium-high flame.
#4. Let the fish cook on the grill for about 5 minutes, each side.
#5. Remove and serve.
Depending on your taste and preference, you can add:
• 2 garlic cloves or sprigs of fresh thyme, 8–10 coarse-chopped olives, and 1 sprig of rosemary.
• 3 tablespoons of herb blend of dill, chives, parsley, and tarragon. Along with 2 teaspoons of capers.
You can also use the following as side dishes:
• Maple-glazed carrots
• Mashed sweet potatoes
• Oven-roasted broccolini
Baking Freshwater Bass
Image source: Pinterest
If you wish to skip filleting and get down to cooking straight away, here’s a recipe for cooking a whole bass.
#1. Preheat the oven to about 400 ℉ and keep the oven rack at the center of the oven.
#2. Scale, rinse, and gut the bass, and pat it dry.
#3. Score the bass at 4–5 spots to prevent curling and to enable better penetration of seasoning.
#4. Generously lather the fish in a mixture of salt and pepper. Both inside and out.
#5. Prepare a mixture of fresh parsley, tomatoes, tarragon, lemon, onions, garlic, and olive oil.
#6. Season both inside and outside of the fish with this mixture.
#7. Add 4 tablespoons of butter into the baking tray or dish.
#8. Place the fish in the baking tray. You can also add some wine for an extra punch.
#9. Put it in the oven and bake the fish for 20 to 30 minutes for a 2.5-pound bass.
#10. When the fish skin turns crispy, transfer it to a serving plate and serve with lemon slices on top or pour your favorite sauce over it.
Is It Better to Release Bass, Or to Eat Them?
When it comes to bass fishing, most anglers have adopted a catch and release ideology, and it’s almost considered a blasphemy to cook and eat bass. If you look at it from a marine conservative’s point of view though, this does make sense.
Bass fishing, especially largemouth, is a very popular sport. This species is fished at a much higher intensity than any other fish species in the USA. If all anglers kill the fish they catch, it would significantly impact the population of bass fish.
If you only plan to take home a few smaller fish occasionally, it shouldn’t be an issue. There are many reasons to support releasing the bigger ones. For starters, the bigger ones could be female breeders who produce thousands of eggs each spawning season. Also, they don’t taste as good as the smaller ones.
With a lot of better-tasting fishes out there, like trout, crappie and perch you can be sure of never running out of fish options to eat. If you’re not a fan of the taste of bass fish, you can release them and hold on to the more delicious ones for eating.
Tips on Fishing for Bass
For every angler, catching bass fish is a highly rewarding experience. However, it’s no easy feat to get hold of these feisty fish. Here’s a list of some tried and tested tips that can help you improve your odds of catching one and to make you a more successful bass angler.
#1. Bass are natural predators who hunt close to covered areas, like leaves, rocks, docks, or lily pads as it hides them. Thus, helping to easily ambush their prey. Hence, here’s where you need to throw in your lure to catch more bass.
#2. Bass feeds on many types of fish and other aquatic animals. So when you’re casting for bass, make sure that the lure imitates their favorite food to tempt them to come closer. Plastic frogs, spoons, and crankbait are some lures that work well.
#3. Bass prefer to ambush wounded prey that doesn’t fight much. Hence, if your plastic worms get torn up, keep them for bass fishing.
#4. In shallow areas, use baits that are red as it can fool the bass into thinking that the bait’s injured, thus tempting them to bite at it.
#5. Bass has strong, boney jaws. You will need a sharp hook to penetrate its mouth. Make sure to sharpen your hooks before each fishing trip.
#6. Bass always likes to swim with the current. By facing the wind, you increase your chances of catching bass.
#7. Water temperature can significantly influence the feeding patterns and activity levels of bass. As a rule, throw slower and faster moving baits in cooler and warmer water, respectively.
5 Best Places to Fish for Bass in the US
The US boasts of some of the most amazing bass fishing spots that are a dream for anglers. Let’s take a look at some of the best places to fish for bass in the US.
Enclosed by great lakes, Michigan is, without a doubt, an angler’s paradise as it offers magnificent spots for bass fishing. Apart from this, the state also has a wealth of inland rivers and lakes that are peppered with bass.
Popular bass fishing lakes of Michigan include Lake St. Clair, Hubbard Lake, Coldwater Lake, and Marble Lake.
The lakes, rivers, and streams of Texas have been consistent producers of giant bass for decades. Some of the best bass fishing places in Texas are Lake Fork Reservoir, Sam Rayburn Reservoir and Falcon Lake.
An angler’s haven, Alabama is a fantastic bass fishing spot with a large number of high-density bass fishing lakes. Ever since the discovery of Lake Guntersville, this state has been at the top of everyone’s fishing bucket list. The top destinations are Guntersville Lake, Pickwick Lake and Lewis Smith Lake.
Popular among the anglers for its tournament glory, Lake Okeechobee is Florida’s central bass fishing spot. Apart from this, there are a few other bass fishing spots too. The top ones include Lake Okeechobee, Lake Kissimmee and St. Johns River.
From Clear Lake in the north to Perris Lake in the south, California is blessed with some of the finest trophy largemouth fishing spots in the world. The best bass fishing spots in California are Clear Lake and Castaic Lake.
A Few Parting Words
I hope this article has answered your question, “Can you eat bass?” You now have ample information on bass consumption, bass fishing tips, best places to fish for bass, along with a list of some basic, tasty bass recipes for you to try.
Now that you’ve found the answer, you can prepare for your next angling trip, catch some fresh bass and follow the delicious recipes for a great dinner ahead!