Can you eat Freshwater bass Fish?

bass fishing

One of the most sought-after game fish, the bass isn’t just a thrill to catch, but it also makes an excellent table fare. As much as local regulations will allow, you can catch readily available bass, take it home and cook a delicious meal for you and yours. 

Some people claim not to like the taste of this fish. Others sing praises for the flavor and nutritional benefits of its meat. Efforts by Fish & Game departments to limit catch numbers, or catch and release, some if not all, of angler’s bass catches, has also made fisherfolk to doubt it as target eating fish. 

Take a few more minutes to read through this article, where I’ve traversed the angler’s landscape to find the answer to the question, ‘Can you eat bass fish?’ At the end of this review, you’ll be able to substantiate the mysteries surrounding eating bass, whether there’s any foundation for fear, or if you should go ahead and try some for yourself. 

Can You Eat Bass Fish?

Bass fish is an aggressive eater, and as such, they are relatively easy to catch. This fish will fight hard, though, as part of their feisty nature, making it fun to reel them in. 

You can eat bass, which is an edible fish that’s delicious when prepared properly, and the meat is white, firm in texture, and tender to the touch or flaky for freshwater smallmouths. Bass, particularly largemouth, has a fishy flavor, a watery, and dense unclear taste that makes it more suited to be fried, grilled, baked, or cooked in combination with other dishes. 

This taste is unforgettable for bass connoisseurs, and this fish doesn’t have many bones except for its chest area. Your bass’s diet and habitat will determine how it tastes, and this fish is also considered safe for pregnant women to eat. 

Can You Eat Both Smallmouth and Largemouth Bass?

Bass fish is incredible for eating, seeing as it’s a rich source of proteins with a two-ounce filet containing an average of 15 grams. The meat of smallmouth and largemouth bass is also low in calories and fat, which makes it an excellent choice for anyone looking to keep a lean diet. 

Just like all edible fish, the bass is also a source of essential fatty acids called omega 3, which are absent in most other foods. These vital nutrients have been attributed to lowering cholesterol, blood sugar, and reducing heart disease risks. 

Fresh and saltwater largemouth or smallmouth bass is also safe for consumption, including in moderation by pregnant and lactating mothers. You have to be keen about the state of pollution or mercury content of the waters where bass is caught from. 

Bass meat from polluted lakes or oceans becomes contaminated with pollutants, especially mercury, which in large doses can cause poisoning. 

Can You Eat Bass from a Pond?

Bass that has been fished in clear, clean waters is safe to eat, and you must regard any pond as a possible harbor of pollution. Industrial contaminants like polychlorinated biphenyls are present if there has been dumping upstream of a creek that leads to a pond. 

Bass has been found to contain potentially hazardous levels of mercury, and intake of these should be limited to less than 18 ounces a month, particularly for pregnant women. 

Mercury is absorbed by larger predator bass that eats smaller fish that have come in contact with polluted waters. Ponds also contain higher levels of bacteria and other pathogens that pose serious health risks, particularly if you consume such bass that’s not cooked properly. 

What Does Bass Taste Like? 

You may have caught a large or smallmouth, held up your fish, and wondered, ‘what does bass taste like?’ The short answer is that it tastes good as fish should, but it’s also dependent on preparation, cooking and what else it’s eaten with. 

Every type of bass comes with its signature flavor on the palate, but largemouth bass, especially the freshwater, doesn’t have a favorite spot in this aspect. Its fishy taste, as well as fishy pungency, does little to encourage picky eaters, but there’s a die-hard fan base for its firm, clean textured flesh that’s low in fats and calories. 

On the other hand, smallmouth bass has a sweeter tasting flesh that’s more flaky than meaty, and it’s little on the fishy flavor or smell of its largemouth cousin. Much of the taste traits that each bass fish carries will depend on the water quality in their habitat as well as their diet. 

What Size Bass Should You Eat?

Bass, both smallmouth and largemouth is caught mainly as a sport fishing endeavor, but there’s little out there in regards to eating this versatile and readily available fish species. These fish are caught in the wild, and there are size limitations to bass sizes that can be taken home in many states. 

Bass caught in freshwater lakes or rivers can grow to an immense 29.9 inches long, with the heaviest recorded at 25 pounds and one ounce.  Many anglers like me will manage to catch a 1.5 to four-pound bass in severe catch and release, but I will go for the smaller bass for eating. 

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, you should follow the USDA directive for food patterns as a dietary guideline. Protein food such as bass fish should be kept to five and 6 ½ ounces for each portion or standard serving of your meals. 

Best Ways to Cook Freshwater Bass

Your bass that’s been caught from clean, fresh waters needs to be thoroughly cleaned before any cooking is to be done. Prepare your equipment beforehand, making sure all the utensils and condiments are at hand and that you’re well familiar with your chosen recipe. 

Freshwater bass is cooked with the same recipes used for preparing other types of fish, and you can broil, bake, fry, or grill it. Use a heavy batter on black or largemouth bass to reduce the fishy flavor and fry the fish as a suitable dish that eases in someone unsure if they’ll like the taste. 

Lovers of fish know that seasoning of herbs, butter, and the lemon squeeze trick will transform your bass into a delectable and healthily light fare

If you are roasting bass, you can either remove or leave the skin on, but I prefer lining my grill with skinned freshwater bass fillets. These contain less of that fishy flavor and will create light feasting for a barbecue. 

Pan-grilled Bass

Here’s a pan-grilled recipe that I regularly apply to freshwater bass. This is a simple version that you can use to cook bass fish easily.

  • Use salt, pepper, and any preferred seasoning on both sides of a bass fillet with generous applications. 
  • In a pan over medium heat, melt two tablespoons of butter. 
  • Place freshwater bass fillet on the pan and let it fry for 4 minutes.
  • Flip the bass fillet on both sides before squeezing on it half a lemon. 
  • Cook for another four minutes.
  • Remove from the fire and let it sit for at most three minutes. 
  • Serve with vegetable or grain accompaniments.

From this simple recipe, you can add on variations depending on your personal preference. You can add one sprig of rosemary, two bushes of fresh thyme, two garlic cloves, and 10 coarse chopped onions. 

Instead of lemons, substitute with orange juice to fully mask the fishy flavor of freshwater largemouth bass. As a seasoning topping, I use capers and three tablespoons of a mixture of dill, tarragon, chives, and parsley. 

Dishes to Cook with Bass 

For bass, serving a side dish is a tradition that you wouldn’t want to break. Since smallmouth and some largemouth bass is milder than other meat mains, a flavorful and fresh side dish is welcome. 

Whether your bass is served up fresh from the grill, pan-fried to perfection, or oven-baked, a side dish to accompany it will include; 

Creamy Au Gratin Potatoes: 

The delicate flavor of potatoes alongside a saucy cream makes the perfect accompaniment for a robustly seasoned bass fish. 

Caesar Salad Supreme: 

The authentic Caesar salad stands up well with the mild flavor of fresh water or sea bass, a beautiful pairing enriched by the salad’s anchovy flavor and dressing. 

Asparagus Cashew Rice Pilaf: 

When you can’t decide between rice and a vegetable dish to go with your bass fish, you can enjoy both sides with bass.  

Broccoli with Garlic Butter and Cashews: 

Use garlic sauce, brown sugar, red pepper, or soy sauce to take your steamed broccoli up another level, which coupled with bass, will induce an interesting array of delicious, character adding flavor. 

Is It Better To Release Bass than Eating Them?

As long as you are within your Local County or state zone laws, you can keep eating smaller bass fish while releasing the large ones you catch. Practicing catch and release is great for sustainable conservation of the fish, but some must also be harvested if an ecosystem balance is to be reached. 

Releasing larger bass also gives competitive anglers a chance to haul in a really big one, and some states also have a limit on the number of fish you can take home. Fish within the legal size limits can be kept or released if you’re not keen on the taste of bass, but eating it trumps over releasing an injured fish in any anglers manual. 


Eating bass is progressive for your body, giving you a unique source of omega 3 essential oils. While catching bass is a fun sport in itself, it’s safe to eat its meat if it’s been fished from clean water sources. 

Bass fish should be thoroughly cleaned and well cooked, prepared in consideration of its flavor as well as health benefits. Take your bass fishing experience to the next level by blessing your table with a bass fish fare. 

Are you interested in fishing for bass? If so I have a fantastic guide on bass fishing that is simplified and clear enough to help you start bass fishing.

In this ecourse, you will learn about the tools of the trade, techniques to bass fishing like a pro, and secrets to help you catch your biggest bass. Click here to have access to “The Definitive Guide To Tackle Bass Fishing.”

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