Can You Eat Bass and Should You? (Is It Safe?)

Going fishing is great and can often lead to a good fight with a few fish!

To a lot of fishermen, a lot of the fishing experience isn’t simply about catching whatever is in the water, it’s about having a good experience and that can include having a good battle with something on the end of your line. 

Bass is a perfect example of a fish that won’t give in too easily, making it hard for you. This will certainly give you a fight you won’t forget! 

However, once you’ve caught a bass fish, can you eat it? And should you? Follow our guide to all things bass and whether they’re edible or not.

Can You Eat Bass Fish

What Is A Bass And Where Can You Find Them?

The bass is a type of fish that resides in most countries around the world. However, this isn’t down to one specific type of fish. There are lots of different types of bass living in the water around the world and they come in a variety of shapes and sizes. 

Not all of these basses live within the same environments either, a lot of them will thrive and enjoy a happy life within saltwater bodies like seas and oceans, whereas other types of bass are happier to spend their lives within freshwater bodies like lakes, canals, and rivers.

One of the most common types of bass that can be found in America is the largemouth bass. This is a freshwater variation of the bass fish species and is often found in vegetated lakes and ponds across the United States. 

On top of this, the largemouth bass can also be found in swamps where there is lots of plantation and mud or sand, where they can inhabit the area.

With regards to where you can find these geographically, the Largemouth Bass can frequently be seen in North Carolina, Florida, and even parts of Northern Mexico.

The spotted bass is also a very common form of bass in America and can also be found in bodies of water around South Africa. Spotted basses get their name from having dark spots all down their backs, making them instantly recognizable to fishermen up and down the country. 

Because the spotted bass is native to America, the only reason we can see the fish in South Africa is that it was introduced there by humans, where the water creature has now become an invasive species.

There are nine different types of black bass and they can all be seen in different locations and surroundings. Because of the sheer number of basses throughout the Earth’s oceans and freshwater bodies, there is a chance that you will come across multiple types of bass whilst out fishing. 

It’s easy to say that any sort of fish is edible, provided it isn’t poisonous, however, you don’t want to make yourself sick or have a nasty tasting fish.

Can You Eat Bass?

When it comes to being able to eat bass, the simple answer is yes, you can eat bass. However, not all forms of the fish are edible and can often be worth avoiding altogether. For example, not every bass tastes the same, even if they come from the same environment in the same body of water. 

This is down to what the fish eats and the types of areas the fish will spend its time in, which can all play a factor in changing the taste of the fish.

Bass is a white meat fish and is often considered one of the healthiest and tastiest fish out there when it comes to freshwater fish.

A lot of people will eat bass because of the high protein levels and the lower fatty content within the fish. These make the food extremely healthy and will play a big part in anybody’s balanced meal.

Larger versions of the bass fish will often have a much stronger taste and a tougher texture compared to the types of bass that are frequently seen in grocery stores around the country. Because of this, there’s often deliberation on whether the bass you may have just caught from the water will taste good. 

For this reason, a lot of people will avoid cooking their own bass and will buy their supply from the local shop or superstore.

It’s internationally known that keeping fish on ice is the easiest way to keep fish fresher for longer if they’re not eaten within the first sitting.

Lots of stores keep their fish on ice and in a cold area so that the food stays fresh for days and weeks after catching so that more people have more time to buy their bass. 

The easiest way to know if a bass is suitable to eat when shopping in a grocery store is to smell the fish. If the fish has an almost rotten scent, then your best bet is to find another fish. 

Of course, a lot of people will argue that most fish smells are strong and could often be confused with this, but believe us when we tell you that you’d know.

It’s because of this, that if you catch bass from backwater swamps or any sort of mixed environment, then it’s best to make sure that the fish is around the right size and cleanliness.

How Big Is The Right Size To Cook A Bass?

When it comes to a species of bass that’s great for cooking, the largemouth bass is up there with the best of them. However, as previously mentioned, the right bass to eat has to be the right size to ensure that the taste and the texture of the fish aren’t too strong. 

With largemouth bass, the best size to look for when in search of a potential meal is any size between 10 and 14 inches. Of course, this isn’t a set number and can be adjusted within reason, however, it’s best to try and keep as close to these parameters as possible.

A lot of people will look for the weight, rather than the length of the fish when debating about eating a bass, which can be another way of going about things.

When looking at largemouth bass, for example, we recommend that you choose a weight anywhere between one and two pounds. 

This ensures that the fish is large enough for a decent portion of food, but also makes sure that the meat isn’t too fishy or too tough in texture. 

It’s harder to tell, but younger bass is always more recommended than older bass.

Depending on the environment and the surroundings the fish has been living in, the older it gets, the more chances there are for the fish to accumulate more toxins and harmful substances throughout its life.

Younger fish are widely regarded as fresher and healthier than older bass, thus making them a better option for those looking for their next meal.

When catching and taking a bass home to cook and eat, it’s always important to remember that there are certain keeping limits and laws that protect fish all over the country.

The country will do its best to protect the amount of wildlife that exists within its waters, so make sure you’re not breaking the law when taking a fish out of the water. 

A lot of fishermen will put the fish back, to protect the ecosystem. 

What Does A Bass Taste Like?

When it comes to finding out what bass tastes like, it varies from fish to fish, as previously mentioned. However, you can usually narrow down the taste specific to each type of bass out there.

For example, sea bass tends to be a bit saltier when it comes to general taste, however, the sea bass has a mild and delicate flavor with a hint of sweet tones, similar to cod. 

Sea bass is especially popular for those who prefer a subtle flavor to their food, rather than the full-on fishy flavors when eating fish like mackerel and tuna.

Largemouth bass, on the other hand, is different. When it comes to their taste, the largemouth bass often tastes like the environment that they have come from.

This is what’s known as a pillar species and can often have different flavors depending on the cleanliness of the water, the food they eat, and the amount of vegetation in the water.

These flavors aren’t always good because these fish then experience more chemicals and toxins as a result of the poor standards of water that they have thrived in.

However, when the largemouth ass is found in clearwater bodies and has little to affect their general health and wellbeing, they can often taste as fresh as any other fish and will make a worthy addition to anyone’s plate. 

With regards to eating the fish, there are different ways of preparing it for food before consumption. These ensure that the fish is properly cleaned and made ready to eat, making sure that you avoid any potential illnesses or diseases that the fish may have.

Bass Fish

How To Prepare A Bass Fish After Catching

When it comes to preparing and cleaning any edible creature, you have to remove the innards from inside the fish.

The reasoning for this is that organs like the intestines and the stomach can become full of external liquids and substances that can taint your food and cause you to become ill. 

By removing these, you’re ensuring your safety and keeping the meal a lot tastier. Not to mention that the gasses and fluid build-up within these body features may cause the innards to burst and ruin your food.

The best thing to do when preventing listeria and other harmful bacteria and germs are to gut the fish as quickly as possible and keep the fish in a cold space under around 40 degrees Fahrenheit. This can be anything from a refrigerator to an ice cooler. 

When shopping for bass in a supermarket or grocery store, you will see that the fish have already been gutted and have been placed on a bed of ice to keep the fish fresh.

Once this is done, it’s always useful to rinse the fish with some clean water to wash off any debris or dirt that may be on the surface of the fish.

De-Scaling The Fish

On top of this, it’s also recommended that you remove the scales from the body of the fish because of their ability to hold onto external features like germs and bacteria.

As previously mentioned, basses are known as pillar species and will absorb toxins and potentially harmful substances from the environment they inhabit. 

Scales also provide a fishy taste alongside a weird texture that can put a lot of people off when eating fish. To ensure that you get the most out of your fish, it’s important to remove every single scale before cooking.

When scaling, the scales will most likely land anywhere and everywhere, so it’s important to ensure that you’re in a place where the scales won’t ruin your kitchen.

The backyard or somewhere else outdoors is always recommended, but remember to clean up afterward! Some areas will allow you to scale your fish in the local pond, which is always handy! 

But the main objective is to keep the smell and the mess away from your home or vehicle.

Place the bass on a cutting board and apply pressure with your weaker hand. This ensures that the fish doesn’t slip out of your grip. Use your stronger hand to move the knife against the scales from the tail up to the head.

The scales should come off fairly easily as your scrape, however, they will be a bit stiffer around the gills and the neck of the bass.

We recommend that you use a dedicated scaling knife for this task, however, lots of people will use their filet knife or a butter knife to complete the process.

It doesn’t matter how sharp the knife is, within reason, it matters about the amount of force being used to descale the fish. However, remember not to push too hard or you risk damaging the fish and the filets needed to make your meal.

Removing The Innards

It’s always good to have a bit of knowledge about the anatomy of the bass before you attempt this process, however, this can be fixed with a bit of research in books or via the Internet.

Place your fish on the same cutting board you used for scaling, providing the board is free from scale residue. 

Find the vent, which is a small hole by the anal fin on the bass’ underside. Use your knife to cut the fish toward the head, by the jawbone.

You only want to cut deep enough to open the skin, however, to avoid cutting into the innards and organs. 

Cutting the fish open should be fairly easy, but will get harder the closer you get to the top end of the fish. The innards will be contained within a very thin sac, which should be intact if you’ve cut the fish properly, without cutting too deep. 

This can be scooped out gently with your hands and removed externally. Use gloves if you feel particularly squeamish. We must stress the word ‘gentle’ so that you don’t let anything burst over your fish.

These innards will still be connected closer to the fish’s head, so feel free to gently cut this connection and remove the innards. 

Rinse the fish with clean water to ensure that there are no leftovers or remnants inside.

Removing The Filets

When removing the filets to any bass, the process is always similar and can be learned by using the smallmouth bass or some type of bluegill. Place your filet knife behind the pectoral fin and the gills.

Angle towards the bass’ neck and cut into the fish. This slice should travel from the pelvic fin and to the top of the bass’ head. 

Next, you need to slice the top of the fish next to its backbone. This cut should go toward the tail fin and stay close to the backbone. This ensures a straight cut and the cleanest slice possible.

Make another cut deeper into the meat and follow the shape of the ribcage and the spine. Cut all the way down toward the start of the tail and do your best not to remove the filet from the tail if you wish to remove the skin. 

To remove the skin, turn the filet over, ensuring that it is facing upwards, and keep it attached to the tail.

Slowly cut the knife between the skin and the filet and you’ll glide your way toward a skinless filet of fish. Turn over the fish and repeat the process. You will probably have around 6 and 10 bones in total. 

Use your fingers or some tweezers to pull them out and remove them from the filet. Rinse the filets with cold water and you’re good to go! Remember to store the fish if eating at a later date and get rid of the expelled parts of the fish carefully by putting them in the trash.

Final Thoughts

Bass is one of the healthiest fish to eat when deciding on your next meal. With regards to what you can combine your fish with, potatoes and fresh vegetables are always a good option.

On top of this, some butter sauce or some freshly squeezed lemon juice is a nice addition to any bass dinner. 

Making sure that the bass is cleaned thoroughly and properly is a huge part of ensuring that the fish is edible, with many toxins sometimes making their way into the system of the pillar species of fish.

Make sure that you find your fish in a clean environment and weigh the creature before deciding on whether to take it home to eat.

Do all of this and you’re in store for a lovely meal.

Tommy Bull