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Can You Eat Smallmouth Bass?

Bass fishing is a lot of fun and something enjoyed by tons of people all over the country.

holding a smallmouth bass

There are few things better than floating down the river, throwing the line out, and reeling in some smallmouth bass.

Each time you pull one in the boat, you might wonder, can you eat smallmouth bass?

It’s a question asked by many but answered by few. Let’s separate the myths from the facts and see if smallies are worth the effort.

Do People Eat Smallmouth Bass?

Even though most people catch and release smallmouth bass for the sport, you can absolutely eat them.

Smallmouth Vs Largemouth Bass

If you’re looking for a healthy and tasty fish dinner, smallmouth is a great option. The reason that most people don’t eat smallmouth bass is that it’s considered somewhat “taboo” by anglers.

Since bass are such a popular sport fish, many people believe that it’s wrong to catch them to keep.

Even though some people might disagree with it, you can eat bass, and it’s delicious if you understand how to prepare it properly.

person holding a smallmouth bass

There’s nothing better than catching your own fish and cooking it yourself.

There’s something primitive about the whole experience, and it adds another layer to the sport of fishing.

Is Smallmouth Bass Safe to Eat?

Yes, smallmouth bass and bass of all kinds are safe to eat. They’re about as healthy as any other freshwater fish, and compared to some, they’re much cleaner as well.

Smallmouth Bass

Bass is a white meat fish that is rich in protein and low in fat. There are some obvious situations where you wouldn’t want to eat the bass you catch.

Some freshwater is very high in mercury, and depending on where you live, the water can have other minerals such as copper that are dangerous when consumed in high quantities.

Before eating the bass, you’ll want to check with your local Department of Conservation of Natural Resources to see if there’s any important information regarding water quality.

Can You Eat Smallies Raw?

While eating bass is enjoyable and delicious, you cannot eat any freshwater fish raw. There’s a big difference between saltwater and freshwater.

person releasing a smallmouth bass

Freshwater fish like smallmouth bass carry many harmful parasites that can cause you to fall ill even after eating a small amount.

While you run the risk of having this problem with any fish, that risk increases dramatically in freshwater.

Smallmouth bass can possess parasites such as tapeworm and lung fluke, so you want to avoid eating it raw unless you have absolutely no other choice.

Tips For Preparing Smallmouth Bass

So you caught yourself a smallie, and you’re ready to prepare it for cooking. You need to carefully scale, debone, and clean the bass before you can cook it.

raw bass for cooking

Of course, you can cook it whole, but you’ll enjoy it much more this way. Take the back of a knife and remove the scales from the bottom up. There’s nothing fancy about this; just keep going until it’s smooth.

Rinse the fish in cold water to get all the scales off, then use a sharp knife and cut into it right under the head.

Run the knife down until you reach the anal vent, then push the knife out and repeat this on the other side.

grilled bass fillet with braised spinach

Separate the bones from the meat by holding the fish vertically and cut through the rib cage.

Trim any excess fat, soak the fish in water, pull it out, and rinse. Once you’ve done all of that, you should be good to go!

Important Considerations About Bass

You need always to remember that every state has unique laws pertaining to catch and release.

a smallmouth bass swimming

It’s important that you understand how large a smallmouth bass needs to be to keep it because the fines for taking undersized bass are pretty hefty.

Plus, it’s our job as anglers to protect the waters that we fish, so do your best to follow the law so we can preserve the bass population and ensure that everyone has a safe and enjoyable place to fish.

person holding a smallmouth bass

Final Thoughts

Now you can add something new to your bucket list. Next time, instead of catching and releasing the smallmouth bass, check your local regulations and if you caught one big enough, throw it on ice, take it home, and cook it up. 

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