can you eat smallmouth bass

Can You Eat Smallmouth Bass (Safely)?

If you’ve ever seen a fish mounted on a plaque, chances are you’ve seen a smallmouth bass. Smallmouth bass is a popular fish for fishermen to catch for a few reasons: they can be eaten, made into trophies, or are just plain fun to catch!

So, can you eat smallmouth bass? Smallmouth bass, like all bass, can be made into a healthy and tasty meal. However, many anglers choose not to eat smallmouth bass because they are widely considered as game fish, that is, anglers think it’s wrong to keep the smallmouth bass they catch. Where smallmouth bass are concerned, most sport fishermen elect only to catch and release, preferring the sport of fishing rather than solely viewing it as a way to bring food home.

After all, a lot of people enjoy fishing. And I mean a lot! It just makes sense! Fishing is calming and quiet. and it can also be a time of bonding for families and friends. Naturalists enjoy studying different types of fish, such as smallmouth bass or sturgeon. And then there is just that beautiful sense of being one with the water and nature. After all, Herbert Hoover famously said it best:

“Fishing is more than fish; it is the vitalizing lure to outdoor life.”

There are so many reasons to fish. Best of them all, fishing also provides food for the table!

Yes, fishing truly is one of humanity’s oldest pastimes and food sources, but just like anything we attempt to eat, we have to make sure that the fish we catch are edible. That brings us to the question at hand: Can you eat smallmouth bass?

Is it safe to eat smallmouth bass?

One thing to note: if you plan on catching and eating smallmouth bass, it must be cooked and not raw. Freshwater fish, like the smallmouth bass, often carry dangerous parasites, like lung flukes and tapeworms, that can make you sick if you consume it. Always cook freshwater fish! Cooking smallmouth bass will kill these parasites and make the fish healthy and safe to eat.

Smallmouth bass, also known by the Latin name “Micropterus dolomieu,” or more colloquially as “smallies,” are often the center of many fishing tournaments.

They can be caught using a wide array of lures or baits, including artificial worms, crankbaits, hair jigs, plastic jerk baits, spinnerbaits, and soft plastic lures which include grubs and leah head jigs. Smallies are tough fighters when on the line which is why they are so popular in fishing tournaments. 

Does smallmouth bass taste good?

Yes, smallmouth bass tastes good, especially when prepared well! Smallies are white meat fish that has plenty of protein that will keep you strong enough to keep fishing all day! However, most anglers think the taste of smallmouth bass is just not as good as other types of freshwater fish.

This is but one other reason that smallmouth bass is considered more as a catch and release fish rather than a catch and eat fish.

To prepare a smallmouth bass, you’ll want to carefully scale, debone, and clean the fish before cooking. Once it’s ready, simply cook the fish with some oil, squeeze some lemon on it, and add a side of greens and rice. You’ll have a delicious meal in no time!

Why do people not eat smallmouth bass?

People do eat smallmouth bass! It is a big misconception that smallmouth bass cannot be eaten. However, there are some reasons why people choose not to eat this freshwater fish. Below are the two main reasons why fishermen choose not to keep and eat smallmouth bass. 

First, as stated above, many fishermen view the smallmouth bass as game fish, only meant for catch and release, because they simply prefer the taste of other freshwater fish. In a way, that means smallmouth bass are often caught as practice for catching other types of fish. Smallmouth bass of legal and impressive sizes are often made into trophies and plaques. Just like hunters, anglers want people to see big fish that they caught. 

Second, every state in the United States has their own laws which govern which fish can be caught and kept. These ‘Catch and Release’ laws regulate which size of fish are lawful to keep after catching. If a fish is not big enough, it must be released back into the water. These laws are there for a good reason: to prevent overfishing and wiping out fish populations.

Fishermen, like many outdoor sportsmen, view themselves as stewards of nature. As such, we need to allow smaller fish to mature so that they can breed and repeat the circle of life. One too-small smallmouth bass could be the parent to hundreds of other smallmouth basses if it is allowed to mature and breed. This means more fish for everyone!

Why is eating smallmouth bass not good?

It’s not that eating smallmouth bass isn’t good so much as it is an issue of preference and culture. Often, people prefer the taste of other freshwater fish meat over that of smallmouth bass meat. Because of this, many choose to release any smallmouth bass they catch, hoping that a different, tastier fish will be the next to find the fish hook.

Culturally, smallmouth bass are treated as game fish because of ‘catch and release’ laws. These laws are generally based on the size or age of any caught fish and were written to protect fish populations. It makes sense. If you take too many immature fish from the water, there are less fish to procreate, hence damaging the ability for the fish population to be maintained. 

Does smallmouth bass have worms?

Not all, but some do! Smallmouth bass is just one type of freshwater fish. Though all fish come with the chance of parasites, freshwater fish are more prone to carrying these harmful parasites. That is why it is always important to cook any freshwater fish, including smallmouth bass!

Here are some parasites that can be found in freshwater smallmouth bass:

  1. Flukes (also known as trematodes)
  2. Tapeworms
  3. Gill Lice

Tapeworms live inside the stomachs of smallmouth bass, feeding on what the fish feed on. If not cooked properly, a tapeworm can end up in your stomach! Always cook freshwater fish!

Flukes can be found both inside and outside of smallmouth bass because they are grubb parasites that can attach to the fish when ingested or when in close contact to the fish. 

Gill Lice are parasites that live around the mouth and gills of smallmouth bass. They look like Rice Krispies cereal and are harmful to the fish’s ability to breathe. 

Recap: Are Smallmouth Bass Good to Eat?

There you have it! Smallmouth bass are good to eat, but only if it is off legal size (per your state) and cooked thoroughly to kill any potentially harmful parasites. Make sure you practice your due diligence by knowing your state’s fishing laws and regulations concerning smallmouth bass, including the legal size for keeping a fish or any limits as to the amount of fish caught, and that you cook smallmouth bass to remove any dangerous parasites before consuming it. 

Not that you know, check your state’s laws, go get your rod, find a bank or a boat, and start fishing! You’ll have fish for dinner in no time!