June 23, 2014 Share

Eat Bass, Improve Your Fishery?

Karen looked at me with her soft brown eyes and said, “I’d really like fish for dinner tonight.”

Well, it was mid-afternoon on a hot August day and my first thoughts were that a batch of fried crappie did sound great. But then I remembered I had searched low and high for crappie a few days before without success. Bluegills? Well, the lake was loaded with runts and I’m not a fan of potato chip fillets.

Which left one option: bass.

It had been years since I put a knife to a bass, largemouth or smallmouth, so the idea of killing a few for dinner was a bit unsettling though I couldn’t figure out why. It could be that catch & release has become so automatic for me that simple change may have been the difficulty. It could be that I’d put bass on a no-eat pedestal. I honestly didn’t know.

Originally Published on Jun 7, 2011 “From the Docks” NBC Sports

What I did know was that I left the dock armed with bass gear and in short order I had four from 12 to 15 inches in the live well.

Filleting the first one reminded me that bass have thick rib bones and a distinct odor, but other than that the finished fillet looked very similar to crappie.

I watched Karen when she took the first bite and her reaction was positive. “It’s great; exactly what I had a craving for,” she told me. It was only after dinner that I shared the fact that the main course was largemouth not crappie.

My decision to eat bass was based on a couple things. One, I knew I could catch a few in short order. Secondly, I saw it as a way to improve bass fishing in the lake, which offered great numbers of small to medium size fish, but very few large fish. Would removing numbers of smaller fish allow more of the remaining fish to grow to larger sizes? Science suggests it would help if enough like-minded anglers harvested smaller fish.

In these days of slot limits and length limits and the proliferation of catch and release, the very idea of eating fish, especially bass, carries a stigma that simply is misplaced. In truth, harvesting fish is part of fisheries management and when done properly, is beneficial.

And bass fried golden brown does taste mighty good!