Bass Fish - Recipes, Dishes and Definitions

Bass—A well known species of fish, especially adapted for culinary purposes on account of its shape and size as well as its firm meat and delicate flavor. There are four or five principal kinds chiefly used, the Black, Striped, Sea, Silver, and Spotted, of which the Black stands first.

The fresh-water basses are more numerous than the marine forms, but they are pigmies in size compared with the striped bass. It is claimed that the large-mouthed black bass attains a weight of twenty-five pounds in Florida; but its average weight, even in the South, which furnishes conditions most favorable to its growth, does not exceed five pounds.

The small-mouthed black bass seldom exceeds eight pounds in weight and averages scarcely more than two and a half pounds. The sea-bass is the smallest of the series, for it reaches a maximum of only six pounds, and this is attained on its offshore feeding-grounds where suitable “banks,” rocks, or sunken wrecks occur in deep water.

The striped bass is one of the largest, if not the largest, game-fish that ascends rivers from the sea. It is doubtful if even the king-salmon of the Pacific equals it in size.

The early writers upon New York fishes made particular mention of this fish, which was remarkable for its size and its excellent qualities for the table. Dr. Mitchill saw a dozen at a time, weighing fifty pounds each, in New York market nearly a century ago.

Dr. James Mease published an interesting account of the bass about the same time, in which he referred to individuals weighing sixty pounds. Dr. Capehart took one at Avoca, N. C., scaling ninety-five pounds; but the largest recorded specimen was said to weigh one hundred and twelve pounds.

On the Pacific coast it has not yet demonstrated its full limit of growth, and we seldom hear of one exceeding forty pounds; but there is no doubt that history will repeat itself in those prolific waters.

This bass has a long lease of life if we may judge from experience in the New York Aquarium, where many of its kind have flourished in captivity for eleven years or longer.

The striped bass has several smaller relatives, the white bass and the yellow bass of the fresh waters, and the white perch of the salt and brackish waters of the Atlantic coast.

All of these are game-fish with good food qualities. The white bass has been pronounced almost as good for the table as the black bass.

In European seas there is a fish which resembles the striped bass pretty closely, but without stripes. It is a highly prized food-fish, especially at the summer resorts on the north coast of France.

Anglers who are familiar with the basses need no argument to convince them of their many virtues. They are all beautiful and shapely fish, they furnish endless sport, and fill an important place in contributing to the food supply.

Their flesh is firm, flaky, and toothsome. The reason is not far to seek, for they subsist upon smaller fish, crustaceans, shell-fish, and other delicacies.

In the fresh waters they delight in minnows, crayfish, frogs, and insects and their larvae. In the ocean they find ample supplies of alewives, killies, silversides, anchovies, crabs, squid, clams, and mussels. Is it surprising that they rank among the very choicest in our markets and among the best trophies of the angler’s skill?

The records of the United States Fisheries Bureau show that it cost less than $5,000 to transplant shad and striped bass to the Pacific coast, and that the value of the catch of these two fish to the end of 1904 was $955,000, — a very good return for the investment and a clear illustration of the money value of these two favorite fishes.

The striped bass formed a very large share of this total, if we may judge from recent accounts of the fishing. At San Antonio Slough, for example, thirty miles from San Francisco, ten anglers caught 1,200 pounds of bass on a single tide.

One of the party said:

"I never saw the like ; they fill the water like a drove of sheep. It is dangerous to drive them inshore in shallow water with small boats. . . . Driven to the limit, they turned to seek deeper water, and in their attempts to escape many jumped upon the banks and some into the boats. . . . We had to finally seek deep water for safety,— put to ignominious flight by a horde of striped bass.”

The striped-bass angler on the Atlantic coast is never obliged to apologize for such a commercial catch, as the fish are nowhere plentiful enough to make it possible; but the bass are not always as far away from New York waters as one might suppose, and the initiated know where some of them are to be found even in the winter months.

It is not within the province of this chapter to discuss fishing-grounds and modes of capture of the fresh-water basses: all such topics and more will be handled in his own inimitable style by Mr. William C. Harris, whose name is a sufficient introduction for anything he proposes to write.

Neither is it intended to dwell upon the beauties of form, color, and motion to be observed in perfection among the basses: Mr. Rhead will portray these attributes with the same fidelity and affection which characterized his recent work upon that fairy among game-fishes, the Brook Trout.

There are some characteristic features, however, about the basses, which enhance the interest attached to their study, and which should not he omitted from this preliminary sketch. The marine basses and their fresh-water allies will be presented by the author of this Introduction.

The striped bass, huge as it is, starts from a very small beginning: before fertilization its egg is smaller than that of the shad, increases greatly in size after fertilization, and changes from a beautiful light green to a pale color. Spawning takes place from April to June, either in the rivers or in brackish waters of bays and sounds. The number of eggs is enormous, and yet our waters are nowhere overstocked with the fish, showing that there are many natural as well as artificial checks upon their undue increase.

The spawning-grounds in North Carolina have been located, and the conditions necessary to successful artificial hatching are understood. There is no reason why this noble fish should not be started at least on the way to multiplication; and, unless unforeseen natural obstacles intervene, fish-culture should soon score another brilliant success.

The sea-bass, sometimes called blackfish, or black sea-bass in New York, black Will in the Middle States, black perch in Massachusetts, and rock-bass at New Bedford, ranges along the coast from Massachusetts to Florida. It reaches a length of eighteen inches and a maximum weight of six pounds, and is considered one of the valuable food- fishes.

It has a voracious appetite and takes the hook with great freedom and regularity. Shrimp, crabs, sea-worms, squid, and small fishes form part of its food.

Around Cape Cod the sea-bass spawns in June. The egg is one twenty-sixth of an inch in diameter and hatches in five days in water of 59° or 60° F.

The young frequent the channels and shallow hays and are often taken in eel-pots. A narrow brown stripe along the middle of the side is a distinguishing mark. The rate of growth is rapid.

Large sea-bass love the vicinity of sunken wrecks and offshore banks where the bottom is rocky. In the breeding-season the adult male is gorgeously colored and wears a great fleshy hump on the nape.

There is a decided tendency toward sluggishness among the big ones, and a fondness for hiding in rock crevices in imitation of the tautog.

The large-mouthed black bass is one of the most voracious of the fresh-water fishes, and with its voracity is combined a swiftness of motion which brings disaster to its prey.

It feeds both at the surface and on the bottom, varying its diet with small fishes of all kinds, not excepting its own offspring, frogs, insects and their larvae, and any other water animals of proper size. In one of the Government’s fish-ponds at Washington, D. C., some years ago, about 100,000 young bass of this kind were being reared artificially.

Before these fish were removed in the fall, their number had been reduced by cannibalism to about 30,000. The majority of the young weighed about two or three ounces, but 500 of them weighed nearly half a pound each.

When placed in an aquarium, a bass of four and a half inches devoured seven others nearly as large as itself in one week. So much for cannibalism, and so much by way of explanation of the game qualities of the large-mouthed bass.

This bass spawns from April, or earlier, to July. During incubation the eggs adhere to stones in nests prepared by the adults, and are zealously guarded from enemies.

Hatching takes place in one week or two weeks according to the temperature of the water. The young remain in the nests for a week or ten days.

At the age of two weeks they measure about three quarters of an inch in length. The parents take excellent care of the young as long as they continue to swarm together, but as soon as they begin to separate and seek independence they are more likely to be devoured by their parents than by an outside enemy.

The hibernation which takes place in cold weather has also been observed in aquarium captives, which were known to decline food entirely in the winter. In summer the fish loves to lie under overhanging and brush-covered banks or concealed among the water-plants ready to pounce upon its prey.

The small-mouthed black bass is a lover of clear, pure, swift streams from the upper parts of the St. Lawrence basin and the Great Lakes region through the basin of the Mississippi. East of the Alleghanies it is native to the head waters of the Ocmulgee and the Chattahoochee.

North of these streams it has been introduced almost everywhere. It has been transplanted to Western States, to England, France, Germany, and Finland, — perhaps without success in the last-named country. This is very good evidence of the esteem in which the small-mouthed bass is held. There is no more popular fish in our fresh waters.

This bass, like its large-mouthed relative, is a nest-builder. Spawning occurs from March to July. The hatching occupies from seven to fourteen days. The eggs are very small and very adhesive; they are hound together in bands or ribbons and adhere to the stones of which the nest is constructed.

A single female will yield from 2,000 to 10,000 eggs, which vary from 80,000 to 100,000 to the quart. The nest and young are very carefully protected by both parents until the young cease swarming, after which the adults are not fit company for their own children, because they devour them as readily as they would any; other little fish.

At the age of three to five days the young are almost colorless, and so small that they can scarcely be seen; their length is only about a quarter of an inch. When about three or four months old their bodies are dull yellowish green, the sides mottled with darker spots which are sometimes arranged in short vertical bars.

The tail-fin is yellowish at the base, and bears a broad black band in its middle portion and a bright whitish margin behind.

The adults feed upon crayfish, frogs, insects and their larvae, minnows, and other aquatic creatures. They swim in schools and often seek the shelter of large rocks or sunken logs. Hibernation takes place in winter, as usual with their race.

With these fragmentary glimpses into the life and home of a coterie of game-fishes which stands unexcelled in the esteem of all good fishermen, the reader may confidently pass to the real purpose of this book, which is to remind the angler of happy days on limpid streams or rock-bound ocean shores, breathing pure air, reveling in warm sunshine, cheered by birds’ songs, and electrified by the indefinable thrill which foretells glorious victory over a noble foe.


Striped or Rock Bass

Striped or Rock Bass

BASS BROILED—The fish is chosen of as near a pound in weight as possible, if for club or restaurant use: scaled, trimmed, seasoned, scored slantwise, rolled in flour, brushed with melted butter or olive oil, broiled; served with a slice of broiled bacon, a spoonful of melted butter, slice of lemon, and a garnish of parsley. If used as a course of a dinner, before broiling it is filleted into portion pieces.

BASS FRIED — Prepared as the preceding, except it is not scored; fried a golden brown, and served as if broiled, or with tomato, anchovy or Genevoise sauces.

BASS BOILED—Scaled, trimmed, cut into portion pieces, placed into boiling water containing slices of carrot and onion, bay leaves, whole peppers, salt and a dash of vinegar; served with either butter, cream, parsley, shrimp, anchovy, oyster or hollandaise sauces; sometimes served with green peas.

BASS BAKED—Scaled, trimmed, (left whole for restaurant and cut in portions if for hotel use), placed in pan, seasoned with wine, broth, oil, salt, pepper and minced shallots, sheet of oiled paper put over, baked; when nearly done, equal quantities of parsley and espagnole sauces added to the pan; the fish served with the sauce. (called, Bass à la Conde).

BASS BRAISED—Prepared as the preceding, placed in pan or sautoir containing slices of carrot, onion, celery and parsley, with enough Bordelaise sauce to moisten the fish, braised slowly till done; served with the sauce and garnished with shrimps. (called, Bass à la Bordelaise).

BASS BRAISED—The fish cut into fillets, lard- ed, braised in equal parts of tomato and béchamel sauces; when cooked, the sauce poured into saucepan, and added to it some Purée of mushrooms, lobster roe, sliced truffles and Sauterne wine; the fish served with the sauce, and garnished with fish quenelles, (called, bass à la Chambord).

BASS Sauté—The fish prepared as for frying, rolled in flour, and fried plain; a little gravy made in the pan the fish was fried in with flour and fish broth, and served with the fish, garnished with fancy potatoes, (called bass à la Meuniére).

BASS CROQUETTES—Cold cooked bass with the skin and bones removed, then picked and put in a thick fish cream sauce, seasoned with anchovy essence, salt, pepper and grated nutmeg, allowed to become cold, shaped into croquettes, breaded, fried, and served with either tomato, bordelaise, genoise or anchovy sauces, garnished with parsley and sliced lemon.


  • 1 1/2 pounds fillets of bass
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 3/4 cup fish broth
  • 1 scallion, minced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 3 mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 dozen clams, or oysters
  • 1/2 cup lobster meat, diced


Lay fillets in oiled earthenware casserole. Add wine and broth made from boiling fish bones and heads; sprinkle with scallion and season with salt and pepper.

Dot with 2 tablespoons of the butter. Cover closely and bake, or cook on top of stove. Brown mushrooms slightly in remaining butter; add flour, stir until well mixed; add broth from fish and thin with a little clam or oyster liquor; season, and boil 5 minutes.

Have clams or oysters already poached. Add lobster meat to sauce and bring to a boil. Add oysters or clams, pour sauce over fish and serve in casserole.


  • 3-pound sea bass or other firm-fleshed fish
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 garlic clove
  • 1 tablespoon minced parsley
  • 1/4 cup butter

Wash and dry fish, rub with garlic, and then with salt and pepper, inside and out. Lay in buttered baking dish. Arrange peeled and chopped tomatoes on top so as to cover. Dot with parsley and butter, and bake 20-25 minutes.


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