Can You Eat Rock Bass? (Explained)

Rock bass is one of those fish that most people don’t know what to do when they catch it. It’s small and unassuming but puts up a lot of fight for its size.

Some people have been pulling them out of the water for years but never tried to eat them.

Rock bass belongs to the Sunfish family, alongside bluegill, warmouth, and pumpkinseed, and like all of its cousins, it is an edible and relatively good fare for your table.

Can You Eat Rock Bass?

Yes, you can eat rock bass, although it is a very understated fish.

Although some people are concerned with parasites, like the ones that cause black spot or yellow grub[1], one can safely consume rock bass, especially after cooking.

Rock bass doesn’t contract parasites any more than trout or walleye.

Many adult anglers prefer not to eat rock bass because it is not the highest on their trophy fish list, and they simply can’t be bothered to prepare the small fish for cooking. 

Anglers usually consider rock bass a nuisance fish because it often goes for bait much larger than half its size designated for other species.

However, many anglers with offspring say rock bass fishing and eating is an excellent way to get their kids interested in fishing. 

Rock bass offers enough fight on a light- or ultralightweight tackle to keep the young angler entertained and later enjoy the meal they caught.

History of Rock Bass Eating 

Can You Eat Rock Bass?

Rock bass was first identified by Constantine Samuel Rafinesque in 1817. There is not much information on whether this fish was a popular table fare in those times.

However, in the late 1800s and early 1900s, there was a very intensive stocking of rock bass and shadow bass in eastern Oklahoma, and in the 1930s and 1940s of rock bass in Missouri[2].

Rock bass was primarily stocked for sportfishing, indicating that people already found it a good fish to eat, or at least to fish for (on purpose).

What Does Rock Bass Taste Like?

Rock bass, when cooked, has white meat. When done correctly, it has a mildly sweet taste that can appeal to people who don’t like a strong fishy taste.

When prepared and cooked with fish like bluegill or crappie, it tastes so similarly one can hardly tell the difference, if at all.

Many people don’t consider rock bass food because of its small size. Anglers think of rock bass more as a nuisance than a sport.

However, rock bass can reach 8 – 12 inches and some even more than a foot, so there should be enough meat on the fish to cook a meal if you get a few of them.

Depending on one’s taste, rock bass is as good as any other sunfish, although usually not high on the list of desired catches, like bass, pike, or walleye.

There is common agreement that rock bass will never achieve the level of walleye or bass taste, but in some circles, it beats crappie, carp, and perch.


The texture of cooked rock bass is firm and flaky. It is very similar to the texture of crappie, pumpkinseed, and a few other sunfish.

The rock bass’s texture is slightly different from the bluegill. Bluegill is more firm than rock bass, which is the only difference between them, texture and tastewise.

The reason for rock bass’s more “mushy” texture compared to the bluegill could be the slightly higher fat content in the rock bass meat. 

Nutritional Value of Rock Bass

One raw rock bass fillet – 124 g of fish

Energy154 cal
Fat4 g
incl. saturated1 g
Protein28 g
Sodium109 mg
Cholesterol128 mg
Vitamin A3% RDI
Calcium2% RDI
Iron7% RDI
RDD – Recommended Daily Intake

Rock Bass Health Benefits

Rock bass may be only a small fish, but, like many other white fish, it is a good source of healthy nutrition. 

Rock bass is rich in iron, and in your diet, it can greatly help with hemoglobin and myoglobin production in your blood.

Rock bass also contains a high level of protein, very essential to the human body. It can be a healthy and tasty substitute for a meal with red meat. 

The relatively small amount of sodium is important in proper doses to the human body, and one fillet of rock bass contains low sodium (less than 140 mg), which makes it a perfect dose.

The daily recommended intake for adult Americans is less than 2300 mg per day.

The cholesterol levels in rock bass fillets are relatively low and substitute the body production of cholesterol in moderate amounts.

Despite common fear of cholesterol, small amounts of it digested from rock bass fillet can actually help the human body lower the production of cholesterol.

How To Cook Rock Bass?

Because rock bass is a small fish, many people think there is only so much you can do with this fish.

That’s not entirely true. Rock bass is a mild-tasting fish and therefore is suitable to be cooked in many ways.

The most popular would be pan-frying or deep fat frying in a beer batter, but other options also produce a nice, good-tasting meal:

  • baking,
  • broiling,
  • poaching,
  • fish tacos,
  • sushi for more adventurous.

Smaller specimens can be cooked whole after cleaning and usually, after deep frying, can be eaten with bones.

Bigger specimens are good enough for filleting, although due to their relatively skinny sides, it takes a little bit of skill to separate the fillet from bones.

Final Thoughts

Small and mostly underestimated, rock bass is often overlooked as table fare. Many anglers don’t want to bother with the fish due to its size. Others treat it with annoyance when caught during bass or walleye fishing.

However, rock bass is a relatively tasty fish, and due to its mildly sweet taste, one can prepare it in many different ways.



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