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Eating Smallmouth First Time In 15 Years...


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Up here in Minnesota, we have a huge lake (128k acres) known as a walleye factory - Mille Lacs.  Due to many OTHER factors, the lake's walleye population has gone down considerably in the past couple years.  However they are looking for a scapegoat and taking it out on the smallmouth population.  The lake also became a trophy smallmouth lake in the past decade with the average fish close to 18 inches, and many 20++ fish swimming around.  So, the walleye avid here decided that the reason the population was down was because the smallmouth were eating all the walleye fry.  

 

The walleye anglers influenced the DNR here to reduce the smallmouth population by opening up the limit of smallies to 6 per day.  All the launch boats are taking out big groups to catch the smallmouth now, walleye fishermen catch smallies and keep them only to throw in dumpsters, etc.  

 

Bottom line, all these smallmouth being kept are being opened up and they are not finding any walleye fry in their bellies - basically just crayfish.  But they are harvesting them in record numbers anyway.  All the resorts and walleye fishermen are having smallmouth fish frys, serving at restaurants, etc.  And the word is - they don't taste good...but lets get rid of them anyway.

 

Lots of controversy and tension up here on the walleye vs. smallmouth thing.  Walleye is king here despite a lake the might have had the next state or world record bronzeback.  But to address the OP, there has been widespread harvesting of smallmouth in clean, clear northern waters, with smallmouth of all sizes - 12 to 22 inches... prepared a number of different ways... and no they aren't a good tasting fish.  You have to wash them down with a lot of cold beer.  Better to stick to eating crappies, perch and walleyes (where available).  

 

I fish in the mille lacs area a lot and I havent seen any of the launches - "charter boats" targeting smallies for this reason because and the limit on that lake is ONE smallmouth over 18" and a total of 6 bass large/smallmouth combined. Also the Launch pilots make a living on the lake and dont throw fish away like that, not have I heard that the Walleye fisherman are or were blaming the smallmouth, the blame is currently being put on the northern pike population so they have raised the limit to 10...YES T-E-N pike, when the state limit is 3!  Also they dont allow ANY Live-well sorting - "Culling" of fish.

 

Here is the link to the regs for that lake http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/fishing/millelacs.html

They have the right idea for the bass population and they are working on the walleyes as well.

 

For what its worth I usually fish on the smaller lakes around Mille Lacs and do eat Bass, Walleye, Northern Pike, Crappie, Perch, and Sunfish. I can say that to me all fish taste better when on the smaller side. Bass and Walleye around 1-2lb, northerns around 4-8lb, and any panfish worth filleting. I do enjoy bass fishing and prefer to practice CPR but I also enjoy the taste of fish so I prefer to keep the smaller fish for eating and any fish that wont survive the catching process.  If I catch 2 walleye 2 LMB, and 2 SMB and cleaned then and filleted them I would have a hard time telling which was which. The water around central minnesota is quite clean and you can see down 14-18 feet on most lakes. maybe that has something to do with it...maybe it doesnt and Im just tastebud-retarded... I dont know.  I do know that the larger fish taste "fishy-ier" than the smaller fish.

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I actually don't like to eat fish that much, and bass are way down on the list.  I haven't kept and eaten one in decades, so I don't know if it is still true, but in upstate NY, by the time smallies were legal to keep, they were invariably loaded with parasites.

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Thank all the world wide tankers / freighters for that condition of our fish.  We have almost every thing alive world wide now.  The amount of marine reports numbers in the thousands. Very detailed.  I cook everything.  BUUT   long hot cooking does not kill everything.

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On 8/17/2015 at 12:53 PM, FryDog62 said:

I think the under-eaten fish are the small northern pike.  If you learn how to remove the Y bones, the meat is on par (some think even better) than walleye.  Less small pike in the 2-4 pound range is usually a good thing in most lakes up here.  Hard to imagine those that throw the 3 pound pike back and keep the 4 pound smallmouth to eat but some actually do and think its a good thing!  

Yeah, as voracious as those 2-4lb are. I would imagine they are doing 2-3 times the damage of a smallie. In my local home stream, northern are becoming prevelant in that range. Im also having a much harder time catching smallies. I really need to start keeping some as i have been often told they rank up with walleye.

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Wow!  Pulled this thread out of the archives?. I am amazed at how civil the original discussion was and I am wondering if attitudes have changed.  Seems that nowadays legally eating a bass, largemouth or smallmouth, gets a heated response.  I have eaten smallmouth twice in my 50 years of fishing.  I have eaten a lot of freshwater fish from panfish, crappie, pike, catfish, perch, walleye, spoonbill, snakehead, bullhead, rock bass, and even carp.  You haven’t lived until you have had carp from Joe Tess. https://www.joetessplace.com/   He has branched out since my younger days.  Smallmouth are my favorite fish to catch and the two times I have eaten them I was fairly unimpressed.  They were ok but I would much rather eat a lot of other species.  

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I knew a guy once who had a secret recipe for fried bass that actually made them taste good.  He added a whole lot of herbs and spices.  Outside of his, I don't like them.  So I know they can be made to taste good.  I just don't know how.  

 

If I want to eat what I catch, I'll fish for crappie or walleye.  I won't even eat local catfish due to all of the mud in the water.  

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If I keep fish to eat, I much prefer to keep fish I don't have to try hard to make taste good!  ?

My cooking skills make it problematic for anything I prepare to taste good...

 

But back to the smallmouth...  You would think a fish who's diet is predominantly crayfish would taste really, really good!

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Quite honestly my favorite freshwater eating fish is jumbo perch. But I haven’t gotten into a bunch of those in many years. The fish that needs to be harvested more here are still the small pike. The daily bag limit is 10 and they are decent eating if you know how to clean one properly.

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Bass just are not good table fair compared to other delicious tasting fish.

6 hours ago, Bankc said:

I knew a guy once who had a secret recipe for fried bass that actually made them taste good.  He added a whole lot of herbs and spices.  

 

 

 

If it were not for "herbs and spices" you would not be able to eat most Japanese dishes.

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7 hours ago, desmobob said:

 

If I keep fish to eat, I much prefer to keep fish I don't have to try hard to make taste good!  ?

My cooking skills make it problematic for anything I prepare to taste good...

 

But back to the smallmouth...  You would think a fish who's diet is predominantly crayfish would taste really, really good!

You would be correct! Shake in cornmeal and fry in veggie oil and they are top notch, easiest thing in the world to cook 

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My perch only neighbor is wet in egg & coat with flour.  Out standing when caught before lunch & eaten for lunch. No seasoning . ?

 

 I keep them on a stringer in the water. Lift them out lay in the transom water for the 4 minute ride to the dock. In the water until he shows up with the cart. 2 minutes in a wetted Plastic bag. He fillets them  alive. The meat smells SWEET . Almost like sugar.  A day later they do not have that sweet aroma.

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Pike are excellent eating fish.  You have to fillet them a bit differently but it's worth it.

 

I have read about pickling pike, which dissolves the bones, but I've never tried it.

 

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When I was in college in NW Tennessee, I ate of lot of largemouth taken from local farm ponds.  These days, I wouldn't eat anything I catch around here.  When I go to Ontario I'll keep a couple of smallies to bring home.  Fish in the 12 to 14 inch range.  I find nothing wrong with them.  They're excellent eating.  I just drop them in beaten eggs or Egg Beaters and dredge them in fine cornmeal and Wondra flour seasoned with a bit of black pepper and sea salt.  Fry them in hot peanut or corn oil. Not quite as good as walleye, probably on the same level as pike or maybe a bit better.

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I really don't eat freshwater fish. I know that i'm missing out on some good eats, but i don't like to fish for panfish, and the lakes i fish don't have many (if any) walleyes. I have read that if you are taking fish to eat there are a few steps to keep the fish tasty. Bonk them dead with a mini baseball bat and throw them in a cooler (with ice) on top of newspapers. Not directly on ice. A long slow death (as kept on a stringer, or in a "livewell") allows time for the juices they use to try to stay alive taint the meat.  It sounded logical to me, and if i ever do plan to eat some, thats how i would do it.

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Im glad no one is freaking out about this post, while advocate for catch and release of smallies in my small water bodies, i would never hold it against someone for harvesting something to eat w/in reason. 
it is very similar the harvesting small bucks debate. Yes from a management standpoint, young bucks should walk. But in the process we lose the sight of why we are out there, part of the enjoyment for many is harvesting and eating game. As long is it is done responsibly, its well within their rights.

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When I was a kid we ate all the fish we caught. LMB and SMB were by far the favorites. These days I release 99.9% of the bass I catch just for conservation reasons. Once in a while I'll treat myself to a fish that is badly hooked. We have a slot limit on the river so I'll make a couple meals/year out of fish smaller than 12". I also have a new private quarry that I have permission to fish. There seem to be a million dinks in there so I took a meal out of there.

 

Some years back when I fist mostly stopped eating bass I temporarily lost my motivation to catch them. My wife and I did some crappie fishing. Let me tell you crappies get an awful lot of pressure around here. I caught plenty but they're almost all dinks. No fun in catching dink crappies. Apparently our DNR thinks that 9" is a decent crappie but they're in the business of selling licenses. 9" is a DINK.

 

That was the end of my crappie fishing...at least around here. Once or twice/year my wife makes me take her out for some bluegills. We have a couple of places where we can get a few that are half way decent sized...not good but not terrible.

 

So the bass are my favorite to catch and my favorite to eat...I just refrain (usually).

6 hours ago, Bdnoble84 said:

Im glad no one is freaking out about this post, while advocate for catch and release of smallies in my small water bodies, i would never hold it against someone for harvesting something to eat w/in reason. 
it is very similar the harvesting small bucks debate. Yes from a management standpoint, young bucks should walk. But in the process we lose the sight of why we are out there, part of the enjoyment for many is harvesting and eating game. As long is it is done responsibly, its well within their rights.

The last buck I shot (I hunt with longbow or recurve) was a large bodied deer but only had 2 or 3 points on one side and the other side was busted off. He had a busted lower leg that was just hanging by a piece of skin but otherwise mostly healed. He came through chasing two does at about a 100 miles/hour...on three legs. For some reason he stopped in a lane where I had a shot so I took him. That's kind of what predators do.

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I view the putting food on the table a big thing.  in  Clayton N Y area a lot of live off the land people fish for money & food. Short summers & growing seasons. More people each year.

 

I do not report them to any agency.

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18 hours ago, Bdnoble84 said:

Im glad no one is freaking out about this post, while advocate for catch and release of smallies in my small water bodies, i would never hold it against someone for harvesting something to eat w/in reason. 
it is very similar the harvesting small bucks debate. Yes from a management standpoint, young bucks should walk. But in the process we lose the sight of why we are out there, part of the enjoyment for many is harvesting and eating game. As long is it is done responsibly, its well within their rights.


While I do agree with you to a certain extent, the primary reason we all mostly have access to good bass fishing is because of the strong catch and release ethic amongst most bass anglers. I can personally tell you that if bass were harvested more often here in the north, their population would get decimated quickly. They are not stocked here and they take a long time to grow to size in our colder northern waters. Selective harvest of small bass is not an issue though.

 

The harvest of small bucks is another topic for another day but don’t complain about the lack of quality bucks if you continue to shoot spikes. Personally I prefer to shoot corn fed does because they simply taste better.

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24 minutes ago, gimruis said:


While I do agree with you to a certain extent, the primary reason we all mostly have access to good bass fishing is because of the strong catch and release ethic amongst most bass anglers. I can personally tell you that if bass were harvested more often here in the north, their population would get decimated quickly. They are not stocked here and they take a long time to grow to size in our colder northern waters. Selective harvest of small bass is not an issue though.

 

The harvest of small bucks is another topic for another day but don’t complain about the lack of quality bucks if you continue to shoot spikes. Personally I prefer to shoot corn fed does because they simply taste better.

Im not saying that it should be a common practice, I’m just saying some people take it to an extreme level chastizing people that are in it for the food aspect. I do beleive in management in the form of catch and release or passing on immature bucks. The purpose of my post was to express that i was happy noone was being chastized for occasional harvest of bass to consume them. I do not in any way condone over-harvesting. I do get upset when I hear anyone is harvesting smallmouth from my small stream because i dont feel it can support it.

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44 minutes ago, Bdnoble84 said:

I do get upset when I hear anyone is harvesting smallmouth from my small stream because i dont feel it can support it.

I’m the same way with a small river I fish in midsummer. Unfortunately I think the surplus of COVID crowd anglers to it last season resulted in a higher harvest of brown bass, and some of them being on the larger side. It will take years for it to come back. A 20 inch/5 pound smallmouth here takes a decade to reach that size. Those fish simply can’t be replaced anytime soon.

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23 minutes ago, MidwestBassin87 said:

Release the fish! Stop eating smallies. their to fun to catch to not release

Let’s refrain from telling people what to eat 

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