Nutritional Value of Sportfish

Fish and Lake Management
at some bass, they are healthy.
at some bass, they are healthy.

There is much information extolling the benefits of eating fish available in today's supermarkets and restaurants, but most pond owners probably have not thought much about the nutritional # value of the sunfish and bass that they catch, butcher, cook, and eat.

A recent task required me to compare the nutritional value of farmed shrimp to chicken meat. While doing this, I came across some information from various sources about the nutritional value of sunfish and bass meat. This information was pieced together to provide a fairly complete listing of the nutritional profiles of sunfish and bass. I believe that some might enjoy seeing a side-by-side comparison of the amounts of nutrients in equal-sized portions of raw chicken breast meat, raw sunfish fillets, and raw bass fillets.

Table 1

In Table 1, there is a summary of the amounts of energy (calories), protein, fat, and minerals in the three types of meat. Bass and sunfish fillets were slightly higher in protein content than chicken breast. Sunfish were very low in fat, but bass contained more fat than did chicken meat. Because the ratios of polyunsaturated fatty acids to saturated fatty acids in bluegill fillets (1.67) and in bass fillets (1.32) were higher than in chicken breast (0.75), the fish fillets would be of greater cardiovascular benefit than would chicken breast meat in human diets. The omega-3 fatty acids, also of cardiovascular benefit, were in greatest quantity in bass fillets but at lower amounts in sunfish fillets than in chicken beast. Cholesterol was slightly higher in the two fish meats than in chicken breast.

The calcium amounts in sunfish and bass fillets were equal and of much greater content than in chicken breast (Table 1). Other minerals in the two types of fish fillets were similar in or of greater quantity with respect to their contents in chicken breast.

Table 2

The amounts of essential amino acids and vitamins are presented in Table 2. The amino acid histidine content was slightly lower in fish fillets than in chicken breast. The other essential amino acids were equal or slightly higher in content in the fish fillets than in chicken breast. This reflects the slightly greater amount of protein in fish fillets than in chicken breast (Table 1). There likely was some type of error related to the measurement of the quantity of isoleucine in sunfish fillets because the amount is almost twice that of bass fillets. This is peculiar and unexpected because all the other essential amino acid quantities were similar between the two types of fish fillets.

The digestibility of protein in fish fillets is within the same range as found for chicken meat. This and the comparable amino acid concentrations suggest that protein quality is as good in sunfish and bass fillets as in chicken breast.

The amounts of several important vitamins are given in Table 2. Both sunfish and bass fillets had larger amounts of vitamin C, thiamin, and vitamin B12 than did chicken breast. They were slightly lower is riboflavin and much lower in vitamin B6 compared to chicken breast. Vitamin A had a considerably greater content in sunfish fillets than either bass fillets or chicken breast, which were roughly equal in vitamin A.

The information in Tables 1 and 2 reveal that sunfish and bass fillets are at least equal or possibly superior to chicken breast in overall nutritional quality. There likely also are some cardiovascular benefits to sunfish and bass, assuming they are eaten more than occasionally. Pond owners might want to consider partaking more frequently of the fruit of their ponds. 

Dr. Claude Boyd is a professor emeritus in the School of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Aquatic Sciences, Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama 36849. His work with water quality is internationally renowned. His most recent book, Handbook for Aquaculture Water Quality, is a must for anyone interested in learning about water chemistry and how it relates to your pond. It's technical, and thorough, but easy to read and understand. Buy it at in the online store. 

Reprinted with permission from Pond Boss Magazine