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Catch, Cook and Clean Bass

Oklahoma’s newest bass regulation goes into effect Sunday, September 11, bringing a welcomed treat to your lunch and dinner table. There is no longer a minimum length limit on largemouth and smallmouth bass in ponds and lakes. The daily limit of six (6) remains in effect and only one (1) may be over 16 inches.

This new rule seeks to improve the overall size and health of Oklahoma’s black bass population, primarily focusing on largemouth bass. ODWC recommends harvesting 8-inch to 15-inch largemouth bass, especially at lakes with an overabundance (see bottom of article for a list of top lakes).

Largemouth bass in this size range are the best to eat for a number of reasons.

First, it helps to sustain a healthy size structure in a body of water through less competition, meaning more food to go around. Fish can become stunted in small bodies of water. Also, the health of the bass population as well as the prey source declines when there are too many similarly sized mouths to feed.

Second, fish continue to grow for their entire life, but grow the fastest in the first few years. Eating fish under 16 inches means that the fish has had less time to accumulate elements like mercury in their meat that can pose health hazards to humans. Fish over 16 inches are great for catch and release, photos and trophy mounts.

Thirdly, smaller fish tend to have better tasting meat with a more desirable firm texture. Older, larger fish tend to have a fishier taste and mushier texture.

8-inch to 15-inch bass fillets are perfect for fried strips or bites. They also sear well in a pan for fish tacos. Whole fillets can be lightly seasoned and buttered and thrown on the grill, wrapped in foil, for a healthier option.

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