Wild Recipes

Baked Largemouth Bass with Rustic Tartar Sauce

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5.0 from 1 vote

Growing up on the Jersey shore, I was fortunate to have access to plentiful seafood. I did a good amount of freshwater panfishing as a kid, but it was my stepdad, an avid surf kayaker, who took me out on the brackish river one day for striped bass. The magnificent striper I caught inspired every one of my wild food endeavors since.

Two fish preparations are especially dear to me: My mom would lay pats of butter, lemon slices, garlic cloves, and herbs on thick striped bass filets and bake them, and my partner and I would bake or grill small bluefish slathered in mayonnaise, onions, and lemon pepper. This recipe makes me nostalgic for that time and place.

These days, I mostly fish a small neighborhood pond after work, I personally find largemouth bass to be a very clean-tasting, meaty fish, and I much prefer them to bluegill. My research has revealed that taking juvenile bass helps protect the emergent fry, conserve other food sources, and give the big breeders the chance to pass on their genes.

The two bass I caught for this recipe were hard-won. I swapped out my usual fly rod for a beat-up spinning rod and fought a strong dusty wind and choppy water to hook them with the little silver lure I dubbed the “Sexy Minnow.” I landed them just as a thunderstorm rolled in.

This dish is also a celebration of understated seasonal produce, especially alliums: sweet, purple spring onions and fresh green garlic leaves along with thyme and tarragon. The charismatic tomatoes, peppers, and squash are coming; enjoy these quiet offerings of spring.

It’s important to use a quality mayonnaise for this dish. We make our own with fresh local eggs; combine that with pureed green garlic leaves and fridge pickles and you’ve got a versatile, flavorful condiment. A few common pantry ingredients, a stroll through the farmer’s market, and a fun evening fishing are all you need to make something special.

Serving Size: 2-4 servings
Time to make: 35 minutes
Special equipment: immersion blender (if making your own mayo), electric chopper or food processor
Also works with: Other bass or firm, white-fleshed fish

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Baked Largemouth Bass with Rustic Tartar Sauce

Recipe by Heidi Chaya
5.0 from 1 vote
Course: Wild FishCuisine: American


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Cooking time


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  • For the tartar sauce
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise

  • 1/4 cup green garlic tops, chopped

  • 1/8 cup diced bread and butter pickles

  • 1 tablespoon nonpareil capers

  • 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves

  • 1 tsp lemon juice

  • Salt and pepper, to taste

  • For the fish
  • 2 pan-sized largemouth bass, cleaned and scaled

  • 2 purple spring onions, thinly sliced crosswise (bulbs and leaves)

  • 2 tsp tarragon

  • 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves

  • Salt and fresh cracked black pepper, to taste

  • Lemon wedges, for serving

  • Sides
  • Crusty bread

  • Steamed vegetables


  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Make your mayonnaise (if not using store-bought).
  • Combine all tartar sauce ingredients in an electric chopper or food processor and chop until well blended into an even consistency.
  • Place the fish in a baking dish. Coat the fish evenly in the tartar sauce, inside and out. Set aside unused tartar sauce for serving.
  • Sprinkle the tarragon, salt, and pepper over the fish and lay on the sliced onions.
  • Bake the fish for about 20 minutes, or until the flesh easily flakes with a fork.
  • Plate and serve with lemon wedges, additional tartare sauce, and crisp white wine.

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Heidi Chaya

Heidi Chaya is a food journalist, farmhand, and avid home cook. Her experiences living and working in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley provide her with many opportunities to expand her culinary horizons and continue to learn and grow through hunting, fishing, foraging, and farming.

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