Last updated on November 21, 2023 by Liza Hawkins
This pan seared striped bass, marinated in an aromatic blend of citrus and herbs, is a simple and flavorful addition to your weeknight meal plan!
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Years ago we used to spend a week or two at Smith Mountain Lake in Virginia for family vacation.
Gorgeous dark green trees line the five hundred miles of shoreline, and houses play hide and seek along the steep hills that surround the water.
An ideal relaxation spot, and a throwback to the good ol’ days when swimming, fishing and wild imaginations were enough to make kids happy during a family vacation.
One of our rental houses had a whimsical view of the lake, almost as though we were perched high up in a tree house with a picture frame through the leaves.
A little wisp of beach lined the bottom of our property’s sloping yard, making the perfect play spot for our young kids. We have a soft spot for lake vacations, even though beach vacations at the ocean are also a family favorite.
Catching Striped Bass
One year, my husband borrowed a small boat from a friend, which we were able to dock right at our house.
His goal? Catch enough fish for one family meal during the week we were at Smith Mountain Lake.
And catch enough, he sure did! Even though he broke the rod pulling this lovely striped bass into the boat, once cleaned up (by yours truly and my mother, might I add), this single giant striper was enough to feed four hungry adults.
Prepping and Cooking Striped Bass
I won’t go into the details of actually cleaning and prepping the striped bass, but I will say that it took some muscle and involved knives and “man hands,” for all you Seinfeld fans. (Definitely not for the squeamish.)
Ah … yes. Borrowing a technique from Anne Burrell, I decided a nice sear would go perfect after giving the fillets time to soak in the marinade.
More About That Bass
When it comes to bass fish varieties, it can be a bit of a fishing adventure! Let’s dive a little deeper.
Striped Bass (Morone saxatilis): These guys are the rockstars of the bass world. Striped bass, colloquially known as “stripers,” have distinct dark stripes along their bodies, hence the name. They’re anadromous, meaning they can live in both salt and fresh water, and the flesh is white and flaky — nearly buttery in flavor without being oily or fishy.
Stripers are known for their size and strength, making them a prized catch among anglers. They’re found along the Atlantic coast and can venture into freshwater rivers to spawn.
Largemouth Bass (Micropterus salmoides): Now, shifting gears to another popular bass, the largemouth bass. These guys are freshwater champs and are easily recognizable by their large mouths that extend beyond their eyes. Some can tip the scales at over 20 pounds!
They’re savvy predators, lurking in submerged structures like logs and underwater vegetation, waiting for unsuspecting prey to swim by. They’re a favorite among anglers in lakes and rivers, especially in North America.
Smallmouth Bass (Micropterus dolomieu): On the flip side, smallmouth bass may be littler, but what they lack in heft, they make up for in agility and acrobatics. These bronze-backed beauties are known for their aerial displays when hooked, leaping out of the water in a spirited attempt to shake free. Smallmouth bass thrive in clearer, rockier waters, making them a favorite catch in rivers and lakes with rocky bottoms.
In a nutshell, while striped bass and “striper” are often used interchangeably, the former refers to the species, and the latter is just a cool nickname for these impressive fish. Largemouth and smallmouth bass, on the other hand, are freshwater delights with their own unique characteristics. Happy fishing!
Use the freshest striped bass (a.k.a. "striper") you can find for this recipe!
- 6 4oz striped bass fillets, 1″ thick, skin on
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil + 1/4 cup for the pan
- 1 lemon, juiced and zested
- 2 Clementines, juiced and zested
- 1 teaspoon salt + 1/4 teaspoon
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup white wine (make sure it tastes good enough to drink)
- 1 lemon, sliced
- Place the bass fillets skin side down in a baking dish large enough to hold them without overlapping too much.
- Whisk together 1/2 cup olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt with the remaining ingredients (except the sliced lemon) and pour the marinade over the bass, taking care to make sure each piece gets coated. Lay the lemon slices on top, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
- Take the bass out of the fridge 15 minutes before you’re ready to cook and pat the skin dry. Set aside on a plate to rest.
- Heat a large sautée pan over medium-high heat and add the 1/4 cup olive oil. Rub the bottom of a medium sautée pan (yes, the bottom—trust me here) with just enough olive oil to lightly coat it. Pour the marinade into a small sauce pot, add 1/4 teaspoon salt, and heat until bubbly over medium while you sear the fillets.
- When the large pan’s good and hot, add 3 of the fillets, skin side down. Place the medium pan on top of the fillets and press down gently. This keeps the bass from curling up, helping the skin get good and crispy. Cook for 4 minutes and then remove the medium pan. Continue cooking for 2 more minutes, then use a spatula to gently flip the fillets. Finish cooking for 2 more minutes and then remove from the pan.
- Repeat the searing process with the remaining 3 bass fillets, and serve with the warmed marinade.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 348Total Fat: 18gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 14gCholesterol: 80mgSodium: 663mgCarbohydrates: 8gFiber: 1gSugar: 4gProtein: 37g