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What is a Channel Bass?

Rhonda Rivera
Rhonda Rivera

A channel bass is a medium-sized fish that lives in the Atlantic Ocean, usually relatively close to the coast of the United States. It is scientifically known as Sciaenops ocellatus, and is the only species within its genus. This type of fish can live for 60 years and weighs around 100 lbs (45 kg) in its old age. Younger fish — around three years old — normally weigh closer to 6 to 8 lbs (2.7 to 3.6 kg). These fish are bottom feeders, meaning they find food on or near the bottom of the body of water they live in.

Channel bass do not vary much in appearance. They generally have rust-colored scales along their back and sides, which earned them the common names red drums and redfish. A sure way of identifying this bass is by the black spot on the tail, however. Almost all channel bass have at least one distinct black spot on the very tip of the tail, which is believed to fool predators into thinking it is their head rather than their tail. Sometimes the fish have multiple spots, but it is extremely rare for this bass to have no spots at all.


Due to over-fishing for both recreational and commercial purposes, the population of channel bass noticeably diminished in the 1970s. The United States, the country which the bass are usually closest to, imposed restrictions to allow the fish population to reach healthier levels. These restrictions banned commercial fishermen from harvesting channel bass in certain regions of the country. Even so, the fish could usually be legally caught when fishing recreationally.

The flavor and texture of channel bass varies depending on the age and size of the fish. Fish around 10 lbs (4.5 kg) tend to have a moderate flavor and flaky texture similar to that of more commonly caught fish, such as catfish. If the fish is over 15 lbs (about 7 kg), not only is it difficult to clean but it usually loses its flakiness for a more solid texture.

Though these fish do not have close relatives, the black drum could be considered the channel bass's cousin. In general, the black drum's appearance can be very similar to channel bass. These fish have black scales on their back and sides rather than red- to rust-colored scales. Black drum also tend to weigh more compared to channel bass at the same age. Despite their differences, both species of fish are usually found in close proximity, can interbreed, and tend to have a similar taste when cooked.

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