Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research


The bass is delicious and expensive and a lot of anglers try to catch it.

Returning from winter quarters

April is the month the bass returns to the Wadden Sea from its winter quarters and spawning grounds south of England. The fish are hungry and are looking for the abundant soft crab. April is also the month the crabs become active after a winter in the deeper waters of the Wadden- and North Sea. Being active for a crab means growing, and growing means moulting. The animal crawls out of his scale and the new scale hardens within a few hours. In the meantime, the crab is ‘soft’ and good food for fishes. After a few weeks all the crabs have moulted, the soft crabs are gone and the bass has to change its diet to fish. By the age of 20, the bass can be a meter long with a weight of 10 kilos.

Enzyme system

The bass is a fish that I like. It tastes good, but we also have something in common: the temperature of the seawater has to be over 21°C before we will comfortably swim in it. This means that the bass has an enzyme system that works best at 22°C. The fact that the temperature in the western Wadden Sea has risen in the last 30 years means the bass can live here more easily. Indeed, since 1990 the species has become more abundant. But it also means more people are after the bass. The fish is delicious and expensive and a lot of anglers try to catch it; along the beach one can see so many gill nets waiting for it that the coast anglers hardly have a chance. Because so many people try to catch the bass, it is only permitted to take one home for dinner per day, and there are even plans to stop this too.

The good news is that last autumn, near the southern point of Texel, we saw hundreds and hundreds of young bass of a few cm long. I do not think the species will be extinct within the coming few years, though we should never underestimate what man is capable of.