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Making due with tiny perch

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I got adventurous yesterday and tried a lake that experienced a bad kill during the winter of 2013/14. In a perfect world, I would discover that the die off was partial and this was now a pike wonderland. In reality, I found that every hole I cut, at every depth I tried was thick with tiny perch (some as large as 3.5"!) The deeper water fish were not looking healthy upon release and I don't like to kill something and not eat it, so the lightbulb turned on...

These may as well be smelt. Why not head and gut them, fry with the skin and bones intact and see if they are good? Quick sidenote, I have tried fried smelt a few times and didn't particularly like them, but I've never had them fresh. They've always been from the supermarket. Not a fair test.

I kept a dozen perch. When I got home and got started cleaning, I found almost every perch was full of eggs, so I added the egg sacks to my frying plan. Cleaning took no time at all. I gave 'em a quick bath in saltwater, wiped all down with a paper towel, tossed in a ziplock with flour and cajun seasoning (left it to sit for a few minutes to allow some salt to soak in, and submerged in boiling canola oil for about 5 minutes.

Paired with a beer. And the moment of truth...

Holy cow, those little guys came out tasty! They were very crispy. The tails fins and bones all crunched nicely. I was worried I might stab my mouth, but this wasn't a problem at all. These would be perfect for dipping sauce, but I hadn't planned that in advance.

I was really glad I decided to give it a shot. 

In case I do this again, does anyone have any insight to share? Favorite accompaniments, seasonings, alternate little species, etc?

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awsome, i love the smelt frys!!!  i woould have thought ud need to scale.them first, but being so young and small certaily no need


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The scales were my question, too... Did you bother to scale them???  I remember eating skin-on sunnies when I was a kid and a few scales were missed.  I remember them getting stuck in the back of my throat like a popcorn husk and I couldn't get rid of it.  Ever since I've always filleted my panfish. Perhaps these little guys were just so small it doesn't matter.

It's a cool idea, thanks for sharing, I could've used this idea a couple of weeks ago when my buddies and I fished a small lake for the first time that was supposebly filled with sunnies, crappies and pike. Drilled a hundred holes between us, I bet.  Could not mark a single fish anywhere from 5 - 60ft and no hits on tip-ups but the lake was carpeted with 3" perch.  every hole had tiny perch at the very bottom.

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10 minutes ago, delcecchi said:

A limit of 3 inch sunnies doesn't go very far. 

especially if the lake has a 5 fish limit!!!!!!!!!!!!:D

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2 minutes ago, Boar said:

well smurf yu know dang well a five fish limit for u is a pipe dream muchless  a one fish limit.:P:P

go kiss a pout!!!!!!!!!!:P:D

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