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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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  • Your Responses - Share & Have Fun :)

    •     I guess when I made that statement I was wrongly assuming it would be much colder than that. In that case, it should be a nice October game just like a couple years ago at TCF. 
    • I went back the next day hoping the slush froze.  No such luck i guess water wont freeze at 31 below zero.  Sunday i tried moving my fishouse.  I kept breaking threw the slush. We hooked 3 widetracks together to my fishouse and still had to jerk the heck out of it to get it out. I did get a few crappies Saturday afternoon.  We picked up 26 crappies. 
    • Finally made it to morson over the weekend.  Fishing didn't go as planned it was extremely cold on Saturday. Ended up with a epic stuck Saturday morning it was 31 below zero when i found some major water . I was pulling my alumalite fishouse on the way to go crappie fishing  I had to jack fishouse out of the water and set it on blocks. I then packed the slush down with my widetrak  i even used my trail groomer to pack it down. I let it sit tell Sunday afternoon to freeze down.
    • See details and join the conversation at the link below.    
    •     Ice fishing in Wisconsin can be a challenge at times. Catching walleyes is not always an easy task either. We had some crazy weather leading up to this weekend, it was -20 degrees for a solid week and a half, followed by 2-3 days of mid 30s and pushing 40 plus some rain, then we went right back down to -20 degrees.   This made for a challenge fishing tip ups this morning. I’ve got some new hole covers for my Finicky Foolers, which do work great as I’ve used them before, but unfortunately with no snow cover I made the mistake of not setting them right away and forming slush to the cover. Lesson learned. I did get a bit lucky catching that walleye as I thought it would have dropped the minnow with the line being froze.   The first fish I caught was definitely a surprise, a species I have never caught through the ice before, although I have heard they are fairly common to catch out on this lake. Still was hoping it was a giant walleye, but fun nonetheless!   With the cold we weren’t really planning on moving much. We would mark fish every 10 minutes or so but many of them were tight lipped. We did manage a couple more fish jigging, which were some good sized crappie and perch!   Overall I did end up accomplishing the goal of catching a slot walleye out here, so can’t complain.   I will be out on Petenwell Lake more times this winter!
    • Drilled the holes first then set the sleeves down seemed to work a lot better...just have to make sure you mark your holes lol
    • A nice bite continues with anglers catching all sizes of walleyes and saugers.  Most of the action on the south shore is in 24-30' of water.  Daytime bite continues thanks to stained waters of LOW.  There has been a good morning evening bite in 15-17' as well.  Resorts and outfitters keeping ice roads in good shape. One two punch of jigging line and dead stick (hook/jig with live minnow under bobber) effective as is the use of electronics to mark fish. Jigging spoons in gold, glow, glow red and pink uv.  Small rippin raps also good. If not fishing in a resort fish house, auger extension could be necessary in spots where ice is layered.  Snowmobilers stay on marked trail, big ice chunks off of trail.   Rainy River pushing out some nice walleyes with an occasional sturgeon through the ice.  Fish houses along the snowmobile trail from Wheeler's Point to Baudette Bay.  Morning, evening bite most effective.     The NW Angle also has good ice conditions where resorts have ice roads / trails and fishing has remained great. Ice road goes to Flag and Oak Island from Young's Bay. Good walleyes in 22-28' with saugers and perch in water deeper than 26'. Combo of jigging spoons and dead sticks with a jig and minnow effective.  Resorts are guiding anglers to slab crappies on the Ontario side of lake. Preserve the resource, catch your crappies, move on to walleyes or another species as mortality rate is high for released crappies in 25' or deeper.  Snowmobile trails on and around the lake are marked and groomed.  
    • I believe I picked that one up at Red Rock Wilderness Store.  It’s located east of Ely on the Fernberg.   Good thing is he does have an on line store too. 
  • MWO