Fish Filets For Winter Feasts

A couple hours of perch fishing....

A couple hours of perch fishing….

makes for a nice plate of filets.

makes for a nice plate of filets.

I usually fish for nothing other than small and largemouth bass. But when it comes to catching bass I practice catch and release. And this has always been a complaint with my wife. She loves eating fish as well as the next person. Finally, a few years back I made the decision to satisfy her pallet, not to mention mine.

One late Fall I was fishing smallmouth, and I couldn’t buy a bite. It was then I thought, why should this day be a total loss. Maybe I can catch a nice batch of perch. From time to time I had seen schools of them pass on my graph recorder screen, so it was just a matter of finding them again.

Not having any worms, I chose a small plastic minnow and cut it down to about an inch and a half so a perch could get it in its small mouth. I then I nose hooked it on a dropshot set up. (that’s a sinker at the end of the line, and the hook tied a foot or so up the line.) I found a school of perch in about 27 feet of water. Putting my boat over the top of them, I dropped my offering to the bottom. I was surprised that the bites were far and few in between. It was then I thought, maybe it might help if I apply some fish attractant to the plastic. Having a jar of garlic flavored Smelly Jelly in the boat, I smeared some on the bait. The rest is history. The bite was fast and furious. In a couple of hours I caught well over 50 perch, only keeping twenty or so that were ten inches and larger so as to get nice filets. That night the wife and I had a fish feast that had both of us contentedly patting our bellies. My wife then made me take a solemn oath that I would take a little time out of each day to catch more for future meals.  Now when the bass bite slows, I regularly spend an hour or two fishing for perch. And in the late fall before the weather gets too nasty, I devote my entire day to stocking our freezer for the winter.

Now it may sound as if catching perch is just a walk in the park, but that is not all together true. To prove this out, last fall a Game Department biologist was at the boat launch. She checked my icebox full of nice-sized perch and seemed surprised at my numbers. She said she had done a creel check on four other perch fishermen. None had more than five perch big enough to take home. Because I don’t want to make this a “how-to” fishing story, I won’t go into detail. But I have found little tricks that make my day far more successful.
I have since modified that first little plastic offering I used. I now have a small grub I pour myself, which I prefer using rather than worms or perch meat. The most important reason is unlike worms and perch strips, the perch don’t swallow the plastic, making for lip hooks and easy unhooking. I’ve heard of anglers using minnows, worms, perch meat, maggots, and even perch eyeballs. To be honest, I believe a good fish attractant is just as effective, and a heck of a lot less messy.

As far as preparing, my recepe is very simple. I dip my filets in egg and then shake them in flour before dropping them in hot vegetable oil. A crispy quick browning on each side, and they are done. I then season them to our tastes.

I have eaten walleye, which is a cousin of perch, but, personally, I think perch have a sweeter taste. And on light tackle they are actually fun to catch.

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4 thoughts on “Fish Filets For Winter Feasts

  1. Ah yes, the poor man’s walleye. I love to eat the perch too! They are excellent, and I rank them right up there with walleye and trout, for my favorites to eat. I usually catch them by accident, on a little plastic grub with a wiggly tail, on a jig. And they can be quite fun indeed on an ultra-lite rod. But like you, bass is the query of choice here in Minnesota too, and that’s mainly what I fish for as well. And like you, my people always ask me, when I return from my many trips afloat, where the fish are. I seldom keep them either, you see, and the non-fisherman in the family have the hardest time with that concept. They cannot gleam for the life of them why some one would suffer out in a boat all day, catch lots of fish, only to put them back again. I try to explain that it is far from suffering. That the gentle bob of the boat, and the tweety birds cavorting along the shore, and the wood smoke rising from the cabins is all soothing to me. That I like being away from telephones and the urban rush. And that there is sufficient thrill in having a good bass online, rod tip pulsing towards the abyss, landing the fish, maybe snap a photo, and then letting it go. I try to tell them these things, but to them, nary what I say, I just missed out on another fish dinner. And they just don’t get that.

    Even so, there are times not unlike your bride, where I get mighty fish hungry, and in turn I’ll keep a couple to satisfy the meat lust. And as I’m eating the fillets, I am reminded how good it is, and I wonder why I don’t keep fish more often. I really like your idea of stocking the freezer for winter. I am inspired! But if I never keep fish, I’m OK with that too. For like many a fishermen, I think I’m more in love with the process of fishing, than the actual fish. With that said tho, I’d eat a perch dinner right now!

    • I should have added a third photo of the filets after being fried to a golden brown. You’d probably be out on the lake right now.
      Having been a bass fisherman for some 35 years, I used to fish for them when they were considered a scrap fish up here in Washington State, and had no catch limit. And like others, I have pictures of me holding stringers of huge bass that today I would be embarrassed to show. And this “catch and keep” policy shows to this day. Back in the 70’s and 80’s almost any little lake kicked out 5 to 8 lb bass regularly. Now these same waters aren’t a shadow of what they once were. Hense, when it comes to bass, catch and release has become the thing to do. Perch, on the other hand, are so prolific, mulitiply so quickly, and have so few anglers actually fishing for them, that most lakes are actually over-populated, my favorite perch lake being no exception. So I’m quite sure that keeping all perch caught is most likely doing almost any lake a favor.

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