I love White Perch fishing. They are the easiest fish to catch in the Chesapeake. And one of the most underrated food fish anywhere. They don’t have as bad a reputation as say Bluefish. But don’t get much respect. And it’s too bad their pure white flaky meat is delectable. I’d put them up against any fish anywhere. Crappie are a close rival though.
White Perch can be be found from Maine to South Carolina. Most all tidal rivers up and down the eastern seaboard are going to have White Perch. And there are some pockets where they have been introduced in the Midwest.
Some of my fondest memories as a child are perch fishing with my Uncle Eddie and twi cousins on the small creek off the Potomac River I grew up on. They are very prolific, even to the point of being a nuisance in some cases. They are hard to over fish, sometimes you can catch them 2 at a time.
Another reason I am very fond of them is that I can take my son or a friend on any given Saturday from May through October and come home with a mess of fish. They eat a variety of cut and artificial baits. Not much skill is needed. And boy they are fun.
They are most readily found around trees in the water, duck blinds, rocky and grassy shorelines. They can also be found on oyster beds, ledges and drop offs where shallow water runs into a main channel. Creek mouths and guts in the marsh can hold them as well. Sometimes bigger perch can be found in the deeper spots. But there are plenty around all over.
To start out try a high low rig with 1oz of weight. This is simply a higher hook and a lower hook. The lower hook will hold the bait around the bottom while the higher hook will be about 1’ off the bottom. Bloodworms, peeler crabs or squid will give plenty of action.
For artificials cast small spinner baits or beetle spins around dock pilings and downed trees where the branches meet the water. There are some small spinnerbaits about 1/4oz called Perch Pounders that work well.
The easiest way to clean perch is to scale, gut and pull the gills. Leave the head on, it’s just an extra unneeded step. If you want skinless boneless fillets for a fry, fillet them just like any other small fish. No need to scale first when filleting.
You can soak the fillets in mildly salted water overnight if you wish. But they are good right away just the same.
I like to crush up Saltine crackers, pretty fine. But no finer than by hand. Mix with about equal amount of corn meal. Use three or four eggs scrambled as an egg wash. I dump all the fillets in the egg wash. Coat well. Then dip them one by one in the Saltine/cornmeal mix. I don’t like thick breading, so I don’t double dip and I don’t like a wet batter either. An alternative is eggwash and Panko breadcrumbs. You might be impressed by the Panko.
I pan fry in either my no8 or no10 skillets and prefer either peanut oil or pasture raised hog lard. I don’t like vegetable oils and I certainly don’t like Crisco which is an industrial product that isn’t even edible until it goes through a transformation process. Stick with the natural oils.
I like them with cocktail sauce. But as a change-up try them with a couple shots of hot-sauce and a squeeze of lemon juice. That one will surprise you. Of course there should be fries and coleslaw. I really like sauerkraut with them too for some reason. Or ginger Old Bay slaw. Might do a post on that one if there is any interest.