Fresh perch fillets. Door County Shore Report photo
Fresh perch fillets. Door County Shore Report photo

I think the best fish dinner is still the one you catch yourself. And pan fish is the tastiest. 

Of course, they can be a pain to clean, especially if all you have are little ones. It can be hard to get all the bones out, which is why we always had to eat our fish dinner with bread on the table. “In case you ate a bone,” mom would say. 

The good news is that cooking up all those pan fish is pretty easy. You can cook the smallest fish whole. The bigger ones are great if you fillet them with a sharp knife and a lot of practice (one good catch usually does it) you can get to be pretty fast at the filleting part. 

Whenever “oil for frying” is called for, you should use the type of oil, or combination thereof, that will suit your taste and diet, such as canola, peanut or olive oil.

While we’re really talking about pan fish here, such as crappie, perch, bluegills, you can use these same recipes for a whitefish fillet and have good results.

Make sure, if you use frozen, they are completely thawed and then dabbed dry with a little paper toweling. Or buy fresh, of course. Thicker fish, like cod, work best in beer batter.

Bisquick Fried Fish    

Serves 2

  • 1 lb. fish fillets
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tbsp. water
  • 1/2 cup prepared Bisquick mix*
  • 2 Tbsps. ketchup
  • Oil for frying

Pat the fish fillets with paper towels to dry. Beat the egg together with the water in a bowl. In another bowl combine the Bisquick mix and catsup. Dip the fish first in the egg, then the Bisquick mix. 

Fry the fillets in a scant amount of oil (just enough to cover the bottom of pan) until brown on each side. Remove from oil and drain on paper towel. Serve with lemon.

*Prepare the Bisquick mix as you would per box instructions for making a batch of biscuits.  Reserve the 1/2 cup for the fish recipe, cook the rest into biscuits to serve with the meal.  

Pan Fried Fish

Serves 2

  • 1 pound fish fillets
  • or 2 pounds of whole small pan fish
  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tbsps milk or water
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. dried crushed parsley
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • oil for frying

To prepare your whole fish, I recommend cutting off the heads, opening the fish up, so the fleshy inside is up, then breading and frying them that way. This makes it very easy to eat, since you would serve with the skin side down. The backbone along with the rib bones will usually pull out pretty easily when cooked this way as well. Of course you can eliminate the whole problem of bones by simply filleting the fish to start with.       

Mix the egg and milk together in one bowl. In a second bowl combine the cornmeal, flour, salt, parsley, and paprika. Dip the fish first in the egg mix, then in the flour mix. Pan fry in preheated oil until brown on each side. Drain on paper towel and serve.