How to Catch, Clean and Cook Yellow Perch

A nice catch of yellow perch.
A nice catch of yellow perch.

Fishing for Yellow Perch

Yellow perch are small but popular freshwater panfish found throughout North America. These colorful perch are common in freshwater lakes, ponds, rivers and brackish creeks.

Yellow perch can be caught year round in most areas. They are commonly caught while ice fishing. Ice fishermen target these attractive perch using bare jig heads tipped with insect larvae or bits of worm. Other effective ice fishing rigs include small spoons or other lures suitable for vertical jigging.

Yellow perch are also caught in large numbers during early spring as they school up to spawn. Fishing for these fish is simple and requires little in the way of specialized tackle. An ultralight or light spinning outfit is usually all that is required.

Some anglers prefer to use jigs or other small lures for catching yellow perch. These include traditional lures such as crappie jigs, round head jigs and small grub bodies, shad darts, tiny spinnerbaits, spinners, small metal spoons or other panfish lures.

Other anglers prefer natural baits for catching perch. Small baits usually produce better, especially earthworms, nightcrawlers, insect larvae, grass shrimp (fresh, frozen or preserved), minnows and other local favorites. Perch also respond to processed scented baits, fish eggs and other preserved baits.

Cleaning Yellow Perch

Yellow perch fillets and roe.
Yellow perch fillets and roe.

How to Clean Yellow Perch

Yellow perch are excellent table fare. They yield mild white fillets and often contain roe (eggs) which are a delicacy.

Yellow perch are harder to scale than most panfish. Scaling these fish should be done with a simple fish scaler rather than a knife.

To scale perch, hold the fish with one hand and work the scaling tool diagonally along the body to remove all scales. Work from tail to head, going over the body several times in order to get all the scales off. The skin should be smooth when finished.

Perch can be filleted or can be cooked with the bones left in, depending on the size of the fish and personal preference. To fillet yellow perch, use a small, flexible fillet knife to trim the meat from the skeleton. Begin by making cuts behind the head and along the back, then work down and towards the tail, carefully cutting the meat away from the backbone and ribs.

Leftover yellow perch racks can be used to make fish stock. To prepare perch racks, use kitchen shears to remove the gills from the head. Next, rinse the head, skeleton and skin. Simmer on low heat for 20-30 minutes. Drain off the fish stock when done. Leftover parts can be added to garden compost piles to provide minerals and other nutrients.

Battered fish fillets
Battered fish fillets

How To Cook Yellow Perch

Yellow perch fillets and roe are often breaded and pan fried. They are also easy to bake or broil, which is considered much healthier.

Perch can be grilled whole or as fillets. When grilling, perch are sometimes seasoned with marinades or spices. The result is a healthy, delicious dish.

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