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Some fine dining tips for this run of lakefront perch: Chicago fishing

A perch dinner of breaded perch, basmati rice and clementine slices with pinot grigio.
Credit: Dale Bowman

Years ago I pulled a few tips from Phil Smidt’s, the late great eatery in northwest Indiana.

Thought of that as perch madness does an extended run on the Chicago lakefront.

One key I drew out of Smidt’s was to scale the perch, which saves flesh and adds flavor. That’s particularly important this winter as many of the perch being caught and kept are smaller.

With the perch I caught last week, I even went to deep frying them nearly whole rather than filleted because of the size.

Perch are not a pronounced flavor. That’s opposite of something like salmon, to which you can do any damm fool thing and it will still taste good, or blackened redfish. If you blacken perch, do us all a favor and donate your fishing rods, jigs, frying pans and spatulas to your local Goodwill.

Perch need a hug not a wrestling match, that applies both to prepping it and pairing drink with it.

I suspect perch chasers lean toward beer. In that case, I suggest something non-intrusive (read bland) as Miller High Life or, if you want to pretend to be fancy, Rolling Rock (there are citrus notes in Latrobe’s famous product).

Perch is not the meal to do a hoppy IPA, unless you’re so cutting edge you drink a hoppy IPA with everything, even when calling your sweet mother.

As to wine pairing, sports talker Dan Bernstein talked to his guy, Mateo Ramos of Bodega Ramos in Lakeview, who suggested “an Oregon Pinot Gris or a dry Prosecco (say, Valdobbiadene) for a sparkling option.’’

I went to a cheap Pinot Grigio.

As to the perch, my latest presentation was based on the unfilleted perch. First I dried them, then rolled in flour, dredged in egg wash, rolled in seasoned flour/corn meal mix, then dropped in the fryer.

The perch were plated with basmati rice and clementine slices (for color contrast and a more subtle citrus touch than lemon wedges).

Life is about living fully. Perch should be experienced fully: catching to chowing.

DEER: When preliminary harvest numbers for Illinois’ second firearm deer season come, I will post online. I suspect it will be better comparatively, if simply because of the weather, than first season. Looks like real winter for the muzzleloader deer season Friday through Sunday.

WATERFOWL: The major weather change may bring a push of much needed fresh ducks. Braidwood Lake was slow to fair last week, best on Friday (30 ducks, six geese). Heidecke Lake had a fair week (81 ducks, four geese).

WILD THINGS: The irruption of snowy owls is so big, even fishermen are sending photos from around Chicago. Capt. Mike Shine sent a beauty from the shipping channel in Indiana.

STRAY CAST: Alice Merton’s “No Roots” is my latest favorite song vaguely outdoors-related; it’s a bit squirrelly.