Crispy Fried Whole Panfish

plate piled with fried panfish

This dish is all about getting messy and gluttonously eating with your hands. Limits on panfish are usually quite high, so if you can catch yourself a pile of them, and don’t mind some prep work, you can have your own little fish fry! Bluegills and Rock Bass were what I used, but Perch, Sunfish, Crappie, or any other small fish would work just fine. I used Cajun spice to season them, but feel free to use any spice blend; Berbere, za’atar, curry, jerk, ras el hanout, or your own personal blend would all be great!

  • Prep Time45 min
  • Cook Time15 min
  • Total Time1 hr
  • Ready in1 hour
  • Serving Size2-4 fish each


  • 2-4 panfish per person
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1.5 + 0.5 tablespoons Cajun spice blend
  • Vegetable oil
  • Lemon wedges, snipped chives, and Louisiana style hot sauce to serve


Prep the fish


Once the fish are humanely dispatched, use a scaler to remove all of their scales. 

Use a fillet knife to remove their heads, trying to leave as much meat as possible. 

Make an incision down the belly and remove any guts and/or gills that remain. 

Using good scissors, snip off tail fin, and all other fins (watch out, they’re pointy!)

Cook the fish


In a deep frying pan or Dutch oven, pour in 1 inch (2.5 cm) of vegetable oil.

Heat up on medium-high.


Meanwhile, pour flour onto a plate, bowl, or baking dish and mix in 1.5 tablespoons of the Cajun spice. 


Dip the fish into the flour mixture so it becomes fully coated. If you are having trouble with the flour lightly adhering to the fish, you can dampen it with water first.

Once both sides are fully coated, gently lay down into the frying pan. 


Cooking no more than 3 at a time, cook for 5 minutes per side, reducing heat if things are getting too smoky or dark. 

Move cooked fish to paper towels to drain and start the next batch.


Keeping going until all of the fish are cooked. Pile onto a platter and sprinkle over the remaining Cajun spice and chives if using. 

Serve with lemon wedges, a bottle of hot sauce and a big roll of paper towels. Have fun and eat them with your hands; just watch out for bones!

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