Kirk’s Kitchen: Perch Chowder

Gather round, we’re whipping up a fresh batch of Perch Chowder. While this recipe features white perch, fear not if they aren’t available in your area – any white-fleshed, mild fish will do. I’ve experimented with various panfish species and yellow perch in the past, all yielding fantastic results. One of my fishing buddies recently tried this recipe with blue catfish and raved about the outcome as well.


Widely distributed, great eating, and often game for a fly or jig, there’s a reason white perch are highly sought-after in Chesapeake Country. While most anglers traditionally batter and fry their perch fillets, we’re switching gears this time around. Bid farewell to the sizzle of hot oil, and let’s dive into something a bit more savory: a hearty, bone-warming bowl of perch chowder. Rich with flavor, this comfort dish is ideal for any late-winter or early-spring gathering.

White Perch

White Perch Habits & Habitat

White perch range from Nova Scotia to South Carolina, but luckily for us, Maryland’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay holds one of the largest populations. Delicious and abundant, these semi-anadromous fish are popular among recreational anglers and commercial watermen alike. Juvenile white perch feed predominantly on aquatic insects and small crustaceans, but as they age, they transition to a diet of crabs, shrimp, and small baitfish. They’re not the biggest or most technical fish around, but to the initiated, a cooler filled with perch is a beautiful thing. In the spring, during their spawning season, white perch can be easily targeted with a fly rod, making it an ideal time for anglers to take to the water.

Often schooling together, perch prefer to lurk near shorelines, drop-offs, and current seams. In Maryland, the white perch spawn typically unfolds during March and April, coinciding with water temperatures ranging from 50 to 55⁰F. During this pivotal period, freshwater tributaries receive an influx of migrating fish. Spring is never too far away when the perch start running.

Tips & Techniques

As many of you are likely aware, a Clouser minnow is like a magnet to fish. When targeting perch in deeper stretches of river – say 4 to 7 feet – my preferred setup is pretty straightforward: an intermediate line paired with a 4 to 6 foot section of 15 to 20 pound fluorocarbon leader. And don’t forget that trusty Clouser. While some folks may suggest using a lighter leader, I opt for a sturdier setup. Perch aren’t particularly picky about leader size, and they often share their habitat with larger fish like chain pickerel, largemouth bass, blue catfish, and striped bass. As long as you tie a loop knot, the fly will still maintain good action in the water. I prefer to play it safe and have a setup that’s ready to handle whatever surprises may come my way.


Alternatively, when the perch have migrated to the upper reaches of rivers, a float and fly setup does the trick. Of course, this method requires a floating line. Whenever I’m on a perch mission, I always have both line options readily available – intermediate and floating. I typically rig a weighted marabou fly approximately 1.5 to 3 feet below a strike indicator (adjusted based on water depth) and work casts along shorelines and current seams. Let the fly drift naturally, but don’t be afraid to add a little action with some small strips. When the indicator dips under the surface – game on.

white perch

Maryland’s Fly Fishing Trail

On the hunt for your very own white perch honey hole? Look no further than Maryland’s Fly Fishing Trail, pioneered by Fish & Hunt Maryland. It’s the nation’s first statewide fly fishing trail, offering both locals and visitors the chance to experience the thrill of fly fishing across the state’s diverse landscape. With stops in all 23 counties and Baltimore City, each spot promises a unique fishing adventure. From native brook trout prowling the wild streams of Western Maryland to bucket-mouthed largemouths lurking in Eastern Shore ponds and stripers running the Bay, the Trail serves up a smorgasbord of exciting species and environments ripe for a well-placed fly. 

Planning your trip couldn’t be easier thanks to the Trail’s guidance. Fish & Hunt Maryland’s website dishes out the details on how to reach your destination, the lowdown on parking and launching spots, top-notch fly fishing locales, must-have gear and flies, and the scoop on when to strike for seasonal catches. There’s really no excuse not to get out there and give it a go.

Processing Your Catch

Another great thing about white perch is how easy they are to clean. For this recipe, fillet them just like you would any other fish. Begin by making an incision behind the gill plate, then follow the spine down to the tail, cutting the meat away from the center of the fish. Once you’ve done that, remove the skin from the fillets.

Now, if you happen to notice some small white or red worms in the fillets, don’t panic. In certain areas this is quite common. While they may not be the most pleasant sight, these worms pose no danger to humans as long as the flesh is cooked thoroughly. Simply use the tip of your fillet knife to remove them from the fillet if you spot any, but don’t worry if you miss a few.

Afterwards, give the fillets a good rinse in cold water and pat them dry with paper towels. If you’re not using them right away, you can freeze the fillets for later use. Just be sure to dry them as much as possible before vacuum sealing.

Perch Chowder

Perch Chowder – Field Edition

Serves: 6-8


  • 10 ounces hickory smoked bacon, cut into matchsticks
  • 4 cups yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 cup celery, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 5 cups Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and medium diced
  • 6 cups fish stock (learn how to make fish stock HERE)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 5 teaspoon fresh marjoram
  • 2 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning
  • 4 tablespoons butter (half stick)
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 1-1.5 pounds skinless white perch fillets, cut in half
  • Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
  • Salt, to taste
  • Fresh parsley, chopped


To cook this recipe outdoors, you’ll need a sturdy cast iron pot or Dutch oven. To regulate temperature you may have to take the pot off of the fire occasionally. The good thing about cast iron is it retains heat very well, meaning it will continue to cook even when removed from the fire.

  1. Start by arranging a bed of hot coals from your fire pit or campfire. Place the cast iron pot or Dutch oven directly onto the hot coals to preheat.
  2. Brown the bacon bits in the pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. Once the bacon is crispy, remove it from the pot and set it aside.
  3. Add the onions and celery to the pot and cook for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they are softened and translucent.
  4. Create an opening in the center of the pot and add the garlic. Cook for an additional 2 minutes, stirring constantly to prevent burning.
  5. Add the potatoes, fish stock, bay leaf, marjoram, Old Bay seasoning, and half of the cooked bacon to the pot. Bring the mixture to a boil by placing the pot over open fire, then reduce the heat to a simmer by placing it back on the coal bed.
  6. Let the chowder simmer for about 15-20 minutes, or until the potatoes are nearly fork-tender. Stir and/or remove the pot from heat periodically to prevent boiling.
  7. Once the potatoes are almost tender, add the butter and half-and-half to the pot. Stir well to combine, then let simmer for a few more minutes.
  8. Season the chowder with black pepper and salt to taste.
  9. Carefully add the white perch fillets to the pot, ensuring they are submerged in the liquid. Let the chowder simmer for about 4-5 minutes, or until the fillets are opaque and flake easily with a fork. Stir throughout.
  10. Serve the chowder hot, garnished with freshly chopped parsley and the remaining bacon bits. Enjoy your outdoor feast with a toasted baguette and your favorite India pale ale, pale ale, brown ale, rauchbier, saison, or white wine.

To see the original article posted by Flylords, click here!