Where I grew up in Maine we commonly went fishing for white perch. For those of you who have never had white perch, you need to find a way to try them. You’ll need to go fishing, or have a friend who does, because they are not sold commercially. They are a spiny fish, but far less bony than the more widespread yellow perch caught in the Great Lakes area. In Maine we usually throw back yellow perch as junk fish.
Growing up I are my perch simply cleaned and fried. This is really quick and easy to accomplish. Just use a jack-knife to scrape off the scales, going against the grain of the scales. Then cut off the tail, the dorsal and ventral fins, and then the head. Then slit open the abdomen, from the hole left from the removed ventral fin up to the area where the head was cut off. Then use you thumb to scrape out the intestines. Wash the fish in the lake, and toss it in the bucket to go fry with corn meal. Yum.
Then a few years later my uncle Royce taught me to fillet perch. This yields a slightly smaller amount of meat to eat, but makes eating white perch quick and easy as all the bones are gone. The key is a very sharp knife. Start by cutting off the tail and head. Then cut through the skin on the back of the fish from the head end moving back beside the dorsal fin back to the tail end. Now grip the skin at the dorsal head end with either pliers or the knife and your thumb (careful here, don’t cut your thumb) and rip off the skin, first one side, then the other.
Next use the sharp fillet knife slice along the side of the spine to remove the main fillet of flesh from the spine. Carry this incision all the way down to the ribs. Repeat on the other side. Now slice off the ribs, and you’re left with a fillet of the perch flesh. Discard the rest of the perch. You’re left with two modest sized fish fillets. It takes several of these to make a meal, unless you have been lucky enough to have caught unusually large perch. Fry these with cornmeal batter, and they rival trout or catfish for great taste. Enjoy.