Pan Fried Spots Recipe

| September 26, 2021 | 4 Comments


Follow our easy, step-by-step, photo illustrated instructions to learn how to pan fry Spots in your kitchen. Spots are a popular fish you know. Printable recipe included.

Pan Fried Spots, enjoy.
Spots are a very popular fish here in the South. Most of the time they are fried whole, but you could fillet them if you wanted to avoid dealing with the small bones. Quick and easy… and delicious.


Pan Fried Spots, slider.

In case you’re not familiar with them, Spots are a small salt water fish. They usually weigh half a pound or less, and are about the size of your hand or smaller. They have a large black “spot” near their gill opening and 12 to 15 dark angled bars across their backs.

When you hear someone say, “The spots are running.” it means it’s time to load up the family and head to the nearest pier along the coast for some good fishing fun. Spots travel in schools and are fairly easy to catch. Almost 3 million of these small panfish are caught each year as they travel along the coast headed for Gulf waters for the winter.

Many years back, my cousin Audrey and her family would rush to the coast to catch a bunch of these small fish when they heard they were running, and they were usually pretty successful with it.

Audrey would always bring some of her fish up to Mama’s house where Mama and my sister Marie would quickly set about cleaning or “dressing” the fish as it’s called. That means they removed the scales from the fish and cleaned out it’s insides. The heads were usually cut off but not the tails.

It was going to be a good day when Mama or Marie would call me and say the fish would be ready in a couple of hours. I knew I was going to have a great lunch or dinner when that happened.

It might not happen but once or twice a year, but we sure did enjoy those fresh caught Spots. Mama would make Cole Slaw, fry up some French Fries, and Marie would make a big plate of Hoe Cakes. Sweet Tea was always on the table too.

We’d sit and eat until we just couldn’t eat any more. They were so good and I have many memories of those meals at Mama’s house over the years. Wish you could have been there with us.

Ready to give our recipe a try? Alright then, let’s head out to the kitchen, and… Let’s Get Cooking!


Pan Fried Spots, ingredients.
Pan Fried Spots – You’ll need these ingredients.

Fresh fish are always best, but when you can’t get them, frozen will be good too. I bought a couple of packages of dressed Spots from our local fish monger.


Pan Fried Spots, add flour.
Place 2 cups of Self-Rising Flour in a large mixing bowl.

You could also use All-Purpose Flour if that’s all you have on hand. It will work too.


Pan Fried Spots, add cornmeal.
Add 1 cup of Cornmeal to the flour.


Pan Fried Spots, add salt.
Add 1 teaspoon of Salt.


Pan Fried Spots, add black pepper.
Add 1/2 teaspoon of Black Pepper.


Pan Fried Spots, whisk together.
Whisk all the dry ingredients together.


Pan Fried Spots, rinse fish.
Rinse the dressed fish under some cold running water.


Pan Fried Spots, rinse inside.
Be sure to rinse the inside as well.


Pan Fried Spots, flour fish.
Place the fish in your flour breader. Coat the fish with flour on both sides.


Pan Fried Spots, flour inside.
Add a bit of the flour to the inside.


Pan Fried Spots, shake off excess flour.
Shake off any excess flour. You don’t want a lot of excess flour going into your skillet. It will just sink to the bottom of the oil and burn, causing your fish to have a bad taste.


Pan Fried Spots, lower in oil.
Place about an inch of oil in your cast iron skillet. Place the skillet over Medium heat on your stove top and let the oil come up to about 350F degrees for frying. Carefully lower the fish into the hot oil.


Pan Fried Spots, don't crowd the pan.
Don’t crowd the pan. Spots are pretty small, so I was able to get three of them in my skillet at one time.


Pan Fried Spots, turn.
Let the Spots fry for about three minutes then flip them over. Fry them three minutes longer on the other side. They should be done at this point.


Pan Fried Spots, drain.
Remove from the oil and place the fish on parchment paper or a wire rack to cool and drain.


Pan Fried Spots, enjoy!

Cole Slaw, French Fries and Hoecakes were always on the menu when Mama and my sister cooked these. That was some mighty good eating for sure. Smile.


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Pan Fried Spots, printbox.

Pan Fried Spots Recipe

  • Author: Steve Gordon
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 6 minutes
  • Total Time: 16 minutes
  • Yield: Varies
  • Category: Main Dish
  • Method: Stove top
  • Cuisine: American, Southern


Spots are a small salt water fish. They “run” along our North Carolina coast usually during September-October and folks line the piers trying to catch them, some times two or three at a time. They do have bones if fried whole, but they taste mighty good.



12 lbs of Spots
2 cups Self-Rising Flour
1 cup Cornmeal
1 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper
Cooking Oil for frying.


Place flour in a large mixing bowl.
Add the cornmeal.
Add the salt.
Add black pepper.
Whisk the ingredients together.
Rinse fish, inside and outside, under cold running water.
Dip fish into breader. Turn and coat with flour.
Coat the inside with flour.
Place a skillet over Medium heat on stove top.
Bring oil up to 350F degrees for frying.
Carefully place fish in hot oil.
Fry three minutes on each side. Remove from oil when done.
Place fish on parchment paper or wire rack to cool and drain.


Spots fried whole this way do have bones. Be careful while eating the fish.

Keywords: spots, fried spots, fried fish, cornmeal, flour, salt, pepper, NC coastal fish, easy

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You might also like: Southern Fried Catfish

Or, maybe this one?  Creamy Cole Slaw

How about this? Eastern North Carolina Pulled Pork BBQ in the Oven


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Category: Fish-Seafood, Main Dishes

About the Author ()

Award Winning Food Preservationist, Fisherman, Author of three cookbooks. "From Mama's Big Oval Table, From Mama's Big Oval Table - BOOK TWO and Carolina Christmas Sweets and Appetizers." Online Contributor to Our State Magazine Newsletter.

Comments (4)

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  1. Mitzi White says:

    I love spots,my favorite fish with creamy grits!!

  2. Steve Bailey says:

    I like to score any fish I fry. You cut slices about 1/2 inches apart on both sides.
    This allows for quicker cooking and you can slide your fork in a slice and it comes off so easily. I moved to Hatteras Village 40 some years ago and graduated from bream to spots and croaker.

  3. Phyllis Ivey says:

    Hey Steve!

    Thanks for this recipe, I have tried spots before and they are good. I will use your recipe, the picture with all the trimmings looks great!

  4. Chef Ben says:

    Great fish being from Florida I love them.

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