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Fishful Thinker: Coconut Fried Panfish Recipe

If you like piña coladas, you will love this coconut-fried panfish recipe with a tropical piña colada dipping sauce.

Fishful Thinker: Coconut Fried Panfish Recipe

Pieces of coconut-fried panfish are served with a tropical piña colada dipping sauce that is to die for. (Kiian Oksana / Shutterstock photo)

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Chad LaChance, host of World Fishing Network's long-running and popular show Fishful Thinker TV is one of my favorite people in the outdoors industry.

He’s smart – after all, he’s The Fishful Thinker, right? He coached a national championship bass fishing team a few years ago, is energetic, and has a great sense of humor. He's also pretty good at hunting big Rocky Mountain mule deer every autumn and he’s pretty good on the water too.

Chad LaChance's TV show, running on WFN and a few other places on a weekly basis, aims to create a closer look for anglers at the concepts and techniques of fishing success that have kept LaChance filming TV shows, teaching others along the way, and now even guiding on a variety of waters around the West.

In fact, seeing my friend from Colorado – who grew up in Florida, fishing the saltwater, by the way – every July in Orlando at the ICAST fishing trade show is one of the highlights of the year for yours truly. Why? Because I always come away laughing, determined to be a better angler, and usually learn a thing or two along the way.

hands holding bluegill fish
A beautiful platter-sized bluegill. (Stacey Ann Alberts / Shutterstock photo)

While LaChance might live in Colorado, he’s pretty handy at catching things other than the rainbow trout and brown trout that everybody thinks of when they think of 14,000+ mountain peaks and the thin air of the Centennial State, which supports some of the best coldwater fisheries in North America.

As I’ve learned in the decade or so that I’ve known him, LaChance is also pretty handy at catching just about anything else that swims from salmon to walleyes, from largemouth and smallmouth bass to jack crevalle, from panfish to catfish, and often with a Gulp Minnow at the end of his Berkley fishing line and Abu Garcia rods and reels.

In fact, that’s a story that is forthcoming soon, a piece talking about all of the ways that one simple bait can be fished around North America, and how it can land virtually anything that swims, just like the variety of fish he’s chasing in Alaska this week as this is being written.

Hailing from the South, LaChance is also great at cooking some of these fish up too, in ways that go beyond the traditional fried fish recipe that many use when they think of catching and cooking something like bluegills or crappie.

Bucket of panfish next to plaid blanket.
Bucket of panfish. (Kristina Jager / Shutterstock photo)

His comfort level in the kitchen is actually pretty close to his comfort level on the water, which might explain why he’s got an entire YouTube channel dedicated to such efforts, especially when he's got something like a Camp Chef pellet stove and grill fired up and running on the back deck of his Colorado foothills home.

So, when I asked him a few years back if he had a panfish recipe to share, one that might work with a variety of species now causing summertime tugs at the end of ultralight tackle, LaChance eagerly responded "You bet!”

I’ve talked about this dish in a recipe collection story before, but on the heels of my own recent summertime efforts to catch a few hand-sized bluegills—the All-American game fish for many anglers – it’s worth taking a standalone look here.


Especially if you’ve got a stringer filled with platter-sized bluegills or slab crappie this current summer, a six-inch fillet knife, and a desire to taste the fish and tartar sauce once again, or in this case, a piña colada dipping sauce.

Cleaning panfish with a fillet knife.
It is not necessary to scale the fish if you plan to remove the skin when filleting. (Lynn Burkhead photo)

Crappie or bluegill, or even another tasty panfish species like shellcrackers (red-eared sunfish), the intellectual angler from Colorado said it doesn’t really matter what the panfish species is, because they taste especially good with this recipe employed.

“It was originally done with bluegills on a show we did called “Panfish Party,” but it will certainly work for crappie too," said LaChance.

Cleaning crappie with a fillet knife.
Fillet the panfish (bluegill, crappie, or sunfish) and then cut them into similar size pieces. (Lynn Burkhead photo)

With that backstory in place, and with ICAST 2022 waiting in the wings in only a couple of weeks, Chad LaChance's tasty panfish recipe and one that will give you a tropical twist on a summertime evening or even around the fireplace on a cold wintertime day in a few months.

And all from the Fishful Thinker and backyard chef, of course:

How to Make This Coconut Fried Panfish Recipe


  • Crappie or bluegill fillets
  • Corn starch
  • Eggs (for egg wash)
  • Coconut flour
  • Flaked coconut
  • Panko (Japanese-style breadcrumbs)
  • Salt
  • Cayenne pepper

Piña Colada Dipping Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup of sour cream
  • 1/4 cup flaked coconut
  • 1/4 cup piña colada mix


Once you’ve got your ingredients assembled, here are LaChance’s instructions on how to prepare this great-tasting piscatorial dish:

"Fillet the (panfish) and cut them into same size pieces. Then coat the pieces in corn starch, then dip them in egg wash. After you have done that, roll the pieces in a mix of coconut flour, flaked coconut and Panko. For that mixture, try to use 1/3 each, or equal portions of each ingredient. Then add just a touch of salt and cayenne pepper. After that, you're ready to fry the crappie pieces in 375-degree oil until they are browned, which should take about 2 minutes. As for the Piña Colada dipping sauce, mix the sour cream, the flaked coconut, and the Piña Colada mix. Mix it all together, let it chill before you fry up the crappie or bluegills, and then enjoy!"

If you'd like to see a video of Chad LaChance working his culinary magic with this recipe, see his YouTube cooking channel video at the following link:

And, of course, don’t forget to tune into his weekly TV show on WFN to learn more about how to catch a wide variety of fish species across North America, as well as a lot of great in-the-kitchen cooking tips on how to turn your catch into a memorable meal!

Now that’s the way to be a true Fishful Thinker, right?

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