I bough a package of little fishies at Major Market, dreaming of crunchy fried smelt. I had never made them before, heck, never even had them before, but I knew I wanted them.
The only thing I was slightly worried about was the fact that they were whole. And not gutted. Did I want to take the time to gut and clean? Not really. And tons of people have eaten them whole and not died. So I went for it.
My MIL said that you can soak the little fishies in lemon juice prior to cooking to remove some of the fishiness, so that's what we did. After a quick soak, they were rinsed, because I didn't want an overpowering lemon flavor.
I used a package of Zatarain's Fish Fry, augmenting the seasoning with a little black pepper and garlic powder. The Fish Fry was well-seasoned to begin with, but I can't seem to cook without adding more pepper and garlic to almost everything.
Still moist from their rinse, the fishies were dragged through the Fish Fry, until nicely coated.
Fried 'em up in a little canola oil, et voila. Crunchy, fishy (in a good way!), salty. They kind of reminded me of the dried squid I get occasionally at 99 Ranch Market. I could eat these like popcorn.