When I was younger and not yet living in France, I discovered a small hotel on the Dordogne river (Hotel du Pont in Groléjac) that served a wonderful fry of small fish. It was called “petit friture” which has the same double meaning as “small fry” in English as it means both fish and frying. There they used goujon, small river fish.
In the Paris area I sometimes bought éperlan, sprat, to fry. This came from the Atlantic.
Here in the Ariège, where most fish comes from the Mediterranean, they sell Jol, also called Joël or Athérine after its Latin name Atherina Boyeri. In English it is the large-scale sand smelt.
I had some 200 grammes for two and cut up three cloves of garlic.
I washed the fish in a colander and dried on paper towels. Then I put them in a plastic bag with about 50 grammes of flour. I closed the bag and tossed it around to coat the fish with flour.
In a wok I poured half liter of sunflower oil and heated it on a big flame. I tested the heat of the oil with a piece of bread, that needs to stay afloat and brown immediately, and when it was at the right temperature I added the fish.
I cooked for some eight minutes, stirring from time to time, having added the garlic for the last five minutes. You want the fish to become brown but the garlic should not become black.
Serve with wedges of lemon. The fish is salty but you can add coarse salt.