AMERICA’S WORST FISH

By MIKE ROUX

I am going to accomplish a couple of different things with this article.  I am going to give some clarification to an often confusing topic and I will hopefully lend a solution to a growing problem.  The topic today is the ‘ASIAN CARP”.

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The Invasive Asian Carp. (Photo by Mike Roux)

What is it?

Let’s start by clearing up just exactly what this fish is and where it came from.  There are actually four types of Asian carp; the common carp, the grass carp, the silver carp and the black carp.  Because of the negative press over the past couple decades concerning the Asian carp it is important to note that the Silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys Molitrix) is the primary culprit in America’s waterways today.  So for this article Asian carp means Silver carp.

These are a fresh water fish that originated in north and NE Asia.  More Silver carp are raised (aquaculture) around the world than any other species.  They are filter feeders and do not feed off the bottom.

Asian carp were brought to the U.S. in the 1970’s to help control the growth of algae in existing fish farms and city waste water plants.  Due to floods in the 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s they escaped into the Mississippi river and ultimately into its tributaries. They grow to about 40-pounds.

Asian carp have been found in the Illinois River, which connects the Mississippi River to Lake Michigan. Due to their large size and rapid rate of reproduction, these fish could pose a significant risk to the Great Lakes Ecosystem.

To prevent the carp from entering the Great Lakes, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. EPA, the State of Illinois, the International Joint Commission, the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are working together to install and maintain a permanent electric barrier between the fish and Lake Michigan.

Like me you have no doubt seen several video clips of the “flying carp” in the Illinois River.  These are Silver carp and the can be dangerous. Their reproduction rate is also alarming. So much in fact that the above mentioned agencies have been established to help control their numbers and their range.

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Clint Carter teaching author Mike Roux how to filet Asian Carp. (Photo by Mike Roux)

Making the Best of a Bad Situation

In all of my research on these fish there has been very little written about what to do with them once you end-up with a few in your boat.  I have heard they could be processed for cat food or for fertilizer. I now wonder, since these fish are being mass-produced in Asia for food, why aren’t we eating them?  Truth be known, some of us are eating them.

After we relocated to Chatham, Illinois just south of Springfield I was tipped-off by some friends about place called CARTER’S FISH MARKET.  Once settled I made my first visit to CARTER’S and met owner/operator Clint Carter. His family has been running this business in Springfield for 35-years providing the best in both fresh and prepared fish to the area.

My first trip to Clint’s shop was to try his walleye-pollack, which was outstanding.  We visited for a while and quickly realized we knew some of the same people. As we talked he asked me if would I do him a favor and try tasting something.  I agreed and he went into the shop and came out with a double-handful of fish fillets. He rolled them in his special meal/seasoning mix and dropped them in the fryer.

We continued to talk until the fish was ready.  He brought it out and gave me a beautiful platter of fillets.  I picked-up a piece and broke it open. My first thought was that it was an ocean fish.  Inside it was pure white fish, flaky and moist. My first taste was not surprising. It was VERY good.  But all of Clint’s fish is very good. No surprise.

I ate two fillets and then asked the obvious question.  The answer was not so obvious, but by now I am sure you have figured it out.  “Asian carp,” was his response. Not having the preliminary data that I just gave you, I was more than surprised…I was amazed.  I ate another fillet.

Clint take an Asian carp fillet and makes a few special cut lending perfectly boneless meat.  This he fries for his sandwiches. He then skins the remaining fillets and grinds the meat and bones into a fish paste which you can then patty and fry or bake.

For now he can make this dish available as the fish are available but be sure to look for Silver Fin sandwiches on his menu when you go there.

So the next time you are close to 19th and South Grand Ave. in Springfield stop by CARTER’S FISH MARKET and say hi to Clint and take home some of the finest catfish, buffalo, carp and walleye/pollack you have ever tasted, fresh or fried.  Call them to get your order in ahead of time at 217-525-2571.

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