What to do with Asian carp

Carp on display at the Earth Day Teach-In (Photo by Scott Soderberg, U-M Photo Services)

I went to the (curiously early) Earth Day Teach-In at UM last Thursday and saw examples of the dread Asian Carp on display. These are actually 3 species of non-native carp that are taking over rivers in the central US. There’s great fear they will (or have already) get into the Great Lakes and destroy the fisheries.

Looking at seventy-pound beast, I thought, “There has to be a use for that.” It’s not commonly eaten by Midwesterners, as it’s tricky to bone and named, well, “carp,” though apparently it makes good gafilte fish.

But there are other uses for fish than just eating them straight. What about…

  • Pet food
  • Fish food (for trout, salmon, and other carnivorous farm fish – feeding them soy and corn, like cattle, makes their lipid profile look much more like factory-farmed beef than salmon)
  • Fish meal, for fertilizing gardens
  • Fish oil

It turns out, some people are already cashing in on these ideas, and also finding ways to market them for eating.

I worry a lot about invasive species, especially the ones with no nutritional value, but sometimes I think invasives could be a solution, if we’d just get over our preconceptions. There was a contest in Illinois to see how many fish one could catch by simply letting them jump into the boat. The record holder had over 200 of these fish jump in his boat in an hour. That’s a lot of free protein…sounds like we might be overlooking the #1 predator for these things. Us.



  1. aimee said,

    March 27, 2010 at 8:34 pm

    we have to eat invasives. Chinese people eat carp – in fact they have been the prime species for small intensive pond- aquaculture for millennia. I don’t imagine there’s a lot of difference between carp and, oh, say, tilapia – another fresh water fish. Or even catfish. Let’s try it! Yum yum! Advertisers, let’s get on it!

  2. Momster said,

    March 28, 2010 at 11:19 am

    Catfish at a bad reputation when I was young…if you caught one it went under a rose bush….but times change and now you can buy it at Whole Foods.

  3. May 23, 2010 at 4:25 pm

    My first thought is to eat it myself. If not that then chicken food for our long northern winters. Fertilizer too.

  4. Maranatha! Mark said,

    November 12, 2010 at 3:11 pm

    I grew up eating canned carp – pressure cooked/canned carp, that was used as a substitude for salmon. In fact we preferred canned carp to salmon. I have a friend that says he cans grass/chinese carp and it taste no different than our native carp or buffalo fish, when canned.

    The way we canned carp is start by skinning the carp like you do catfish, not just scaling them. The strong fishy taste often associated with carp is largely in the skin. After you skin them, then fillet them… don’t worry about bones, the pressure cooker will make them so soft, they aren’t a danger. After you fillet them, cut them into 1 to 2 inch wide strips that will fit into a wide-mouth quart canning jar with the strips standing on their end ( I usually tilt the jar in a 45 degree angle so the strips won’t slide down, and once you have packed the jar, you can stand them up normally), you need about a 1/2″ to 3/4″ inch head space at the top of the jar, when you have them packed. Put a teaspoon of salt, extra virgin olive oil, and vinegar on top. Now some folks call for water to be added, but we never added any water to the fish. If I remember correctly, we pressure cooked the fish for 45 minutes at 12 lbs. When finished, the bones in the fish should be as soft as the bones in store bought salmon.

    I have read some folks recommend cutting the “Mud” vein or red/dark meat out of the fillets before putting them in the jar, but to be honest, we never did, and I have taken carp and buffalo out of a mud bottomed lake that was almost dried due to a drought, and they were not muddy tasting. My advice is to try a test jar with the dark meat left in place, and if it comes out strong or muddy tasting then cut it out… I don’t think you will need to cut the dark meat out, but I never say never on things like that!

    Some folks use pint jars, we always used wide-mouth quart jars, as mom was feeding a family of 6… who loved salmon/carp patties. She would cook baked bean or white beans, mashed potatoes or for a real treat, fried potato cakes to serve with the carp patties, talk about GOOD!!! Now days, I’d use extra virgin olive oil to fry both the carp patties and potato cakes as the olive oil makes it more heart friendly (if you are going to fry something, use olive oil, and we are not deep frying – submerging the patties in oil, we are pan frying them).

    Give them a try, I think you will love them!

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