Okay, enough is enough.
Down in Louisiana, fear of flying carp is keeping froggers out of the bayous at night.
On Lake Tunica in northern Mississippi, a woman sustained a broken collarbone when she collided with a barrage of silver carp while tubing.
In reporting on the latter, the Natural Resources Defense Council said:
“Despite somewhat sensational coverage that implied she was attacked, she wasn’t. The fish were doing what comes naturally when startled.
“Her experience is, sadly, not unique. Vast stretches of our waterways are being eliminated from recreational use by the carp’s presence. Folks in places like Peoria, Illinois, have long since abandoned recreational activity on the Illinois River for fear of similar incidents.”
The feds aren’t going to solve this problem. In fact, silver and bighead carp eventually will make their way into the Great Lakes and possibly devastate the sport fishery there because of politics and bureaucratic incompetence.
As with most everything else, the best means of dealing with this expanding invasion is private initiative. Or, as Gary Tilyou, Louisiana Inland Fisheries administrator advises: “When one jumps in your boat, eat it.”
And Tilyou is not the only one in Louisiana recommending that solution, which, admittedly, will require considerable corn meal.
“The Asian carp is not just a Great Lake problem,” says Chef Philippe Parola. “Our solution is to break down these delicious invasive fish and mass produce precooked boneless fish fillets for U.S. grocery stores and restaurants.
“This solution will immediately and rapidly remove these invasive fish from our waters.”
He adds that commercial harvest of silver and bighead carp will create jobs, boost local economies, “and offer a much cleaner, domestic fish. To date, more than 85 percent of U.S. fish consumption is imported and the majority of these imported fish are contaminated with pollutants or abused with overdoses of sodium for preservation and weight purpose.”
Also a recreational angler, Parola is at the forefront of a movement that seeks to control carp, lionfish, wild hogs, and other invasives by popularizing them as food. As global commerce and increased mobility have accelerated these invasions in recent years, this campaign seems as likely as any government intervention to take a bite out of the problem.
Especially if anglers and others will give carp a chance.
“The meat is white. I’ve eaten it numerous times,” says Tilyou. “It’s not common carp. That’s a different fish.”
Parola adds, “The taste is a cross between scallops and crab meat.”
Besides buying “silverfin” at the markets and restaurants when it becomes available, anglers can help in other ways. The most obvious way is to keep carp when they jump in the boat, as Tilyou suggests.
But snagging and bowfishing tournaments also can reduce populations and put food on the table. And, the field is wide open for figuring out ways to get these filter feeders to bite on baits.
To find out more about eating invasive carp, check out Chef Parola’s web site at www.chefphilippe.com.
He is quick to advise that the carp should be bled as quickly as possible to improve the taste and he acknowledges that bones are abundant. That’s why he has focused on marketing items such as gumbo, cream bisque, and fish balls and cakes, as opposed to raw fillets.
Also, you can learn about lionfish from Maurice “Mojo” White in the Bahamas. At his www.lionfishhunter.com site, he will tell you how to safely handle and prepare this invader with toxin-tipped fins. In recent years, it has spread throughout the Caribbean and up the East Coast as far as Long Island.
Following are recipes developed by Parola for “silverfin”:
Silverfin fried strips. 4 servings
16 strips of silverfin fish (boneless if possible)
1 cup of Kleinpeter half & half for eggwash
1 cup of Louisiana fish fry seasoned flour
Peckapepper mango sauce for dipping
Preheat fryer at 350. In a bowl, crack 2 eggs, stir well, and then add half & half. Stir well again. Place the strips in eggwash. Coat each strip with seasoned flour. Fry until done. Serve with mango sauce.
Silverfin cakes. 4 servings
1 pound of silverfin white meat
4 ounces of melted unsalted butter
1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
1 whole egg
1 ounce of crumbled bread
Seasoning and hot sauce to taste
Poach or steam silverfin meat until fully cooked. Break it up in pieces to remove bones. Place the meat in a mixing bowl. Add butter, mustard, egg, and lemon juice. Mix well and add crumbled bread. Season to taste. Make small cakes, roll in egg wash and seasoned flour, and then fry.
Laissez les bons temps rouler!
(This article appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)