The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency has a suggestion about how to deal with the state’s exploding population of invasive Asian carp:
“Some people like carp cakes,” says TWRA official Eric Ganus, adding that he has personally tried baked buffalo – a carp-related species – and found it “really good.”
“There are several recipes worth trying,” Ganus says.
Frank Fiss, the TWRA Chief of Fisheries, likewise encourages folks to give carp a taste test.
“In some parts of the world carp are regularly consumed,” Fiss says. “It would be great if we could establish a market here for the fish.”
There’s plenty of carp to experiment with. Since Asian carp were introduced into the state from Arkansas during flooding two decades ago, they have spread rapidly in the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers.
The two Asian carp sub-species are Bighead and Silver carp. Large schools of the latter are frequently captured by cameras leaping from the water when disturbed by a boat motor. The fish can weigh as much as 20 pounds, and when one collides with a fast-moving boater or water skier, serious injuries can result.
The TWRA is concerned about such boating safety hazards, as well as the impact of the carp on native species. Asian carp feed on plankton and other micro-organisms, which means they compete with minnows and other small fish at the bottom of the food chain. If those small forage fish are displaced, it will eventually impact larger fish on up the food chain.
Some veteran Kentucky Lake fishermen believe the growing Asian carp population in that impoundment is already having an adverse effect on sport fishing. Since sports fishing is a billion-dollar industry in Tennessee, it’s easy to understand the TWRA’s concern.
The Agency earlier this year announced plans to invest $500,000 in carp-processing plants around Kentucky Lake to encourage commercial harvesting of the fish, mostly by netting. (Since Asian carp do not feed on minnows or insects, it’s almost impossible to catch them on sport-fishing tackle, aside from snagging.)
The commercially-processed carp would likely be used primarily for pet food and fertilizer, although other uses are being studied. One potential use could be human consumption.
Eating carp is not a new idea. The Tennessee River Museum at Nathan Bedford State Park features an exhibit of early goods canned by river families a century ago, and among the items displayed are canned carp.
Numerous recipes for carp cakes are posted on the internet, ranging from simple to complicated with an array of spices, sauces and other ingredients.
“Nowadays there are so many ways to prepare food that it figures there would be a lot of carp recipes,” Fiss says. “I’d be willing to give some a try.”
Hopefully so will a lot of other diners. They could eat away at the crap problem.
Larry Woody is The Democrat’s outdoors writer. Email him at [email protected]