Linda F. Benedict, LaBauve, Randy
Asian carp have become a huge environmental problem in waterways throughout the Mississippi and Missouri river basins.
These fish, which are comprised of the "silver" and "bighead" species, were originally introduced into private U.S. ponds in the 1970s. Some of them escaped into the wild and multiplied, practically taking over water systems as an invasive species. They have been adversely affecting these ecosystems ever since by voraciously eating vegetation and robbing many native fish of their food supply.
These relatively large fish, called silverfin, also jump into boats causing serious injury and damage to property. Hence, they have been nicknamed "flying fish."
Often confused with common carp, which is considered a trash or rough fish, Asian carp are a completely different fish. Asian carp taste excellent and can be successfully cooked numerous ways. These plant-eating fish are also nutritious, low in fat and a good source of omega-3 fatty acids.
To help promote the eating of Asian carp, which is one of the best ways to control their numbers, Glenn Thomas, extension director of Sea Grant at LSU and the LSU AgCenter, teamed up with Duane Chapman, a research fisheries biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Columbia, Mo., to produce the instructional video "Flying Fish, Great Dish!" This video, which is available free on YouTube, demonstrates methods of cleaning Asian carp. Chapman is one of the world’s foremost authorities on Asian carp.
"Chapman suggested their use as table fare but was having trouble developing a teaching tool on how to clean them," Thomas said.
"Asian carp have excellent flesh but a very unusual bone structure. Duane developed some unique cleaning methods that will put them on the table. We need to develop a market for these things because the breeding populations are already established," Thomas said.
In many states, there’s no catch limit on Asian carp. But these flying fish are herbivores, so they can’t be caught with traditional bait.
"You can go bowfishing or wait for them to jump in the boat," Chapman said. "Commercial fishermen catch them in hoop and gill nets in Illinois."
Thousands of DVDs of "Flying Fish, Great Dish!" are being distributed nationwide to help encourage the expansion of this fishery in Louisiana and other states in the Mississippi and Missouri River regions. To order a DVD, contact Jessica Schexnayder at firstname.lastname@example.org. The cost is $6 to cover postage and handling.
The video has three segments, all on YouTube:
Part 1 – Introduction & Removing Filets
Part 2 – Making Flying Carp Wings
Part 3 – Deboning Filets
DVD duplications of this program were funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant. The Mississippi River Basin Panel on aquatic invasive species (MRBP) was also involved in the project.
(This article was published in the fall 2010 issue of Louisiana Agriculture.)