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How to Fillet Asian Carp

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March 25, 2013

How to Fillet Asian Carp

By David Draper

I’ve only had the opportunity to try carp on a few occasions, but each time it was in a different, nondescript dive bar perched just a few steps away from some sort of muddy river or creek. Though the provenance of the fried fillets filling the paper-lined basket was never stated, the implication was the fish hadn’t journeyed far from water to Fry-o-lator.

Why eat carp at such a place? Well mostly because that’s generally where carp is served. With few exceptions, Joe Tess Place in Omaha being perhaps the most famous, your typical urban restaurant doesn’t feature carp on the menu. That’s too bad really, because when I have eaten carp, it was pretty good. The white flesh was firm and mildly flavorful without any hint of muddiness that most people (who likely got their information second-hand) claim carp taste like. I suppose you could get fancy with the fillets, but why would you when battered carp with a side of fries makes for excellent bar food.

You don’t have to frequent dive bars like I do to try carp. As you well know, there are plenty of them swimming the country’s waterways, including the millions of Asian carp making their way up the major river systems in the Midwest. Next time you catch one, I encourage you to try eating it. You may be surprised to find out they’re not only edible, but also delicious.

There are a couple of keys to cleaning carp that are worth noting here. Carp fillets have a pronounced blood line, or streak of red meat down the center. This is where the muddy or “off” flavor comes from, so be sure to remove it prior to cooking. Carp are also bony creatures and like pike have a series of Y-bones that also need to be removed. Starting at about the 1:30 mark, this video from the Missouri Department of Conservation illustrates both of these steps.

Have any Wild Chef readers tried cooking carp? I’d love to hear about your experience, especially if it goes beyond the standard Fry Daddy treatment.

Comments (6)

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from Koldkut wrote 1 year 3 weeks ago

I've been wanting to get a hold of some of those carp, I hear they smoke up very very well. All the other carp I've cut up for cut bait have just had too much of that blood line to make it worth trying to get edible pieces from. Of course, I'm doing this to 12-20" fish and not the bigger ones.

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from country road wrote 1 year 2 weeks ago

Most of the salt water fish I catch and eat---mackerel, redfish, sheepshead, cobia, even pompano---have the red streak that is strong tasting and I always cut it out. It's good to know that the meat is good and that it isn't hard to cut around the bones. We don't have the Asian carp here, but I'm glad to know there is a use for them.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from SD Bob wrote 1 year 2 weeks ago

I'm not sure which variety it is, but I've eaten the ones that jump out of the water as you drive the boat. We drive the boat up the local river and once a few "join" us, we use a few of them for cut bait for cat fish and throw the remaining ones in a big cooler. After a while, we'll have 20 or so of the carp and not quite as many catfish and all get filleted. We then grind up the carp and make fish patties out of them. It is unbelieveably good! We've also taken the ground fish and made taco's as well as chowder. It takes some work to prepare them so we do a bunch at a time but it is well worth it. They taste so good that I believe if they had a different name other than carp, their flavor would make them so desireable that there would be a huge commercial market for them. Try them, I would be surprised if you didn't like them?

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from 2Poppa wrote 1 year 2 weeks ago

Kentucky commercial anglers netted nearly 83,000 pounds of Asian carp during the country’s first freshwater commercial fishing tournament.

Barry Mann claimed the top prize of $10,000 after hauling 28,670 pounds of fish from Kentucky and Barkley lakes during the two-day tournament held March 12-13.

“We were in them all day long,” said Mann, of Benton, Ky. “They were still jumping around the boat when we had to leave. What we went for was 20,000 pounds. We were pleased with our weight.”

Ron Brooks, fisheries director for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, said the tournament underscored the enormity of Asian carp issues in two of Kentucky’s most economically and recreationally important reservoirs – as well as other areas in the state.

“Kentucky waters are infested with Asian carp,” Brooks said. “The 40 tons of carp removed during this tournament is not insignificant, but this is only a drop in the proverbial bucket. The results were as clear as is the message: We must employ the commercial industry to remove Asian carp.”

Two species of Asian carp – bighead carp and silver carp – are plankton feeders and do not take bait off a hook like a sport fish. Brooks noted that these carp over harvest plankton, which are the base of the aquatic food chain. Carp threaten the well-being of native fish and mussels by removing this source of nutrition..

Twenty-one commercial fishing teams originally signed up for the tournament. The number dropped to 15 on opening day, then to 11 teams as some fishermen dropped far behind Mann’s team and the team of Heath Frailley, the runner-up.

Frailley, a resident of Calhoun, Ky., brought back 22,000 pounds of carp. His team earned the $4,000 second-place prize. Owen Trainer of Sturgis, Ky., secured third place and a $3,000 prize with 7,790 pounds of fish. Ben Duncan, who only fished one day, won $2,000 for fourth place for 7,160 pounds of fish. Joe Bommarito took fifth place and a $1,000 prize with 4,340 pounds of fish.

Department officials had hoped that each team would harvest 5,000 pounds of fish a day to meet the tournament goal of 200,000 pounds. The most experienced teams managed to exceed the daily goal.

Volunteer monitors for the tournament came from Maine, Tennessee, Illinois, Missouri and Kentucky. The monitors noted that sport fish species such bass, bluegill, catfish, and crappie were rarely caught in the nets during the tournament. Sport fish were release immediately.

Brooks wants to hold more tournaments. “The numbers of carp are becoming alarming in many waters, including Kentucky and Barkley lakes,” he said. “Tournaments are currently this department’s only tool for removing measurable quantities of Asian carp.”

Brooks said the department has learned much from this pilot tournament and plans to have more if funding can be found to give impetus to commercial fishermen to fish the two reservoirs. “The number of tournaments is dependent upon, of course, funding,” he said. “We need sponsors and we need donations.”

The first Asian carp commercial fishing tournament was successful because of key sponsors such as the League of Kentucky Sportsmen, Cabelas and the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

Tournaments will continue until fish processing plants can be built to support the existing market for Asian carp. That could generate the prices needed by commercial fishermen to make Asian carp worth their while.

“With just a little economic boost, the fish processing industry in this area would take off,” he said. “This tournament brought more media to cover this issue than we could have even hoped for, and hopefully, it will help initiate state and federal funding such as low interest loans to give the industry the small boost it needs.”

“This problem was not manufactured by Kentuckians, but it is us who need to attack it now, before the Asian carp cause insurmountable harm to our aquatic resources,” Brooks concluded.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Hornd wrote 1 year 2 weeks ago

Do the Asians eat these things? I know there is a lot of shipping containers going back to china that we could gladly fill with protein to feed the people of china.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Victor Sindoni wrote 40 weeks 4 days ago

Asian Carp have become a threat to our local fresh water
fish and mussels, Solution sell them in fish markets,
they are supposed to be delicious fried or sauteed .
They are a good form of protein for our own people.
If you cant defeat them... EAT THEM...

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from SD Bob wrote 1 year 2 weeks ago

I'm not sure which variety it is, but I've eaten the ones that jump out of the water as you drive the boat. We drive the boat up the local river and once a few "join" us, we use a few of them for cut bait for cat fish and throw the remaining ones in a big cooler. After a while, we'll have 20 or so of the carp and not quite as many catfish and all get filleted. We then grind up the carp and make fish patties out of them. It is unbelieveably good! We've also taken the ground fish and made taco's as well as chowder. It takes some work to prepare them so we do a bunch at a time but it is well worth it. They taste so good that I believe if they had a different name other than carp, their flavor would make them so desireable that there would be a huge commercial market for them. Try them, I would be surprised if you didn't like them?

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from country road wrote 1 year 2 weeks ago

Most of the salt water fish I catch and eat---mackerel, redfish, sheepshead, cobia, even pompano---have the red streak that is strong tasting and I always cut it out. It's good to know that the meat is good and that it isn't hard to cut around the bones. We don't have the Asian carp here, but I'm glad to know there is a use for them.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Koldkut wrote 1 year 3 weeks ago

I've been wanting to get a hold of some of those carp, I hear they smoke up very very well. All the other carp I've cut up for cut bait have just had too much of that blood line to make it worth trying to get edible pieces from. Of course, I'm doing this to 12-20" fish and not the bigger ones.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from 2Poppa wrote 1 year 2 weeks ago

Kentucky commercial anglers netted nearly 83,000 pounds of Asian carp during the country’s first freshwater commercial fishing tournament.

Barry Mann claimed the top prize of $10,000 after hauling 28,670 pounds of fish from Kentucky and Barkley lakes during the two-day tournament held March 12-13.

“We were in them all day long,” said Mann, of Benton, Ky. “They were still jumping around the boat when we had to leave. What we went for was 20,000 pounds. We were pleased with our weight.”

Ron Brooks, fisheries director for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, said the tournament underscored the enormity of Asian carp issues in two of Kentucky’s most economically and recreationally important reservoirs – as well as other areas in the state.

“Kentucky waters are infested with Asian carp,” Brooks said. “The 40 tons of carp removed during this tournament is not insignificant, but this is only a drop in the proverbial bucket. The results were as clear as is the message: We must employ the commercial industry to remove Asian carp.”

Two species of Asian carp – bighead carp and silver carp – are plankton feeders and do not take bait off a hook like a sport fish. Brooks noted that these carp over harvest plankton, which are the base of the aquatic food chain. Carp threaten the well-being of native fish and mussels by removing this source of nutrition..

Twenty-one commercial fishing teams originally signed up for the tournament. The number dropped to 15 on opening day, then to 11 teams as some fishermen dropped far behind Mann’s team and the team of Heath Frailley, the runner-up.

Frailley, a resident of Calhoun, Ky., brought back 22,000 pounds of carp. His team earned the $4,000 second-place prize. Owen Trainer of Sturgis, Ky., secured third place and a $3,000 prize with 7,790 pounds of fish. Ben Duncan, who only fished one day, won $2,000 for fourth place for 7,160 pounds of fish. Joe Bommarito took fifth place and a $1,000 prize with 4,340 pounds of fish.

Department officials had hoped that each team would harvest 5,000 pounds of fish a day to meet the tournament goal of 200,000 pounds. The most experienced teams managed to exceed the daily goal.

Volunteer monitors for the tournament came from Maine, Tennessee, Illinois, Missouri and Kentucky. The monitors noted that sport fish species such bass, bluegill, catfish, and crappie were rarely caught in the nets during the tournament. Sport fish were release immediately.

Brooks wants to hold more tournaments. “The numbers of carp are becoming alarming in many waters, including Kentucky and Barkley lakes,” he said. “Tournaments are currently this department’s only tool for removing measurable quantities of Asian carp.”

Brooks said the department has learned much from this pilot tournament and plans to have more if funding can be found to give impetus to commercial fishermen to fish the two reservoirs. “The number of tournaments is dependent upon, of course, funding,” he said. “We need sponsors and we need donations.”

The first Asian carp commercial fishing tournament was successful because of key sponsors such as the League of Kentucky Sportsmen, Cabelas and the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

Tournaments will continue until fish processing plants can be built to support the existing market for Asian carp. That could generate the prices needed by commercial fishermen to make Asian carp worth their while.

“With just a little economic boost, the fish processing industry in this area would take off,” he said. “This tournament brought more media to cover this issue than we could have even hoped for, and hopefully, it will help initiate state and federal funding such as low interest loans to give the industry the small boost it needs.”

“This problem was not manufactured by Kentuckians, but it is us who need to attack it now, before the Asian carp cause insurmountable harm to our aquatic resources,” Brooks concluded.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Hornd wrote 1 year 2 weeks ago

Do the Asians eat these things? I know there is a lot of shipping containers going back to china that we could gladly fill with protein to feed the people of china.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Victor Sindoni wrote 40 weeks 4 days ago

Asian Carp have become a threat to our local fresh water
fish and mussels, Solution sell them in fish markets,
they are supposed to be delicious fried or sauteed .
They are a good form of protein for our own people.
If you cant defeat them... EAT THEM...

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

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