Asian Carp Tasty
Inside the Outdoors, June 3
, 2011

Ever since my daughter, Kelsey, introduced me to Asian carp via a story she did for the St. Louis Business Journal back in September of 2010, it has given me ideas to catch the common carp that are so plentiful in our neck of the woods. I’ve only caught a few, but have never eaten any of them even though I’m told they have very tasty meat.

Its brother, if you want to call it that, is the Asian carp. It is an invasive species that “has taken over the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers,” reports my daughter, “and has eaten so much plankton, its decimating the populations of native game fish.”

She goes on to state, “The big-headed carp, which can grow up to 100 pounds, was brought here 30 years ago from China to help Kansas catfish farmers clean algae from their ponds. But flooding in the 1990's’caused the Asian carp to spread from the ponds to rivers and now the epidemic is the worst in Illinois.”

Many of you may have seen the Youtube of these fish jumping out of the water and then returning to the river, at times striking fishermen in boats or just landing in the vessels. These are the fish of which I’m referring. And for those who may not have viewed this short video on the Internet, there aren’t approximately a dozen carp that seek fresh air from the depths of the waters, but an abundant amount of species.

Noting that the rivers were burdened with a problem, two gentlemen were keen on tackling the dilemma. Gray “Butch” Magee, former owner of a Memphis allow company, and Ben Allen, an associate from a law firm, decided they would try to do something to curb the issue. They, along with an owner of a restaurant, approached the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity “looking for an innovative way to control the carp population.”

“The state referred them to Phillippe Parola, a French chef in Baton Rouge, La., who’s become a leading authority on the invasive species,” she said. “He devoted the last year to cooking the fish and developing a commercial process for removing its floating bones so it can be sold for wholesale and retail as fish cakes, substitute crab mean or as a fillet for $6 a pound.”

The newspaper’s web designer and journalist reported some people suggested ways to get rid of them, but Parola called those “quick-fix band aids.”

Ready for this. Asian carp are “incredible to eat.” they taste similar to crabmeat or scallops. A matter of fact, Magee told me, “I wouldn’t have money in it if it wasn’t a good investment.” He also said it a great fish to eat in as much as it has the highest amount of Omega 3 fatty acids compared to other fish in all the rivers, its meat is white and its not a bottom feeder. The carp live on plankton, a plant that floats or drifts in the water. It gets better.

Parola and the Illinois investors put their heads together and decided why not build a carp processing plant for between an estimated $3 million and $5 million in Grafton, MO. It would be constructed on 260 acres of land. Their business would be called Grafton Summit Enterprises LLC and consist of a group of businessmen partnering with this expert chef.

As for the economy in that town, “It would employ about 60 people as well as create numerous jobs in restaurant and marketing industries,” the backers related to Kelsey.

According to a Grafton Visitors’ Bureau representative who didn’t wish to be identified, “To my knowledge, no plant has been built as yet.”

And just when all the highlights of this story were mentioned, here is one more item that will tickle anyone’s funny bone.

Mention the name carp and chances are, the idea of eating it wouldn’t be much of a hit. So what did Parola do? He changed the name of the fish to silver fin. Now patrons are considering the meat a real treat. A matter of fact, people who have disliked the taste of fish, savor the flavor of Parola’s prize catch. Other “delicacies” of his have included alligator, the nutria rodent as well as wild boar.

It was reported in St. Louis’ Post Dispatch by Terry Hilling that the Grafton Summit Enterprises LLC has also other goals in mind. Through the efforts of people under the direction of these investors, “Commercial fishing on both the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers will be both protected and preserved.”

In discussing the common carp to the employee of Grafton Visitors’ Bureau, she informed me that it is served in restaurants in her neck of the woods.

So what about the common carp in Penn’s Woods? Its been said that the meat tastes great if one knows how to clean the fish. Surely Westmoreland as well as other surrounding counties have Parolas with such expertise that these fish can be turned into an item for any restaurateur. As for the name change, with a little imagination, something of a French twist may do, or simply, “Capoulla.” That sounds weird enough to be legit!

- Paul J. Volkmann
You can contact me by email