EAST PEORIA, Ill.
(AP) - The swarms of Asian carp that infest the Illinois River may not want
to hear this, but they’re good to eat.
Clint Carter from
Carter’s Fish Market in Springfield demonstrated that as he prepared a carp
taste test on Tuesday at Dixon Seafood Shoppe, 1807 W. Main St. in East
how to slice a boneless filet off the whole fish, Carter fried up samples in
Dixon’s kitchen. “I’m trying to find ways to get people to enjoy this fish,”
Taking note of
Carter’s preparations were Mike White of Whitey’s BBQ in East Peoria and
Jeff Westbay of the Bass Pro Shop, both planning to take part in the first
annual Flying Fish Festival planned on the Illinois River here July 11-12.
Along with a
bowfishing tournament expected to draw some of the country’s top archers to
target the high-flying fish, the festival will also offer Asian carp food
samples, said John Hamann, rural economic development director for Peoria
There shouldn’t be
any shortage of targets. Researchers at Southern Illinois University have
estimated that the Asian carp now make up more than 60 percent of all
aquatic life in the Illinois River.
“The fish are
definitely here,” said Hamann, recalling a fishing expedition in Havana with
six men in two boats that netted 50,000 pounds of Asian carp in a single day
“We’re looking for
ways to keep this fish in check, and the commercial use of this fish is one
of those. We’ll also be asking people to rebrand it,” said Hamann, aware
that, given the fish’s reputation for leaping out of the water, the very
mention of Asian carp sends people scrambling for cover - not for knife and
The challenge will
be getting that fish to market - whether to be consumed here or in China, he
processing plants are two-and-half-hours away. Fishermen are spending more
time on the road than they are in the water,” said Hamann, noting recent
interest in establishing a plant to process fish in the Peoria area.
“We’ve had four
different groups look at setting up a business here - three from China. One
major U.S. seafood company working with a Chinese company was just here a
week ago,” he said.
The suggestion has
been made that a processing plant that provides jobs would make more sense
than an expensive electric fence to keep carp at bay.
“The government is
talking about spending $20 million to $30 million to keep carp out of the
Great Lakes. They ought to peel off $5 million for a processing plant right
here,” said Jim Dixon, president of the Dixon seafood operation.
Getting fish out of
the Illinois River is nothing new to Dixon, representing the fifth
generation of a family business that, in the early 20th century, pulled more
than a million pounds of fish from the river each year for U.S. fish
white, flakey fish that’s boneless and doesn’t taste like fish,” said Dixon,
pointing out that while a filet of Asian carp qualifies, “you’re only using
10 percent of the fish.”
“In China and Asia,
they’re used to the head and the bones when it comes to fish,” he said.
“(Asian carp) needs
to be shipped whole or we need to find a way to get the meat off the bone,
some kind of a steam cooker,” said Dixon.