You read that headline correctly.
I have tasted the meat of an Asian carp, the jumpy invasive fish making its way through Midwestern waters. (Verdict: Not bad, but watch out for tiny bones.) It’s the same fish that lawmakers want to prevent from reaching northern Minnesota.
First, some context. The year was 2012 and I was an news intern at the Peoria Journal-Star of Illinois. The late-night shifts were just as oppressive as the sweltering summer weather. But occasionally I received intriguing assignments that made up for it, like interviewing professional wrestlers about their TV show.
The Illinois River, where Peoria is situated, is infested with the invasive species. Fishermen hated them and their tendency to fly out of the water, and lawmakers struggled to find a way to stop their spread. .
But one group of sword-swinging guys turned that misfortune into a business, founding the Peoria Carp Hunters. I was assigned to cover a story about a local bar that was hosting a TV crew from Animal Planet to talk about Asian carp.
The basis for the show was taking one professional wrestler, Eric Young, and showcasing “extreme fishing” tactics from around the globe.
After filming the scene in the bar, I followed the crew outside. A local there opened up a cooler full of the invasive fish. After reading news reports and secondhand accounts, it was my first time seeing one up close.
The first thing I noticed was how the fish seem to bleed from their gills once they’re out of the water for no good reason. It wasn’t an appetizing site.
Looking back, there were probably several health code violations that night. But I ate a piece anyway. (Don’t worry, it was thoroughly fried.)
And surprisingly, it wasn’t bad. But I don’t expect it to become a mainstay on local menus anytime soon.
And I think many people would share County Commissioner Joe Vene’s sentiment.
“The worst nightmare I could possibly have is if the flying carp somehow transmigrated up the Mississippi and now we had a new boating sport on Lake Bemidji where we’re knocking them out of our boats with baseball bats.”
Keep your carp, Peoria.