COLUMBIA — Asian carp can be a fishy addition to your diet, if you know how to catch and prepare them.
The Missouri Department of Conservation held an Asian carp cleaning and filleting session at the North Village Arts District Farmers & Artisans Market on Sunday in Columbia. Fish ecologists Quinton Phelps and Sara Tripp spoke to visitors about the species' impact on Missouri aquatic ecosystems and demonstrated how to prepare the fish for cooking.
To help introduce the Asian carp to Missouri dinner plates, Tripp demonstrated how to fillet a pair of carp every hour until the market closed.
She offered key lessons, including how to remove the Y-bone that has given the species a reputation for being boney. The bone is easily removed, rendering the filets highly edible.
It is also important to immediately remove the red muscle underneath the skin before filleting, as it adds a fishy taste to the white meat.
Department of Conservation employees were on hand as impromptu cooks and said that, once filleted, Asian carp tastes excellent with Andy's Seasoning.
Phelps said the fish was brought to the United States in the South, where aquaculture farms sought to improve water quality. The Asian carp’s appetite for algae improved the water and the taste of harvested fish meat, Phelps said, but catastrophic floods at those farms allowed the fish to escape.
Researchers have since tracked Asian carp and discovered that the fish can migrate 300 to 400 miles a week. The large fish has few predators; a medium specimen can be about 3 feet in length and continue to grow.
"The biggest problem is they're consuming the base of the food web," Phelps said. "They're eating microscopic plants and animals that are essential to it, so they're disrupting all levels."
For these reasons, the Asian carp is considered so predatory a species that Missouri's conservation rules allow unlimited harvesting of it.