Perhaps you have heard the misguided advice from people who say, “You can’t eat carp.” That puts a real damper on bowfishing if you can’t eat the fish you kill, especially if you like the taste of fish.
Why can’t you eat carp? In truth, you can eat carp, but you have a lot of people in the United States who don’t like carp. Because of that, they say that you can’t eat it even if you can. In Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, they eat carp as a Christmas tradition.
If you’d like to learn more about why people say that you can’t eat carp, keep reading to learn more.
Pollution: Be Careful of How Much You Eat
One of the reasons that people might say that you can’t eat carp comes from the fact that carp act like scavengers. They feed off the bottom of the riverbed, and they eat whatever they find. This can lead to the meat getting more polluted than other fish. For that reason, certain lakes and rivers don’t want you to eat too many carp because they can have adverse health effects.
Usually, the bigger and older the carp, the stronger the flavor. In some polluted rivers, pollution can taint the meat and give it a bad flavor. While carp can survive in polluted waters, they won’t taste good.
How to Make Carp Taste Good
Part of the reason people think of carp as inedible comes from its strong flavor. Not everyone likes the taste, and they say you can’t eat them as a result. You can cook carp in certain ways to make them taste better. For example, I like to smoke carp meat because it eliminates much of the strong flavor. Also, cut out the mud vein of the carp because this creates part of the strong flavor.
I wrote an excellent article here on how to fillet carp. It has a great recipe too, which I will post here:
How to Brine Filleted Carp
- 1 gallon of water
- 3 tablespoons of garlic powder
- 6 tablespoons of onion powder
- 1 1/2 cups of brown sugar
- 1 1/2 cups of salt
You want to brine the carp because it will keep it moist after you put it in the smoker. China is another country where they think of carp as a delicacy. Many countries in Asia think of carp in this way, and if well prepared, carp can taste good.
Should You Eat Carp?
I’d recommend that you eat carp at least once in your lifetime. If you don’t like it, you can choose to never try it again, but you’d be missing out on this wonderfully intelligent fish. Carp are considered some of the smartest fish, and you will rarely catch a carp twice in the same way.
As a bowfisherman, I’m biased toward telling you to eat carp. I love the taste of smoked carp. Not only that, I love shooting and killing carp, and it makes use out of the carp that I have killed. Carp are edible, and anyone who tells you that you can’t eat them–whether from ignorance or dislike of the flavor–deserves a big heaping plate of carp.
More Likely to Pick up Toxins
Because carp act as bottom feeders, this increases the likelihood that they will pick up toxins from the river bottom. The toxins can give them an unpleasant flavor, and in some cases, depending on the level of pollution, you shouldn’t eat the carp at all. That is probably where this myth of not being able to eat the carp first began. It’s not that you can’t eat the carp, but you have to make sure that you source it from a clean and healthy water source. Your fish will taste better.
Why Americans Don’t Eat Carp
You even have some bowfishermen who won’t eat carp because they dislike the flavor. They will discard it instead or use it as compost in their gardens. That can be equally as good because this type of fertilizer works well.
In general, Americans don’t eat carp for two reasons. First, you have the flavor. Second, you have the bone structure, which makes it a less-than-ideal fish to fillet. Some Americans even call this type of fish a trash fish because of its strong flavor.
The Type of Carp Matters
You have different species of carp, but one that people have called delicious is the grass carp. It tends to have a better flavor than the others, and if you prepare it correctly, it tastes like white meat fish. Part of the better flavor could come from the fact that this carp has less of a cosmopolitan diet, and primarily eats plants. This means that they need clean water. The cleaner water helps the fish meat to taste better.
People may have tried the Asian carp, a carp known for its strong flavor and thought that all carp tastes horrible. However, you’d be wise to check out other carp species because this only marks one species of carp. If you want a better-flavored carp look for the grass carp.
Better Alternatives Than Carp
One of the reasons that people choose not to eat them in America comes from the fact that you have a better selection of choices. When I have a choice between pizza and potatoes, I’m going with pizza every time. For example, walleye tastes great, and sunfish and northern pike taste equally as good. People don’t eat carp because they have developed a taste for some of the other fish and prefer it.
As a bowfisherman, I encounter carp a lot because that’s my primary target. I like the taste of carp, but I know of other bowfishermen who prefer to use it as compost. Either way, you help the local environment because of how this fish has overrun our lakes and rivers, displacing the native fish populations.
If their numbers are left unchecked, they will pose a real problem for us in the future. They have already begun to invade some of our most cherished waterways like the Mississippi. Bowfishermen serve as guardians of the local environment, and we perform a public service.