PHIL WIELAND: Will America ever go from 'carp bites' to 'bite carp'?

2013-09-20T00:00:00Z PHIL WIELAND: Will America ever go from 'carp bites' to 'bite carp'? nwitimes.com
September 20, 2013 12:00 am

When a Purdue assistant prof compares the Asian carp invasion to Jurassic Park and says, "Frankly, they scare me," that tells me we either have a major problem on our hands or he's an ichthyophobic nerd.

No doubt many who read that story earlier this week shared my vision of 100-foot-long Carposaurus rexes roaming the region in search of ... what? ... corn niblets and doughballs? That's what I've seen carp fishermen use.

Of course, you don't find a lot of carp fishermen. At least, not in America, where carp rank only slightly higher in public popularity than the plague and congressmen. In China, Asian carp have been a sought after diet delicacy for thousands of years, but then the Chinese could make even a congressman go down easier. Maybe.

Although the Asian carp can reach impressive size (a 53-inch, 82-pounder was caught recently in Illinois), T. Rex-sized monsters aren't likely, and they are restricted to living in water -- so far -- so the niblets and doughball crops are safe for now.

Still, they can be large enough to eat pets and small children, especially if they look like a niblet or a doughball, and they have an alarming habit of, when alarmed, leaping up to 10 feet out of the water. This is not a problem unless you happen to be a passing boater, in which case you better be wearing body armor.

Actually, Asian carp feast on river plankton, and it is feared they can destroy the ecosystem for other river-dwelling critters, like mollusks, snails and other fish. So far, Americans have not joined the Chinese fetish for carp flesh, so the carp, apparently a very fecund fish, are reproducing at a prodigious rate.

One species of carp was found with more than 2 million eggs, apparently attempting to start her own black market in carp caviar. Unfortunately, there is no black market in carp caviar yet, but, according to federal Asian carp czar John Goss, there could be.

Instead of looking at the river as being half full of a pestilential fish, Goss told an Indiana legislative study committee in Porter County this week, "The market for carp products or value added carp products are truly the future. There could be economic opportunities for companies in Indiana."

I have no idea what a "value added carp product" might be, but I think he's saying, if we can't lick 'em (a pretty disgusting thought, if you pause to think about such things), eat 'em. That's easy for him to say, but I suspect it's going to take the mother of all marketing campaigns to make carp as American as apple pie and hot dogs.

But then, it will be a piece of cake (carp cake?) compared to what it will take to make Congress seem worth a bucket of warm carp caviar.

The opinions are those of the writer. He can be reached at phil.wieland@nwi.com or (219) 548-4352.

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