Asian Carp

February 15, 2012

Bighead Carp (Hypophthalmichthys nobilis)

Multiple species, including the black carp, Mylopharyngodon piceus; grass carp, Ctenopharyngodon idella; silver carp, Hypophthalmichthys molitrix; and large-scale silver carp, Hypophthalmichthys harmandi.

Native Range: Asia. The black carp is found in China and parts of Russia and Vietnam.

Invasive Range: Throughout the Mississippi River watershed

Habitat: Large warm-water rivers and impoundments.


They can swim up the Mississippi River. They can fly over a fishing boat, ten feet in the air, hitting fishermen with the force of a bowling ball. They won’t take bait from hook, and they’re bony—so what’s to like about Asian carp? They’re invaders that taste good.


Asian carp—the silver and the bighead—introduced in the 1970s to Southern catfish farms and municipal sewage ponds to eat the overgrowth of algae, escaped. Steadily, the fish have made their way north, eating as they went, consuming up to 40% of their body weight at day. Filter-feeding on zooplankton, phytoplankton, detritus, and algae, they have quickly became the most abundant species in some areas of the Mississippi, easily out-competing the natives and changing habitat for the worse. They eat continuously. They reproduce prodigiously. They inhabit a third of the rivers in the Mississippi and Ohio drainage as far north as the Chicago Ship and Sanitary Canal, which connects the Mississippi to the Great Lakes, and have been sighted nearing Lake Michigan. Can the Great Lakes, at least, be saved from them? Can we human predators help buy time until a way to eradicate or at least control their numbers elsewhere can be found?

It’s true that a seriously bony fish is going to have a low meat yield of only 20% to 25%. But the Asian carp is a filter feeder, so it doesn’t have the muddy taste associated with the bottom-feeding common carp. Since the Asian carp feeds at plankton-level on the food chain, it’s low in contaminants like mercury and PCBs. And it’s low in fat, and some say it tastes just like cod.

“The Asian carp filets are as good as anything you can find in the water,” Duane Chapman, research biologist at the Invasive Carp Research Program, US Geological Service, said of home cooking. “We usually put some rub on it and stick it on the grill and eat it that way. Sometimes we make ceviche, or we’ll fry it up for company. You can make fajitas with the carp or smoke it; add it to curry or soup; or just steam it. It’s delicious.”

To read more about these invaders, check out the Detroit Free Press’s definitive six-part series, The Truth About Asian Carp.

Also read Ian Frazer’s excellent article in The New Yorker: “Fish Out of Water.”

Adventures with Jumping Carp. (They should have kept them!)

Preparing Asian Carp

Unlike its common cousin, Cyprinus carpio, Asian carp is not a muddy-tasting bottom-feeder; it’s a filter-feeder that loves plankton. But it is bony, so it’s best turned into fillets. Duane Chapman, USGS fish biologist known as The Carp Guy, shows you his chef-level knife-skills on YouTube.

Fajitas Carpitas

Adapted from Duane Chapman

Serves 5

2 pounds deboned Asian carp pieces
10 soft tortillas, fajita size

Ingredients for the marinade
1/4 cup lime juice
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Fajita toppings
salsa, pico de gallo, cheese, guacamole, or shredded lettuce

1. Mix ingredients for fajita marinade in a large resealable bag.

2. Marinate carp pieces in fridge for at least 1 hr.

2. Grill fillets with a fish basket or aluminum mesh. (If you’re careful, this is not necessary, as carp is quite firm.)

3. Place grilled fish in covered bowl and deliver to table.

4. Let diners construct their own Fajitas Carpitas from the toppings.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Neil August 3, 2015 at 11:23 pm

Looking at the video of how these Asian Carp jump out of the water, when they panic at the sound of a motorized boat, suggests to me an easy way to catch these fish for commercial harvesting; outfit a motor boat with optimally designed hoop nets or buckets, and just let the fish leap into these. If the motorized boat is solar powered, the business operators would have low overheads, since the boats wouldn’t need to travel very fast, they may catch sufficient fish to make the venture profitable.

This may turn these fish from a pest into a valuable food commodity. And they may be canned if they taste just as good or better than canned tuna, to reduce the pressure on wild tuna populations, by offering consumers a lower cost alternative.


Asian Carp April 17, 2015 at 5:53 pm

There used to be a time when America used to use Blue Fin Tuna has fertilizer and animal feed because they lacked the pristine white colors needed to be sold as canned tuna. Only after Japanese airliners tested out a new container good enough to hold frozen fish did Blue Fin Tuna become a valued fish for American fisherman. There’s a moral to this history. Asian Carp might be a pest and useless fish in America, but always look to sushi. There’s always a market for new fish species in the raw fish sector!


Joe Tsien August 8, 2012 at 11:02 am

Harvest them commercially and turn them into fertilizer or animal feed.


Leave a Comment

{ 4 trackbacks }



Wild Pig

Did the domestic ancestors of today’s feral pigs streak off De Soto’s ship into the Florida scrub of their own accord in 1539? Or did they have to be urged to go find something to eat? All you need to…


Garden Snail

Deliberately or accidentally, by the movement of plants and by hobbyists who collect snails, humans have spread the garden snail to temperate and subtropical zones around the world.


Garlic Mustard

  Alliaria petiolata Native range: Europe, Asia, Northwest Africa Invasive range: Much of the Lower 48, Alaska, and Canada. (See map.) Habitat: Moist, shaded soil of floodplains, forests, roadsides, edges of woods, and forest openings. Often dominant in disturbed areas. Description: Biennial herb. First-year plant has a rosette of green leaves close to the ground. […]

nopales con huevo

Prickly Pear

Fall is here, and the “cactus fig” is in season. Time to plate-up another widespread invader.

Screen Shot 2012-11-18 at 8.02.21 AM

Sow Thistle

It’s spring and time to weed. Sow thistle is a delicious invader found throughout the continent.




Asian Shore Crab

The first sighting of the Asian shore crab in the United States was at Townsend Inlet, Cape May County, New Jersey, in 1988. Though the source is unknown . . .



The common periwinkle, which first appeared in New England in the 1860s, is now found along the coast wherever there’s hard substrate–rocks, riprap, broken concrete, or docks–from Labrador to . . .

Pterois volitans


Some say it started in 1992 in Miami when Hurricane Andrew smashed an aquarium tank. Don’t blame the weather, others say; in the mid-nineties, disappointed yet softhearted hobbyists…

chuka wakame


  Undaria pinnatifida Native range: Japan Sea Invasive range: Southern California, San Francisco Bay, New Zealand, Australia, Europe, Argentina Habitat: Opportunistic seaweed, can be found on hard substrates including rocky reefs, pylons, buoys, boat hulls, and abalone and bivalve shells. Description: Golden brown seaweed, growing up to nine feet. Forms thick canopy. Reproductive sporophyll in […]


Green Crab

Since the green crab was first recorded off southern Massachusetts in 1817, it has been hard to ignore. A few minutes of rock-flipping in Maine can turn up dozens of them, brandishing their claws as they retreat…



Armored Catfish Meatballs (1)

Armored Catfish

The armored catfish is abundant and destructive in Florida, Texas, and Mexico. Cast your nets for these flavorful natives of the Amazon. Scientific name: Two types have become established in North America: armadillo del rio, Hypostomus plecostomus, and sailfin catfishes in genus Pterygoplichthys Native range: Amazon River Basin Invasive range: Texas, Florida, and Hawaii; also […]

Picture 1

Common Carp

For a bottom-feeder, what is the good life? The common carp isn’t very demanding: any body of water that’s sluggish and murky will do. If the water is clean, and you’ve got corn for bait, try one of these recipes.



  Nasturtium officianale Native Range: Northern Africa, Europe, temperate Asia, and India Invasive Range: In USA: all lower 48 states, except North Dakota. Found in Alaska, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. Also southern Canada, Sub-Saharan Africa, South America, Australasia, and parts of tropical Asia. Habitat: Common along stream margins, ditches, and other areas with […]



  There are numerous invasive crayfish. We include details for the red swamp crayfish (Procambarus clarkii) and the rusty crayfish (Orenectes rusticus). The same recipes can be used for both species–and many other invasive crayfish. Red Swamp Crayfish Native range: Known as Louisiana crayfish, crawdad, and mudbug, Procambarus clarkii is native to the south central […]



Nutria, also known as coypu and river rat, is native to temperate and subtropical South America. It has been introduced to Europe, Asia, and Africa, mainly for fur farming. These voracious. . .


Field Notes

Digital StillCamera

Can We Eliminate Invasive Species by Eating Them?

On restaurant menus across New England, green crabs are showing up in everything from bouillabaisse and bisques to croquettes and crudo. Read about it in Salon.


Radio Health Journal

Can adding invasives to your diet help the environment and your health? Listen to Radio Health Journal here.

Screen Shot 2022-04-08 at 7.39.53 AM

Qui veut manger des espèces invasives ?

Joe Roman chats with Camille Crosnier about eating invasives on France Inter. Listen here. In French.

Screen Shot 2022-03-12 at 7.18.19 AM

Berlin’s Invasive Species Cuisine

A Berlin food truck is opening people’s minds and mouths by feeding them a menu of invasive species with the slogan, “If you can’t beat them, eat them!” Read more about it in the Good News Network.

Screen Shot 2022-02-14 at 7.14.15 PM

Rack of Squirrel, Anyone?

Patrick Greenfield discusses the rise of invasivorism in the Guardian. Read it here.


“What is being lost? The answer is easy. A precious and irreplaceable part of Florida’s, and the nation’s, heritage is disappearing. Plants, animals, and entire ecosystems that took tens of thousands to millions of years to evolve are at risk. What is being gained in their place? A hodgepodge of species found in other parts of the world. . . . Florida is being homogenized, and everyone, for all time to come, will be the poorer for it.”

—E. O. Wilson, in his foreword to Strangers in Paradise: Impact and Management of Nonindigenous Species in Florida

Previous post:

Next post: