Chicagoans take a bite out of Asian carp

Engage in population control by eating carp burgers at the Taste of Chicago

July 11, 2012

Jewell Washington and the Associated Press

(Photo by Jewell Washington)
The Asian carp burger was offered at Taste of Chicago Wednesday.

For years Chicago has been worrying about the Asian carp, an invasive species that could wreak havoc on the Great Lakes native fish population.

But visitors at the Taste of Chicago got a chance to bite back on Wednesday. Dirk’s Fish and Gourmet Shop in Chicago teamed up with The Illinois Department of Natural Resources and Chicago's Shedd Aquarium to create and offer Asian Carp burgers.

Taste of Chicago visitors Stan and Lorraine Dean had different reactions after trying the unusual burgers.

“I think it’s pretty good,” Mrs. Dean said. “It doesn’t have a whole lot of taste to it, the seasoning makes it taste really good.”

“It’s not bad, not what I expected,” Mr. Dean said, after taking his first bite. “There’s just certain fish I like and this will be something that I’ll have to get used to.”

State officials have been trying to change the perception of the fish, calling it a nutritious food that could become a consumer item. Last year the agency offered a free community dinner featuring the bony fish.

Mark Miller, who heads the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, says Asian carp tastes good deep fried, sautéed and even crab-cake style. More importantly, he says eating the carp helps control the population in Illinois waters.
 
“People who are eating those fish can be on the front line of fighting to keep Asian carp from getting into the Great Lakes,” Miller said. “If they will eat it, we’ll be able to push them back and make that less of a threat.”

Asian carp have migrated up the Mississippi and Illinois rivers and are poised to invade the Great Lakes, where they could out-compete native fish for food.

Authorities this week will search Chicago's Lake Calumet for possible Asian carp. A few samples of carp DNA have turned up beyond the protective electric barrier. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources said that doesn't necessarily mean Asian carp are creeping into Lake Michigan.