IDNR on Asian carp: ‘If you can’t beat them, eat them’

Westwoods Lodge Pub and Grill in Springfield serves silverfin cakes as appetizers. (Rachel Droze)

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources has been doing all they can to fight down Asian carp, but they’re now at the point of saying, if you can’t beat them, eat them.

The invasive species has devastated waterways around Illinois for decades.

“They consume about 50 to 60 percent of their weight each day,” said Ed Cross, communications director with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. “They eat a lot, which makes it a challenge for our native fish.”

Several efforts are underway to keep the fish out of the Great Lakes, but now states are teaming up with the federal government to start capitalizing on waterways already invaded.

“If we can get folks excited and interested in these, not only are we creating a sustainable product for consumers, we’re creating a way to combat a problem,” Cross said.

Commercial fishermen catch the fish, or sometimes the flying fish hop right into their boats.

Next, the product is shipped out for processing, sold the suppliers and then arrives in stores and restaurants.

Cross said this could add even more revenue to the states multi-million dollar fishing industry.

Westwoods Lodge Pub and Grill is one of a few places in Springfield now serving Asian carp, which you’ll see as silverfin on menus.

Westwoods introduced silverfin cakes as an appetizer about six months ago.

“A lot of people are really surprised how well they taste and how they made them into this product,” Westwoods owner Mick Wanless said. “It’s like a crab cake made with the Asian carp.”

While some carp species are bottom feeders and are said to have a muddy taste, the silverfin that’s found at restaurants tastes similar to whitefish.

“It doesn’t have that fishy taste that some people think that it does,” Cross said. “It doesn’t have that strong taste to it. It really does taste similar to cod or crappie.”

Cross said said not only is it good to eat, the fish can also be used for other things like supplements, animal food and fertilizer.

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