The carp, introduced in 1850, is now a trouble...

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So far, none of the participants on this trip along the Murray River could be called keen fishers. Sure, we’re all happy to eat the outcomes of others’ fishing expeditions, but even if we throw a line out, we tend to lose attention after 5 minutes.

Don’t get us wrong, we have been trying. We were lent a couple of Opera House style yabbie nets and along with two handlines, these have made up the core of our fishing equipment. Most places we’ve camped we’ve dutifully put out the yabbie nets with some bread or meat, but the yabbies just ain’t interested. Apparently they were being pulled in by the dozen before Christmas, but now they’re breeding and are shyer.

We have had two tiny yabbies in the nets, but one small yabbie shared between three people is not a huge feed, so back in the Murray River they go. In general, we’ve been pulling in some freshwater shrimp* and the bane of the Australian freshwater fisher – European Carp.

See, going fishing and catching carp is like going birdwatching and only seeing pigeons.

Now, back in Europe where we’re based, carp are normal eating, in fact, they’re often prepared for celebrations such as Christmas. Come the fourth week in Advent families gather at the market to select their fish, which are either ceremonially bashed on the head or taken home in a bucket for later festivities. So there must be some reason leading to carp’s introduction into Australian dams and garden ponds.

But nowadays carp are rampant across many of Australia’s fresh-waterways and they just aren’t eaten. Compared to other Murray caught fish such as callop (perch), catfish and Red Fin (another introduced perch species), carp have the reputation of being muddy and full of bones. When people have discussed eating carp it’s usually recommended that they are purged in freshwater or eaten smoked or with a lot of additional flavouring. There’s just no appeal in eating them.

Do we, experienced expats, eat them? Nah, along with the rest of Australia we just bash ’em on the head and chuck the “carpses” back in the river.

[Plus, we forgot to bring a knife sharp enough to easily gut and fillet them. And we don’t really have the time or clean fresh water to purge them before eating. ]

See, if you catch carp you can’t return them to the water alive. Since their introduction carp have not just gained a reputation as an inedible fish that breeds like mad, they have also been blamed for half of the problems the Murray River xperiences.

  • The siltiness of the river? Carp
  • Eating native fish fingerlings and reducing fish stocks? Carp
  • The undercutting of the riverbank? Carp
  • Pushing indigenous fish out of the food chain? Carp

Now while carp may be a likely culprit for these problems, they’re also a simple scapegoat for problems that might also be influenced by wakeboard boats, agriculcultural erosion and pollution and the destruction of native riverbank plant species such as River Red Gums.

Regardless, carp are a problem and in order to best control their numbers we need to find innovative ways of using them and making them more palateable to the Australian public.

While putting a harness on carp and using them to drag our boat had crossed our mind we are looking for suggestions of what to do with both dead and living carp.

Have you got a recipe or a wild idea?

* apparently these make great bait, but are breeding now – look out for the one’s with visible greenish eggs through their translucent shells.