The Rodney Dangerfield of fish breeds

When the tip of the pole bent almost straight down like a tree branch divining for water, I thought my son was getting ready to reel in a big catfish. That’s what he set out to catch and had caught at Lake Burtschi (about 6.5 miles northeast of Cement) several times before.

The weather was warming up last week after the latest cold snap and we grabbed our poles and just some earthworms for bait and headed out to the lake for a spur-of-the-moment fishing trip. He cast and let the hook and worm lay on the bottom waiting for a hungry catfish to come leisurely swimming by looking for a snack.

After a leisurely wait on his end, the end of his pole began to twitch a little and then more and then straight down. He ended up with a pretty good fight on his hands and then held his line up with a decent size carp dangling from it. In all our years of fishing Burtschi and other Oklahoma lakes, neither one of us had ever caught carp before. We didn’t have a scale with us, but guessed it weighed maybe two pounds or so and tossed it back.

I put a bobber on my line so I could sit back and enjoy the sun and a cool breeze and do some reading about carp. The first thing I discovered is that, in the United States, carp is like the Rodney Dangerfield of fish breeds. They don’t get any respect. For those of you who don’t remember Dangerfield, he was an American comedian famous for his one-liner of “I don’t get no respect.”

An interesting paradox is that carp is considered a sport fish in Europe and called a trash fish in the U.S. and not sought after to eat. It’s also apparently known as “bone fish.” According to the Department of Natural Resources, carp is native to Europe and Asia and was originally introduced into Midwest waters as a game fish in the 1880s. Common carp are one of the most damaging aquatic invasive species, the website noted, due to its wide distribution and severe impacts to rooted plants in shallow lakes.

The Common carp, however, is considered one of the hardest fighting freshwater game fish in the world. One website said carp fishing in Europe can be compared to Bass fishing in the U.S., due to the big money that’s poured into the industry.

I came across an interesting article on carp in the April 1964 issue of Oklahoma Wildlife titled “Fierce Fighters Overlooked.” It also included instructions on how to filet a carp. It was written by Mickey Kernodle from the Oklahoma Fishery Research Laboratory.

He wrote that the undesirable taste of carp comes from the skin, the thin layer of fat underlying it and the mud streak along the side of the body. Remove those elements, cure the filets in saltwater from two to six hours and they can be cooked by any of the usual methods.

“Oklahoma anglers are overlooking a tremendous potential by not utilizing the carp as a sport fish,” Kernodle wrote over 55 years ago. “Carp are fierce fighters and are abundant enough to provide good sport fishing almost everywhere in Oklahoma. However, they have been branded as a rough fish and have never been able to raise their status.”

He did conclude his article by acknowledging that carp “are very definitely a problem in some Oklahoma waters where they are overabundant.” He believed that sport fishing of the species, which is a large freshwater fish from the minnow family, is one solution to the problem.

If you would like to read Kernodle’s entire article on the “Fierce Fighters,” along with recipes for fried carp and broiled carp, go to digitalprairie.ok.gov and search for the April 1964 issue of Oklahoma Wildlife.