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Wild Things: ‘Asian’ Carp to Be Rebranded

If people take the bait, more will hit the plate

A little more than a year after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) quietly changed its designation for four species of Asian carp to “invasive carp,” the Illinois Department of Natural Resources will unveil a completely new name next week.

After making the soft name change last spring, Charlie Wooley, USFWS Midwest regional director, said the agency wanted to move away from any terms for the destructive species that cast Asian culture and people in a negative light.

During the 50 years since the first Asian carp were brought to the U.S. by a fish farmer in Arkansas, I’ve never heard name-shaming toward anything but the four species of carp themselves: bighead, silver, grass and black. 

Still, a press release from the marketing firm M. Harris & Co. noted that the unveiling of a new national name and brand will be made June 22. 

The release stated that Asian carp are “mild-flavored, flakey freshwater fish caught in Midwestern waterways,” and notes that they are “more savory than tilapia, cleaner tasting than catfish, and firmer than cod.”

Because I prefer fresh-caught salmon, trout, panfish, walleye and whitefish, that seems like some pretty slick writing to camouflage the fact that the bony (and ugly!) China natives have been mainly used for fertilizer and pet food so far. 

Yet properly deboned and cooked, the invasive carp that are packing the Illinois and Mississippi rivers may indeed be good table fare. They’re plankton feeders and are said to have mild-tasting flesh that takes seasoning well. As with any fish, where they’re caught, and how they’re handled and prepared, are big flavor factors.

According to the release, “What we need now is a name that is as appealing as its taste so [that] more people will eat it, and in the process, restore our waterways and protect the Great Lakes.”

Any guesses on the new name? Suggestions? Email your ideas to me at [email protected] 

Meanwhile, learn all about Asian carp – while they’re still called that – at usgs.gov/faqs/what-are-asian-carp and invasivecarp.us.

Cash In on Salmon

First place in the Kewaunee/Door County Salmon Tournament will be worth $5,000 more for the 40th annual event, set for July 15-24. In addition to a daily port prize package, the first-place winner will get $15,000 cash, a free mount of the Chinook by Twin Rivers Taxidermy and a custom-made salmon ring by artist Paul Spanbauer of Wisconsin Charm.

Tickets – $30 for the full tournament, or $20 for a one-day shot – are available at B&K Bait and Tackle at Kap’s Marina on Washington Island; Baileys 57 in Baileys Harbor; JP Express north of Carlsville; Howie’s Tackle & Archery and Greystone Castle in Sturgeon Bay; Algoma BP and JP Express in Algoma; and Accurate Marine, Tackle & Storage and Center Court BP in Kewaunee.

All tickets include a random-draw chance for a 9.9 HP Yamaha motor from Shipyard Island Marina.

The angler who lands the second-heaviest salmon will win $8,000 and a Howie’s Tackle prize package; third place will earn $5,000 and an Accurate Marine prize package. The tournament typically pays out more than 100 places. 

There will also be 50 port prize packages for the largest fish each day at weigh-in sites in Kewaunee, Algoma, Sturgeon Bay, Baileys Harbor and Washington Island.

The event was started in 1983 by the late Will Krueger of Kap’s Marina on Washington Island, Jerry and Tom MacMillin of what was then Mac’s Sport Shop in Sturgeon Bay, and Tom Kleiman Sr. of the former Tom’s Sport Shop in Kewaunee. 

A winning salmon in excess of 30 pounds has been landed 24 times, including 11 years in a row from 1989 to 1999, and seven straight since 2015. A 40.07-pound giant taken in 1993 holds the tournament record. 

The average winning size has been increasing during recent years. In fact, the 36.70-pounder caught in 2019 was the third heaviest on record, and last year’s 35.65-pounder was the sixth-largest winner. 

Only July 23, 2021 – one day prior to the start of the tournament – a 38.58-pound monster was reeled in near Algoma and weighed on tournament scales at Kewaunee. It was a young angler aboard an 18-foot boat owned by first-year charter captain Connor Bowen who landed the fish, which was thought to be the heaviest on the Wisconsin side of the lake since the 1999 tournament winner.

Follow the latest salmon-tournament news at facebook.com/kdsalmon2022.

Spring Turkey Tales

Hunters registered more than 39,000 wild turkeys during the spring season, up about 5% from last year. The numbers included nearly 9,200 in our zone, Zone 2, which trailed only Zone 3 (9,918) and Zone 1 (10,504). Fewer than one in five tags was filled statewide, though the percentages are not corrected for nonparticipation.

Northern-Zone Bass

Smallmouth bass will be legal to harvest in the Northern Zone, which includes tributaries to Lake Michigan north of Highway 29, beginning June 18. Smallmouths will remain off limits within a quarter mile of all islands in the Town of Washington Island until July 1.

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