Catch, don’t release

For all you fishing people out there, we’re going to talk a bit about some invasive fish you might catch.

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources lists 13 fish that are considered invasive to Indiana waters. Ten of these, if caught, need to be reported to the DNR. These include Bighead Carp, Black Carp, Grass Carp, Silver Carp, Round Goby, Rud, Ruffie, Snakehead, Walking Catfish and White Perch. Let’s talk about a few.

White Perch: Most of these are found in northern Indiana, entering in through the Great Lakes. These fish have a silvery greenish gray body and can reach 11 inches. They can be confused with the native White Bass but the bass has dark horizontal lines on its sides. A female White Perch can release 20,000 eggs during each spawning period and can do so up to three times a year.

It is the law that you are to kill all White Perch you catch, if you catch one where they are not yet known, DNR wants to know.

Grass Carp: A native of eastern Asia, they made their way into the U.S. and now are found in 45 states. They are a very common fish in Indiana and it is legal to stock private lakes and ponds with them as long as they are sterile (known as triploid). This carp has a long body, a round belly and a broad head with a silvery dark gray color above and the sides are a lighter color with a golden sheen. They do get large; the largest caught in Indiana weighed 65 pounds.

These fish can be found in ponds, lakes and the backwaters of large rivers. It’s a hardy fish that can live in water from freezing to over 100 degrees and in low oxygen situations. They primarily eat aquatic vegetation but will eat insects if need be.

The trouble with these guys are that although they were introduced to control vegetation in aquaculture facilities, once they escape they can, in large numbers, remove all aquatic vegetation from a body of water. This is bad for other fish that depend on this vegetation. If you catch one of these from a body of water where it was not stocked, do not return it to the water.

Let’s talk a bit about Indiana’s “flying fish” also known as the silver carp. This fish has been known to leap up to six feet out of the water when disturbed. Its native range is eastern Asia, however it came to the states in 1973 when a fish farmer in Arkansas used them to control phytoplankton in his ponds. Before long, some state, federal and private aquaculture facilities (including sewage lagoons) had been stocked. As normal, it eventually escaped and is now present throughout much of the Mississippi River basin.

When their numbers get large enough they can cause damage to our native fish by feeding on phytoplankton, larva fish, mussels and some adult fish, such as paddlefish, gizzard shad and bigmouth buffalo. Besides jumping out of the water and scaring the whatsus out of you, it has been known to injure boaters, some seriously. The largest caught in Indiana weighed in at a bit over 15 pounds, and they have been known to commonly exceed 60 pounds. If caught, it must be killed and not returned to the water alive.

However, there is an upside to this fish. I’m told that they are good eating. So as a public service here is a recipe for a dish made out of these. Move over, Julia.

Silverfin Cakes

1 pound Asian Silver Carp1 tablespoon lemon juice8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

2 tablespoons bread crumbs

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 cup seasoned flour

1 egg, beaten

4 tablespoons vegetable oil

Poach or steam fillets until fully cooked, then break into pieces and remove all bones. Place the meat into a mixing bowl. Add butter, mustard, half the egg and lemon juice; mix well. Add bread crumbs and season to taste. Form small cakes with the fish mixture. Coat with remaining egg and seasoned flour. Pan fry in cooking oil over a medium-hot heat, 4-5 minutes or until golden brown.

Let me know how it turns out.

Joe Whitfield is a naturalist and gardener for the Greenfield Parks and Recreation Department. Send comments to dr-editorial@greenfieldreporter.com.