What to Do with Dead Carp?


You just shot a carp while bowfishing. Unlike with regular fishing, catch and release isn’t an option. Not to mention, carp are an invasive species that are illegal to release. What do you do with dead carp? We’re going to cover some of the useful things that you can do with dead carp to make the most of them. All the while, avoiding some of the illegal methods of disposal that could get you a possible $500 fine from the DNR. Carp are an invasive species that cause harm when introduced to new ecological environments. What do you do with dead carp?

It is generally advised that people take the dead carp home and cook it, smoke it or bury the carp in the garden for compost. You can also bag the carp and put it out in the garbage. It could also be given to chickens or pigs as a source of protein.

Let’s have a closer look at some of the useful things that you can do with dead carp. Only as a last resort should you throw it out in the garbage without using it.

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#1: Cook the Carp

After catching carp, you will want to take it home. You want to keep it alive for as long as possible because this will keep it tasting fresh. First, you will have to scale the dead carp by taking your fillet knife and running it down the body from its head to its tail. You will press on the scales to dislodge them. Once finished, you rinse the body to get rid of any excess scales.

Fillet the Fish

After you have finished scaling the fish, you will start to fillet it (teach yourself to fillet carp in further detail here). You begin by cutting into the meat from behind the gills. Next, you will slice the backbone and the ribs and cut with your knife towards the tail. After you have finished with one side of the fish, you will continue to the other side. Always be careful not to pierce into the intestines because if that happens, you have to throw away the fish meat. It will not be safe to eat.

Leave the Skin on the Carp

With fish like salmon and walleye, you can grill them with the skin on but carp have what’s known as a “mud vein” beneath the skin. You want to remove this for better flavor. To remove the mud vein, you will make a v-cut on either side of the lateral line, and you will take away the vein and meat that runs along it.

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Heating up the Oven

Next, you heat up the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit, grease an 8 x 8 dish and put the fillets in the pan. Finally, you will add some lemons over the top of the carp to keep them moist, and you will add tinfoil over the top of the pan. For a delicious dinner, you might finish the carp off with some boiled potatoes or spinach.

Related article: When Do Carp Spawn? [The Answer Revealed for All 50 States]

#2: Smoke the Carp

Many people don’t like the taste of carp, but cooked carp tastes drastically different from smoked carp. A lot of people swear by smoked carp. You smoke the carp because this lowers the oily taste while adding this savory smoky flavor. I’m personally a fan of it, and I would choose smoked carp over cooked carp. We will assume that you have already filleted your carp and go right into the process of smoking carp.

Preparing the Sauce

To smoke a carp, first, you will juice a lemon into a bowl. Next, you will open a can of pineapple juice and put it in the bowl with the lemon juice. Then you will grab a dash of salt and pepper and pour it in the bowl. Next, you take a brush and mix it in the bowl. After you have done this, you will take the brush and brush the ingredients onto the carp that is smoking on the grill. As advised before, we don’t recommend that you smoke carp with the scales on it because of the mud vein. The flavor is not desirable.

How Long It Takes to Smoke the Carp

It takes 10 hours to smoke carp meat. I use the Z GRILLS ZPG-7002E 2020 to do this (Amazon link here). The carp meat will be done when the smoker has reached 145 degrees. When finished, you take the carp out of the smoker with a spatula and put some lemon on it. Bon Appétit!

#3: Compost the Dead Carp

You can turn carp into a powerful form of fertilizer if you don’t like the taste of it. If possible, you want to make use of the fish that you killed from bowfishing, and this is one of the simple ways that you can do it. Many people swear by using Asian carp as garden fertilizer, and there have been stories of people who had 8-foot tall tomato plants after composting dead carp. It works as a miracle fertilizer, and at the same time, you make use of an invasive species that is harming the North American environment without throwing it in the trash, which is a terrible waste.

See also  5 Summer Pond Fishing Tips

How to Compost Carp Properly

To get started, you should understand how to compost the dead carp properly. I strongly advise against the common advice of, “Burying it in your garden next to the plants.” You never want to put organic matter that hasn’t been fully composted straight into your garden because this could be compared to the same as eating from a garbage pile. You have a lot of awful bits and pieces from the carp that will go straight into your food that way. Remember: These fish are scavengers, and they eat a lot of stuff off the bottom of lakes and rivers.

To begin composting the dead carp, first, you will want to let it sundry in its totality. After the carp has been sun-dried, you will want to crush up the dead carp.

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Important note: You want to dry out the carp as fast as possible to keep the stink to a minimum. You don’t want your compost pile smelling like a rotting garbage pile. If possible, try to grind it up, and then you will mix it in with your compost pile. The great thing about doing this is how the heat coming from the compost pile kills off the germs and harmful bacteria that you don’t want going into your vegetables. After you have successfully composted the dead carp, you will put it over the soil and add nutrients back into the soil to get an awesome crop come harvest time.

Why Shouldn’t I Gut the Carp and Throw It in the Lake?

Using logic, some people may believe that they could gut the carp and throw it in the lake for the other fish to eat. However, it is strongly advised not to do this because a ticket from the DNR could be as high as $500 for throwing a dying fish back into the water. In truth, if you were to shoot a carp with an arrow and throw it back dying into the water, it could spread diseases to the other fish. That’s what the DNR says, and if you don’t follow it, you may be paying a big fine. They consider it a form of littering in the lakes and rivers. Not to mention, you can put the dead carp to much better use with the above-listed options. Even if the carp aren’t dying, they’re considered an invasive species, and it’s illegal to release them back into the water.

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Related article: Should Carp Be Killed?

Do Carp Taste Good?

Sometimes you will hear fishermen say that carp only taste good in the spring of the year, and there may be some truth to it but not entirely. Provided you have cleaned the carp correctly, they taste great no matter what time of the year it is, but it is also, admittedly, an acquired taste that not everyone will like. Even if you don’t like carp the first time, I recommend that you try it a couple of different times cooking it in a few different ways.

Finally, the last thing that you can do with dead carp is to give it to a neighbor, friend or family member. Maybe you don’t like to eat carp but someone else does. In these cases, it’s better than throwing the carp in the trash completely unused. If possible, you want to make use out of the dead carp, and these are some of the ways that you can do it. As some bowfishermen have said, however, they simply shoot too many of them to eat all of them, and this is one of the reasons that they might give them away instead.

Getting started in bowfishing requires a good bow. Check out the article that I wrote here on the best bowfishing bows.


Many bowfishermen, unfortunately, dislike the taste of carp. Because of that, they will often waste the fish. The worst of them will throw the dead carp up on the boat launch, making it stinky and unpleasant for everyone—don’t do that. Use one of the methods above or even just throw them away at a garbage disposal if you can’t think of anything else to do with the dead carp.

Are you trying to bowfish carp? I wrote an awesome article here with 15 tips guaranteed to make you a better bowfisherman.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>