ABC Local


Carp deservedly have a bad name for the environmental damage they cause to Australian rivers and waterways. The introduced species competes with native fish and is thought to reduce water quality and cause erosion.

Carp also get a bad rap for their taste, with a commonly held opinion that carp taste pretty much like mud.

But according to Gippsland businessman Keith Bell, who has built a livelihood catching, processing and selling carp,the fish’s reputation for tasting terrible is undeserved.

“Everybody says they live in the mud, they taste like mud,” he says.

But Keith says that’s not true and the ‘muddy’ taste associated with carp can be avoided.

“The first thing that is so important is you’ve got to have respect for the fish, so we don’t want the fish to be in the water and so if we want to use it as a food source we’ve got to understand that fact that you’ve got to look after it.”

He says freshly caught carp need to come straight out of the water and go onto ice immediately.

“If that isn’t adhered to that’s where that muddy taste comes from. The muddy taste is actually the histamines within the fish. As the body temperature rises through stress the histamine levels get going, it gets into the capillaries of the flesh and ‘hey presto’ you’ve got that muddy taste.

“So when we catch fish now the fish go straight out of the water and straight into ice slurry. Keeping that body temperature down is the most critical part. What that does is it also takes the blood from over the rib cage and over the shoulders and puts it into the bloodline which is the bit with all the bones in it, and that’s the bit that we don’t eat.”

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Keith travels around Australia giving demonstrations on preparing and cooking carp. He shows participants how to remove just the fillet of flesh from over the carp’s rib cage.

“You end up with a piece of fillet off a three kilogram fish that’s about the size of two slices of bread.”

To cook the carp fillet Keith recommends a simple approach.

“We don’t add any flavourings. All we do is, we just do what grandma did. We get that piece of fillet and we put it in a bag with a bit of flour and salt and pepper and then we get the frying pan out and we just put a little bit of butter and a little bit of oil in a frying pan and then we just pan fry it. That’s as good a way to cook it as any.”

Keith says it makes for a pleasant, subtle-tasting dish.

If only more Australians could get a taste for carp and take up carp fishing as a pursuit, it might go some way to solving a major environmental problem, Keith says.

“It would help. There’s no two ways about it. It’s not going to be the answer, there is no one magic bullet to answer this problem. But having people having a different appreciation of it and an awareness of it would be a good start.

“It wasn’t the native fish in Australia and so people got used to eating black bream, yellow eye mullet, maybe some perch, or some cod, depending on which part of Australia you came from. These things (carp) come in and they’re foreign, they have a lot more bones in them and they just got such a bad reputation right at the start that people were just put off them and perception is really a bad thing.

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“It’s my generation that really failed badly (in perpetuating the perception of carp) and now we just pass it on to the next generation and the next generation because Dad said so.”

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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 >>