Eat Carp and Other Stuff

Recently I was talking with Kenny DeLay about carp. He shoots them with his bow, and has a boat set up for going after them. He asked me if I ever ate one. That went right along with an article I read recently about using every part of a deer you shoot.

I grew up on a farm and we wasted nothing. The old saying about using everything about a pig except its squeal was applied to our living. From that it is hard for me to throw out anything edible, even if it seems strange to some.

Back in the mid-1980s I was at our place at Raysville Boat Club on Clarks Hill, camping in my small trailer. Mom and dad were staying on the other side of the point in their mobile home. I was off for the summer so I put out sinking catfish food under our boat docks every day, hoping to get some catfish baited up.

One day about noon I was walking from the bath house past the docks and saw my mom fishing under them. She was sitting in her chair and reared back on her rod and Zebco reel, fighting something big.

I watched for several minutes and was close enough to hear her coaching herself, reminding herself to stay calm and not reel too fast. I heard her say “”keep you rod tip up.”

I went to help and netted a six pound carp for her. Since we considered them trash fish and considered them inedible because of all the little bones, we threw it back and mom went back to catching bream and trying for catfish to fry.

That night I got to thinking about the carp coming to the catfish food. I found a can of kernel corn, something I heard they liked, and got one of my light spinning rods rigged with a small hook. I had been under the dock only a few minutes when something hit my corn and took off. It turned out to be another six pound carp.

I caught three more that night before going to bed. The next morning I got mom and dad to fish with me and we started catching carp. Although I think we lost more than we landed, during the next three days we caught 37 weighing 157 pounds.

We didn’t want all the carp in the lake so we threw them in the bottom of our run-about tied under the dock. The first afternoon dad went to a nearby marina to get some hooks and a guy there told him how to cook carp.

We fileted all those carp and put the chunks of meat in pint jars with a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of oil. Mom then put them in the pressure cooker at 15 pounds for 90 minutes. The jars sealed when they cooled.

Carp are full of little bones and hard to eat, but after canning them the bones were soft, like the bone in canned salmon. Although they don’t have the same flavor as canned salmon they make great croquettes

when mixed with spices and fried. I ate many meals of them over the years.

A few years ago Hovie Smith and I were at an outdoor writers meeting at Lake Eufaula. I took him out bow fishing and he shot a gar. I had never eaten one but he said he would show me how to clean it and cook it.

Hovie took tin snips and cut up the middle of the back, then peeled out the meat along both sides of the backbone. It was like taking out the back straps of a deer. There was a round piece of meat about 18 inches long and and two inches in diameter.

I cut the meat into two inch long chunks and sautéed it in butter. It was good and reminded me of Florida Lobster. The meat had that musky flavor and was a little chewy, but good.

It is way too much trouble to clean a gar that way but I found a much easier way. A few years ago I saw a jug moving around in the middle of Germany Creek in the middle of the day. It had a four foot gar on it and I took it in.

After killing it I gutted it and took a hacksaw and cut its body into one foot chunks. That night after grilling a steak I put the chunks on the grill, covered it and left it for about an hour. When I took it off the armor-plated skin peeled right off and the meat was warm and good when dipped into melted butter!

As I said, we never threw any food away. My mom could cook and old boot and make it taste good, so imagine how good regular food tasted. But we did go to extremes. After a dove shoot some folks pop the breast out and throw the rest of the bird away.

We cooked it all, to the point of saving the tiny hearts and livers to make giblet gravy to go with the fried birds. We would even take the little gizzard, split it and clean it out to add to the gravy.

I am careful shooting deer to try not to hit the heart or liver. I enjoy slicing them both and frying with onions, then making rich brown gravy. The liver is easy to clean, all you have to do is cut out the white connective tissue and the big blood vessels at the base of it. The heart takes a little more time since you have to take out the valves from all four chambers, but I think it is worth it.

I ate beef tongue one time and it was good. A recent magazine article told how to take out a deer tongue and clean and cook it. That will be my new meat for this year when I kill a deer.