Remember “ragondin”? I didn’t think so. Several years ago, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries in an effort to find a market for an exotic wildlife species threatening our coastal marsh introduced a wild game food source that was readily available and virtually free for the taking. Add to that the fact that ragondin is delicious and nutritious and Louisiana residents should jump all over it and add it to their list of favorite wild game to eat.
It didn’t work; Louisiana folks, well-known for being willing to eat just about anything,
turned their noses up at eating ragondin, which is actually a nice name for nutria, or nutria-rats. I have eaten nutria and to tell the truth, it’s good. I admit, however, it wasn’t easy getting the image of those ugly creatures with big yellow buck teeth out of my mind. Thus, nutria continue to munch away at our coastline largely because Louisiana residents weren’t willing to munch on ragondin.
Today there is another creature threatening to do harm to Louisiana’s fisheries and the
LDWF is once again attempting to get residents to give this new delicacy, “silver fin”, a try.
Silver fin, like ragondin, is a nice way of saying “carp”, not just any carp but two species
of Asian carp, exotic species that are competing with our native fish. These two, the bighead carp and the silver carp, are already in plentiful supply in the Mississippi River and all tributaries and distributaries of the river. Both species are filter feeders, competing with such species as paddlefish and shad and the young of all species of recreational and commercial fish.
The more popular of the two, the silver carp, is the fish you’ve seen on outdoor fishing
shows jumping out of the water at the approach of an outboard engine and slamming into boats and boaters, sometimes inflicting injuries and damage to boat windshields and electronic equipment. They can weigh up to 60 pounds and a flying carp smashing into a boater going 50 mph can deliver a blow like a Mike Tyson haymaker. On a writer’s trip to south Louisiana several years ago, I had a 30 pounder smash into the windshield of the boat I was riding in inches from my face. After recovering from the shock of nearly having to replace my dentures, I thanked the Lord for strong plexiglass.
In an effort to slow the spread of these fish – they can’t be eradicated – the LDWF called on renowned Chef Philippe Parola, to find ways these fish can be prepared so our residents will fill their freezers and frying pans with “silver fin”. Hopefully this experiment will work better than trying to get nutria into our crock pots.
I haven’t had the opportunity to taste silver fin but from the video clip I saw, the flesh is white and tender and can be prepared into tasty looking dishes. The only problem is that both the bighead and silver carp have “floating” bones that are not easily separated from the flesh. This calls to mind a fish I used to catch and try to eat, the chain pickerel or better known to north Louisiana anglers as the jackfish. Jacks are delicious but the flesh is filled with small bones which meant we usually released them rather than have to wrestle with all the bones.
I recall watching Ruston’s super-chef, the late Mrs. Ethel Stone, taking jackfish filets,
bones intact, and using her pressure cooker to virtually dissolve the bones and making some croquettes or fish cakes, much like those made with salmon or crab meat. They were delicious.
Chef Parola uses two methods of dealing with silver fin bones. One method, steaming the filets, leaves the bones in the flesh but makes them easier to remove. The other method, deboning, is more complicated but can be done.
So Louisiana, are you ready to do your part in creating a new market for a troublesome fish? If so, give silver fin, the ragondin of the river, a try.
You go first; I’ll wait.
CANEY LAKE – Although this cold snap has slowed fishing, sight fishing for bedded bass has been fairly successful with soft plastics, topwaters crank baits, spinners and jerk baits working best. Crappie are still in fairly deep water around brush and hitting shiners or jigs but will be moving in to spawn as the weather warms. No report on bream or catfish.. For information contact Caney Lake Landing at 259-6649, Hooks Marina at 249-2347, Terzia Tackle at 278-4498 or the Honey Hole Tackle Shop at 323-8707.
BLACK BAYOU – Crappie have moved up closer to the banks with best catches made around brush on shiners or jigs. Bass are improved with slow rolling spinner baits working around the trees. No report bream. Contact Honey Hole Tackle Shop 323-8707 for latest information.
BUSSEY BRAKE – Big bass are continuing to be caught on soft plastics around the trees. Crappie are scattered around the brush and fair. For latest information, contact the Honey Hole at 323-8707.
OUACHITA RIVER – The water is still high with reports of crappie being caught up the bayou on shiners of jigs. No report on bass. For latest information, contact the Honey Hole Tackle Shop at 323-8707.
LAKE D’ARBONNE – This recent cold snap have moved crappie back into deeper water but as it warms up, they’ll be back in the shallow spawning areas. Bass fishing has been moving in and out depending on weather but should be back in the shallows as the big females are getting ready to move in. Bream should be showing up around shallow bedding areas soon and lots of catfish were caught fishing cold worms and night crawlers off the banks. For latest information, call Anderson Sport Center at 368-9669 or Honey Hole Tackle Shop at 323-8707.
LAKE CLAIBORNE – Bass have moved back from the beds but will be moving back in as the weather starts to warm. A few good ones to over 9 pounds have been caught this past week. Crappie are still best fishing around brush with jigs and shiners picking up some fish as they too will be moving in to spawn as water temperatures warm up. No report on bream or catfish. For latest information, call Kel’s Cove at 927-2264 or Terzia Tackle at 278-4498.
LAKE POVERTY POINT – Catfishing is good. Crappie have backed off the banks with cooler weather moving them back. Bass fishing has improved. No report on bream. For latest reports, call Poverty Point Marina at 318/878-0101.
LAKE YUCATAN – The water is falling but is still over the road for the next week or
so. No fishermen this week. For information, call Surplus City Landing at 318/467-2259.