Giant Minnows Invade the Great Lakes

Giant Minnows Invade the Great Lakes
They’re minnows. Four-foot-long, hundred-pound minnows. Bighead carp (Hypophthalmichthys nobilis) and silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix) were imported by catfish farmers to clear suspended algae from their fish ponds. Floods in the ’90s allowed the Asians to escape into the Mississippi River basin. Like many Southern migrants, they headed north to Chicago. The invaders are in the Lincoln Park  and Columbus Park lagoons and threaten the Great Lakes.

These fish are vegetarians, so what’s the threat? Asian carp are big and aggressive, and they eat 40 percent of their weight in plankton every day, starving out native species, prior finny immigrants, and shellfish. The mammoth marauding minnows have only one natural predator: you.

The big fish have been pond-raised for food in China and Vietnam for millenia. Chow down and save the Great Lakes.

“Invaders, Yes. But Perhaps Quite Tasty.” Erik Eckholm, New York Times.

“Eat the carp: Some suggest Asian carp could be a delicious dinner,” Joel Hood Chicago Tribune via LaCrosse Tribune.

“Asian Carp Recipes,” Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant.

“Bones of Contention,” P.J. Perea via Illinois Periodicals Online.

Another Asian species, the grass carp or Amur carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella) was imported to rid American waterways of choking nuisance weeds. It uproots the plants with its grooved throat teeth and eats them and anything else in reach, plant or animal. Some states released sterile triploid specimens but somehow breeding populations have spread to 45 states. Like Chinese food?  Cook up some grass carp today:

“Sweet and Sour Grass Carp,”

“Five-Spice Braised Grass Carp,”

“Steamed Grass Carp with Ginger,” Chee Seng Oil Factory Ltd.

“Fish Tail Soup with Lily Bulb and Carrot,” Lisa and Tracy Tong,


Image by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht,

Comments are welcome if they are on-topic, substantive, concise, and not boring or obscene. Comments may be edited for clarity and length.

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7 Responses to “Giant Minnows Invade the Great Lakes”

  1. Mike Licht Says:


    “That pesky Asian carp: It’s what’s for dinner,” Phil Vettel, Chicago Tribune.

    “Ceviche of Asian Carp – Michigan Wasabi, Pickled Black Garlic, Ramps, Petite Radish, Blood Orange,” The Pickled Tongue.

    “The Culinary Solution,” Mike Sula, Chicago Reader.

    “Free Asian Carp Dish from a Man on a Mission,” Josh Mogerman, Chicagoist.

    “Can China Eat Enough Asian Carp to Save the Great Lakes?,” Sarah Schmidt,

    “An Asian Carp Invasion,” Justin Vogt, The Atlantic.

  2. Mike Licht Says:


    “Michigan congressional lawmakers seek anti-carp bill support,” Nathan Hurst, Detroit News.

  3. Great Lakes States Sue Federal Government Over Asian Carp Threat | Circle of Blue | WaterNews Says:

    […] The recent discovery of a live carp close to Lake Michigan may bolster the states’ case, legal expert says. Photo courtesy Mike Licht […]

  4. David Conklin Says:

    Would anyone happen to know the current retail price for live, fresh big-head and silver carp in China?

  5. bre Says:

    Great resource thank you. I used it in my classroom for part of a lesson plan and just wanted to thank you. I wanted to share the other resource I used as well.

    8th Grade Teacher
    North Carolina

  6. Let Them Eat Carp « NotionsCapital Says:

    […] sends them to China, 30 millions tons per year, but despite mild-flavored meat and some excellent American recipes, it’s been a tough sell closer to home. Right now most of the surplus catch is ground up […]

  7. Dave Says:

    Are you all really this complacent about one of the biggest ecological disasters in US history. It doesn’t stop at the Great Lakes. Just follow the path of connected water. Someone stands to lose money so the channel stays open. Our beautiful waters ALL CONNECTED to the great lakes forever changed. Sometimes revolt is what is needed. Fill the G^& D#$@ channel in. It’s a man made channel fill it in.

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