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Carp-a-licious

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Growing up in the Twin Cities, Paul Quinn used to take a handful of oatmeal from the kitchen, take it down to an area fishing hole and go fishing.

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It's not your typical bait, but the local radio personality and avid fisherman, Quinn said it's the perfect thing to lure a fish that no doubt many at Dickinson's Patterson Lake will catch this year.

"You just cover the entire hook with the oatmeal ball," Quinn said. "That serves as your weight and everything. Cast that thing right out, let'er sit on the bottom and carp just thrive on that oatmeal."

That's right, carp.

While not known as a "fisherman's fish," carp has its champions and Quinn said it can be quite delicious if cooked correctly. Carp is the main ingredient in the Jewish delicacy, gefilte fish.

"Smoked carp, with a good flavored smoke tastes just as good as smoked salmon," Quinn said. "I've had it and it's absolutely delicious on a cracker. It really is."

Dickinson fishermen might want to bust out their crackers this summer because following a winterkill that wiped out the traditional "game" fish, walleye and northern pike at Patterson Lake, the only types of fish remaining in good quantity are the "rough" fish such as bullheads and carp.

Lynn Schlueter, aquatic nuisance species coordinator for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, said while he doesn't like what carp can do to a fishery -- which is in essence take it over if conditions allow -- that doesn't mean they can't taste good.

"I personally hate carp because of what they do," Schlueter said before commenting on their edibility. "Carp, they're good. It all depends."

A lot of that dependency sits on the shoulders of the cook and what meat they use when preparing carp, or any fish, Schlueter said. Removing the mud line of the fish, which is a red line of muscle that runs down the center of the fillet is key to making good fish, Schlueter said.

"The ugly meat, is that mud line on any fish. You don't think so? Try eating the mud line off of a paddlefish. When you finally get done scrubbing your tongue with a wire brush we'll talk," Schlueter said.

Schlueter said carp at one time were known as the "King's fish" in England and were planted in fisheries throughout Europe by Roman soldiers as they moved throughout the continent.

Even as little as a few decades ago there was a market for commercial carp, Schlueter said, but marketing has damaged the fish's reputation.

"People read too many In Fishermens, where they say 'walleyes, trout, northerns,'" Schlueter said. "So everybody goes 'Wow, that's what we ought to catch.'"

Quinn isn't convinced and said he enjoys carp fishing because of the challenge it presents and the enjoyment it provides.

"First of all, there's no fish on the face of the earth more fun to catch. They fight like a northern," Quinn said. "Without a doubt, and with the fight they put up you get good practice for when you get a huge northern, catfish or walleye."

Schlueter and Quinn agreed if carp is prepared correctly it can be quite the meal and fun to catch.

For those thinking about going to Patterson Lake to try their hand at fishing while employing the oatmeal dough ball bait trick, Quinn said any dough will work, but be careful.

"A word of warning, growing up as a kid, and even into my 20s, friends and I lost many a rod and reel by not watching it carefully," Quinn said with a laugh. "Those carp will grab that dough ball and take your whole rod and reel into the water in a split second."

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