The Secret to Catching Carp Is All in the Doughball
DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host:
Summer is the time to catch a bronze bomber in Nebraska. That's Greg Wagner's affectionate nickname for carp. Wagner is with the Nebraska Game and Wildlife Commission. He joins us now from his office in Omaha. Welcome back to the program, Mr. Wagner.
Mr. GREG WAGNER (Nebraska Game and Wildlife Commission): Well, thanks for having me, Debbie. We got to get out and do some fishing, don't we?
ELLIOTT: We do. Now the last time you and I spoke, it was springtime and you were singing the praises of catfish. So now it's carp?
Mr. WAGNER: We've switched gears slightly. We went from one sea-named fish, the catfish, to another sea-named fish, the carp. And we are carp fishing in Nebraska, and they're plentiful in number, and we're having a ball, especially with our baits, you know.
ELLIOTT: With your baits?
Mr. WAGNER: Yes. Carp fishing in Nebraska, it's the only time that my wife Polly and my kids would tell you that you can actually eat your bait if the fishing for carp is slow.
Mr. WAGNER: We get pretty creative with our doughball mixtures for carp fishing in Nebraska.
Mr. WAGNER: Yes, doughball. In my secret weapon, my secret recipe, actually, a strawberry Jell-O doughball. And I'm in the kitchen, bringing three cups of water to a boil, and I'm adding about, ah, three tablespoons of strawberry-flavored Jell-O. And then I'm slowly adding, while stirring, a couple cups of yellow cornmeal, one cup of flour. I turn down the heat, and then still kind of stirring, cooking for about five minutes. I let this dough cool, and then I refrigerate in a plastic bag. Wait a short bit. We're off to carp fish.
ELLIOTT: And you just pull a little hunk out of the bag and put it on your hook?
Mr. WAGNER: Yeah, take a hunk out of the bag, and you put it on your hook. And again, if the fishing's slow, you can always reach in, grab one of them doughballs, and nosh on it a little bit.
ELLIOTT: Well, what does it taste like?
Mr. WAGNER: It tastes - my wife says, well, Greg, you know, it tastes a little like bad Jell-O, but I tell her there's no such thing as bad Jell-O 'cause I'm just a big kid about things.
ELLIOTT: So that sounds like an awful lot of work to go to to catch a carp. In my mind, I think carp and I think trash fish.
Mr. WAGNER: Yeah, a lot of people think that, and the carp is a much maligned fish. Carp are fine tasting, great fighting fish, and in Nebraska what we like to do is we like to catch our carp, and what we'll do is we'll clean it the old-fashioned way. We're lopping off the head. We're gutting it.
And then we'll do a quick, saltwater soak, pull it out, wash it off, and then we'll make these vertical slices about an eighth of an inch apart on the meat parts of the fish - one side, then the other side.
And then what we're going to do, Debbie, is we're going to roll it in kind of an egg-and-cracker-crumb-type mixture. I've got all kinds of spices. I got Cajun spices in there and everything else. And we make sure to get the breading in-between the crevices of that meat part of the fish...
ELLIOTT: Where you've sort of scored it.
Mr. WAGNER: Exactly. We're scoring it, and we're going to deep fat fry that fish in vegetable oil or what have you, and voila, everybody is running to the picnic table.
ELLIOTT: Now, how big are carp? Where do you catch them?
Mr. WAGNER: Carp inhabit virtually any piece of water that you'll find here in Nebraska, and the carp, as far as size are concerned, we grow the carp big here in Nebraska. I've had some carp that'll push 25 to 30 pounds, not uncommon at all.
ELLIOTT: That's a big fish.
Mr. WAGNER: But what we like to catch and keep, Debbie, normally run us about three to five pounds. Those are the nice ones you can work with for the deep-fat fryer.
ELLIOTT: Well, thanks for talking with us today.
Mr. WAGNER: Thank you, and let's go fishing.
ELLIOTT: Greg Wagner is with the Nebraska Game and Wildlife Commission.
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