By Gill Baker, Wangaratta Sustainability Network
The fact that around 90% of the native fish in our waterways have disappeared since European Settlement is frightening…can we really have had this level of impact on our aquatic ecosystems? Of course the answer is yes, but the good news is that a focus on the need to preserve our freshwater and riparian environments has increased during the last few years, and both Government Authorities and Community Groups are encouraging public involvement in caring for rivers and creeks.
Introduced fish like European Carp and Eastern Gambusia compete very successfully with native freshwater fish. Carp stir up the creek bed, making the environment too turbid for native fish, this situation is compounded in the summer when water and oxygen levels are low.
The Wangaratta Sustainability Network’s ‘Restoring Our Waterways’ group received an ‘Act, Belong, Commit’ grant to run a free and inclusive event, and chose to try to remove as many European Carp as possible from One Mile Creek in Wangaratta. WSN members have been working with secondary school students to increase their understanding of the importance of healthy aquatic environments, so are very much aware of the numbers of Carp, which out- spawn the native fish, in the creeks in spring and summer.
The “Carp Muster”, a registered “Clean up the World” activity (www.cleanuptheworld.org), was designed to be a fun event with a serious underlying theme. Starting at 8am on Sunday 25th November, around 200 fisherpeople of all ages, and volunteer helpers, turned up to register and take up spots along the creek. Local fishermen ran a ‘fishing clinic’ for anyone interested, there were activities for young children, a Biodiversity Walk, and a free BBQ lunch. Adrian Welles, from the Murray Darling Association gave a talk on Native Fish, and prizes were awarded to the adult and child who caught the most Carp, and for the shortest and longest Carp (which was 645mm long). The creek was relieved of 74 pest fish, and participants were shown how to humanely dispatch them.
Carp are eaten in many cultures, and Carpburgers can be quite tasty. To make them, fillet the fish (they are very bony, boiling enables the skin to be removed easily, and flesh removed from the bones). Soak overnight in water in which 1 tsp. of Baking Powder has been dissolved. Next day chop or the fish very finely, add half teaspoon chopped sage, 1 teaspoon celery salt, quarter teaspoon black pepper, and a teaspoon of Cajun or curry paste. Form into patties, fry 2-3mins each side, and drain on paper towel. Carp can be barbecued, but as they are bottom feeders can taste a bit muddy!