Throwback Thursday: Is it carp or salmon? In the early 20th-century in Winona, many wondered

May 2, 2019

Officials of the Minnesota dairy and food commission deny reports that carp are being taken from the river, so far as the state is concerned, canned and sold as salmon. Since the fishing industry on the Mississippi River was developed to important proportions, it has been charged and rumored that large, canneries, particularly in New York and Philadelphia, have been buying carp extensively from Minnesota and Wisconsin fishermen and that the fish later appear as “salmon.”

“I know that there are many thousands of pounds of carp and other rough fish taken from the Mississippi and shipped to Chicago to be canned, but I never saw or heard of any canned fish labeled ‘carp,’” said John McCabe, assistant state dairy and food commissioner yesterday.

It is all salmon here

“If it is labeled and sold as salmon it does not come back to this state,” he added. “If carp were sold as salmon the chemist could tell it by the artificial coloring which would have to be added, and a fish expert could tell it by the difference in the grain.

“We have taken some cans of salmon that looked suspicious, and had them analyzed and examined by experts, but they pronounced them salmon. I do not think there is any salmon sold in the state that is not the real thing.

“The texture of carp is somewhat coarser than salmon, but when properly prepared it is as delicious as any fish you can name. But there is a certain way of cooking it and not one cook in a hundred knows just how to do it.

‘Sea turtles’ from river

“I do know, however, that a great number of the larger snapping turtles along the Mississippi are caught and sent to Chicago, where they are served as regular sea turtle. Likewise much what we think is codfish is really shore fish, and labeled as such, as the law requires; still people think it is codfish. This applies especially to the codfish bricks.

“If any carp were canned and sold here the laws would require that it be labeled carp, and, any violation of the law would be punished.”

That carp is canned and sold as salmon has been reported frequently recently. At the state game and fish commission it was stated yesterday that they toad heard many rumors to that effect, but no authentic information had reached them.

Carp bring three cents

How the fish is canned and sold is a matter outside their jurisdiction, as they are concerned only in the manner the fish is caught. That there is an immense amount of carp and other rough fish caught and sold is revealed in the last report of the commission. This report shows that the annual catch in the Mississippi and Lake St. Croix from the Iowa line to Stillwater is worth $750,000. Of this 70 percent is carp, which is sold at 3 cents a pound.

The balance is buffalo, sheephead, catfish, pickerel, sunfish and sturgeon. The prices received for these fish is about the following; Sheephead, 1 cent a pound; buffalo, 4 cents; pickerel and sunfish, 5 cents; catfish and sturgeon, 10 cents. Some immense hauls are reported by the commission.

Catches 35,000 pounds in one haul

Frank Gautenbein of Fountain City, Wis., caught 35,000 pounds of carp in one haul of the seine in December 1907. One party caught 150,050 pounds in one winter, another party averaged $500 a week during the summer at Lake Pepin, another man marketed 217,000 pounds of carp in one year, and so on.