Carp were first brought to North America by immigrating Europeans who simply
wanted to bring a taste of the Old World with them.
The first confirmed propagation of carp in the U.S. was in 1872, when a
Sonoma, California resident imported five specimens from Germany and
cultured them in private ponds for sale as food. From these five specimens a
profitable business flourished, news of which spread to entrepreneurs and
gourmands around the country who wanted carp to stock in their own private
The newly formed U.S. Fish Commission (precursor to the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service) took notice. Realizing that the country's inland fishery
had begun to decrease due to overharvest and pollution, the Commission
viewed carp as a desirable sport and food fish that would flourish in
America's deteriorating waters. In 1877 the Commission imported 345 carp
from Germany. Over the next 20 years, hundreds of thousands of
government-issue carp per year were distributed throughout the country.
Congressmen actually vied with one another to see who could get the most
carp for their constituents!
The carp loved America. By the turn of the 20th century, carp had
established themselves in just about every drainage system in which they
were introduced, and were well on their way to becoming the most abundant
fish in the inland waters of North America.
At the same time, however, America stopped loving the carp.
It wasnıt the carpıs fault.
In Europe, special strains of superior-tasting carp are raised in large,
clean ponds. In America, carp were being raised in just about anything that
contained water, including ponds filled with treated sewage effluent. The
result was a muddy tasting fish that few wanted to eat.
In a striking feat of environmental self-denial, Americans began blaming
carp for the poor quality of the waters in which the fish lived, and for the
declining populations of other game fishes such as bass and sauger.
As carp angling enthusiast Tom Dickson put it, "The carp was the perfect
scapegoat. It was foreign. It was thriving. And it couldn't defend itself."
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