Saturday, February 4th, 2023
Saturday, February 4th, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

Call it ‘copi’ or call it ‘carp,’ Illinois company sees progress

Allen Sorce (r) displays an invasive carp, or copi, being processed at Sorce Freshwater Company in East Peoria while Tony Webber works in the background. Photo by Daniel Grant

East Peoria, Ill. — An East Peoria company believes it found a way to tame the exploding population of invasive carp in the Illinois River by getting consumers hooked on new food products made from the prolific fish species.

Sorce Enterprises, a food distribution and trucking company for quick service restaurants the past 50-plus years, changed its business model two years ago and now focuses on the “copi,” a fish rebranded by DNR that was formerly known as Asian carp.

The business, currently known as Sorce Freshwater Co. located along the east bank of the Illinois River, teams up with local fishermen and nets about 150,000 pounds of copi per week.

It processes about 4,000 pounds of the catch weekly into finished goods for human consumption from the fish.

“We partnered with the Midwest Fish Co-op, which we helped form. It’s a group of commercial fishermen who fish with the common cause of removing Asian carp from the Illinois and Mississippi rivers,” Roy Sorce, president and owner of Sorce Freshwater, said. “We felt there had to be alternative uses for these fish, which have always been used as fertilizer or bait.”

Through Sorce’s research into the market, it turns out copi is the most consumed fish in the world, except in the U.S.

But, he believes copi will catch on here as well. The very mild, odorfree white fish is quite versatile in a number of recipes and is the second-healthiest fish in the world behind only wild-caught salmon.

Sorce also offers copi for individual retail sale through a partnership with the online farmers market – Market Wagon, which can be found at MarketWagon.com.

Market Wagon connects many consumers around the state with local farmers, chefs and artisans where they can choose from more than 1,000 locally grown products in a one-stop shopping format.

“We started marketing online and to other customers,” Sorce said of his development of the
copi market in Illinois and surrounding areas. “When we met with Market
Wagon, we found it’s a very unique program. We’re able to drop off our
products at one location, which makes for a convenient service in the
Midwest.”

Sorce Freshwater sells the rest of the fish not processed from the weekly catch to other fish markets and processors.

Its location along the river makes copi the ideal business for Sorce, which also still operates a trucking business.

Each female copi can produce 2-5 million eggs per year. And the Peoria Lake
or pool, a wide stretch of the Illinois River between Peoria and East
Peoria, is a very desirable location for the fish to spawn.

“We’ve got a population (of Asian carp) from about Bartonville to Hennepin
that we can harvest 15 million pounds a year and not make a dent in the
population,” Sorce said.

“They’re very prolific and can reproduce at a phenomenal rate.”

Asian carp were rebranded as copi, short for “copious” amounts of the fish found in the Illinois waterway, according to Sorce.

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