? for Northeast anglers

I’ll be moving to the Northeast again in a few months. I was looking at several NE fish and game websites and saw their advisories on eating fish from freshwater. Also recently got a pamphlet that claimed 1/3 of NE lakes are dead due to acid rain.

What’s your take on all this? Do you limit your freshwater fish meals? Are that many lakes dead? I love to fish and remember growing up in upstate New York and it’s awesome fishery. We always enjoyed eating fresh caught trout and it never seemed to be a problem.

How far Northeast?
I don’t think Michigan counts, unless you live someplace like Arizona.

In any case, we’ve had fish advisories in Michigan for at least 30 years. PCB’s, Mercury, you name it. While I can’t speak for other states, I can reasonably assure you that 1/3 of the 12,000 lakes in Michigan are not dead. They carry fish and aquatic plants, ergo, not dead. In fact, I’m not sure I could point out a “dead” lake that wasn’t privately owned by a private corporation.

That said, it really depends on the body of water, local conditions, and the types of fish. For example, I don’t eat fish out of the local river because it is downstream from no less than three towns with inadequate sewage treatment and a history of dumping. I happily fish it as catch-and-release because it holds a decent population of smallmouth bass, rock bass, pike, catfish, largemouth bass, the occasional gar or walleye. As the advisories usually say, certain fish hold contiminants better in their fatty tissues than others.

On the other hand, I worry very little about eating fish from local lakes for the amount of fish consumed–perhaps one to two meals per month, tops. Perhaps I should, but I don’t, since most of them went to area sewage systems years ago.

I am not one to pooh-pooh the advisories. I am sure there are trace levels of PCB’s, mercury, and other contaminants in the fish. However, there are probably other things in the other foods we eat, and I don’t see anyone outside the local grocery stores handing out pamphlets on mad cow disease, pesticides in produce, or poisoned chicken feed.

To cap this elongated point, IMO it’s a matter of whose market people are affecting, and you can bet the sport fishing industry isn’t worried much about fish advisories. In the past, people fished to eat. I would bet that 40-60% if not more of current fishermen never eat what they catch, and another percentage eat their catch rarely. So, if the sports fisherman continues to fish and consume fishing gear, who (in the industry) cares if there are advisories?

Now, if you remember Oprah’s comment about beef a few years ago, you got the idea that industries get mad when you threaten their livelihood. No threat, no reaction.

I say, read the advisories, fish often, eat in moderation, and you will enjoy the Northeast as much as you ever did.

Maine, right on the Canadian border.

Here’s another perspective
Two of my grandfathers were active fishermen, and constantly ate their catch. This included fish from the waters I now avoid during the times when dumping and pollution were probably at their peak in my area–1945-1975.

One died in 1974 of a stroke. His autopsy indicated no cancer or other unusual illnesses. He was known to smoke a pipe, but he was of average height and weight (5’9", 143 pounds) for a man of his age. He ate fish from the river constantly, including the catfish and suckers which allegedly hold higher levels of contaminants in their fatty tissues.

My other grandfather is still alive at 86. He no longer fishes because he is has not been physically active in about 5 years. He, too, ate a lot of local fish, even downstream of an actively dumping paper mill. He survived a malignant growth in his digestive tract about four years ago. Was it due to eating fish with high levels of toxins? Smoking from when he was 18 until 65? Drinking a shot of whiskey every night for 60 years (more when younger!)? Poor diet in other facets of his eating habits?

I may be stupidly playing the odds, but my family history seems to indicate that I have a 50/50 chance of living to be at least 80 whether I eat the local fish or not. I’m more worried about car accidents than polishing off a brown trout or two a few times a year. I just don’t fish in chemical-slimed holding ponds, nor do I chow down on the fattier fish like carp, catfish or suckers. Better a trout with trace PCB’s than a saturated-fat McMac, in my opinion.

Im in the south…
so I don’t have to worry as much, but just the same, some of the lakes/rivers in my area have mercury warnings. Although mercury never leaves the body, trace amounts effect brain development in infants. Young women and women that could become pregnent shouldn’t eat fish with mercury warnings. I think the risks in males are significantly less. Personnally, I try to eat freshwater fish no more than once or twice a month.

In the northeast
many lakes and ponds are stocked with trout in what they call a “put and take” fishery.Those fish are hatchery bred and won’t be in the water long enough to absorb any contaniments.They are put there by the DEC using funds from your license fees, specifically to be caught and eaten and if you don’t eat them someone else will;most of them don’t usually hold over.This, to my mind is preferable to keeping native fish,which as we all know are getting harder and harder to find.The DEC or DEP(department of environmental protection) has a website that lists all of the places that they stock and the amount and type of fish, so when you get to where you’re moving just look up your area and get ready to enjoy a fish fry!