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Eat Safe Fish Guide helps local anglers to plan their meals

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published April 22, 2015


ROCHESTER — There is strong evidence that eating fish at least once a week is good for your heart, according to the American Heart Association.

For many years, the AHA has encouraged people to eat fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids at least twice a week. Unlike fatty meat products, the AHA says, fish is a good source of protein that is not high in saturated fat. Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines and albacore tuna are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which the AHA says have numerous health benefits.

Michigan is lucky to have over 11,000 lakes, rivers and streams full of fish that anglers take advantage of, but not all the fish in those waters are safe to eat, according to the Michigan Department of Community Health.

Fish from some areas in Michigan are more contaminated than others, which is why the MDCH recently released its 2015 Eat Safe Fish Guide. The guide is a free resource for Michigan residents who would like information regarding which fish, and how much, is healthy to consume from various bodies of water across the state.

MDCH Director Nick Lyon said the guide is an excellent means to prepare people for eating the fish they catch within the state. He said it is essentially a nutrition label for locally caught fish.

“By providing an accurate, easy-to-use resource, we can help people make informed decisions about safe fish consumption,” he said in a statement.

The guide can help people find fish species that have been tested for chemicals by the MDCH lab. Officials said the MDCH tests only the portions of fish that people eat — typically the fillets — and uses results from the laboratory to determine what is safe for people to consume over the long term.

Michigan Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologist Cleyo Harris said there are a number of highly fished waters in the Rochester area, including the Paint Creek — a coldwater stream that begins as an outflow from Lake Orion, where a dam releases water that flows approximately 13 miles to empty into the Clinton River in Rochester. The Paint Creek is well-known for its robust brown trout and rainbow trout populations. The MDNR Fisheries Division, according to Harris, has stocked the creek with over 6,500 brown trout annually since the 1950s.

“If you are going to fish in Paint Creek, that’s likely what you are targeting,” he said. “It’s very popular among our local Trout Unlimited groups and local trout anglers.”

There are also a variety of fish in the Clinton River, which flows 80 miles from its headwaters to Lake St. Clair, according to Harris.

“What people fish for varies seasonally. I know it gets a really big steelhead run every spring and fall. We also stock adult brown trout and rainbow trout in the creek in the Auburn Hills area when we have the opportunity,” he said.

According to the guide, anglers fishing local Rochester-area waters should steer clear of “hooking and cooking” a number of fish from local waters. Those who frequent the Clinton River should avoid eating carp, rock bass, suckers and walleye, while those fishing the Paint Creek should not eat suckers, according to the guide. MDCH officials also recommend steering clear of consuming black crappie, northern pike, walleye and white crappie from the Stoney Creek Impoundment, as well as carp, largemouth bass and smallmouth bass from Lake Orion and Lakeville Lake.

As a general rule of thumb, carp and catfish found in Michigan’s rivers, streams and areas of the Great Lakes often have high amounts of chemical contamination, including mercury — which cannot be removed from fish — dioxins and a group of manmade chemicals called polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs. The MDCH says chemicals like PCBs and dioxins are linked to cancer, diabetes and other illnesses, while mercury can cause damage to the brain and nerves.

MDCH officials said bluegill, perch, walleye, rock bass and black crappie are often safe to eat, depending on where they are caught.

Smaller, younger fish are lower in chemical contamination and are preferred to older, larger fish, according to the guide. Carefully trimming and cooking fish can further reduce risk. Trimming and cooking off the fat, which is often where the most chemicals are stored, can remove up to half of the contaminants, according to the MDCH. Broiling or grilling fish on a rack allows even more fat to drip away during cooking.

For more information or to view the 2015 Eat Safe Fish Guide for a particular region, visit or call (800) 648-6942.