Eating recreationally caught fish from local waters can be a healthy and tasty activity. Over the past several weeks, I have enjoyed grilled walleye, broiled bluegills and fried crappies. They were all succulent, to say the least. Even more enjoyable was the fact all these fish came from Howard County.
Even though volumes of information have been printed and passed along detailing those areas where fish are safe or unsafe to eat, confusion still exists. Each year, Indiana’s fish consumption advisories receive more attention. Unfortunately, some of the information that gets passed along becomes less than accurate.
First off, don’t think these advisories are meant to discourage fishing — in fact, it’s quite the opposite. They are meant to maximize the benefits and minimize the risk of eating wild caught Indiana fish. There are basically two contaminants that drive our fish consumption advisories. They are mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls, often called PCBs. Both are contained naturally in our environment, at low levels, where they pose no risk. The problem with tainted fish is because of lingering pollutants. Due to past industrial discharges, they have been pushed to higher levels in some of our waterways where they can accumulate in fish. The risk of consuming contaminated fish accumulates over time and can build in the human body, just like it does in fish.
Most don’t realize our consumption advisories are based on the principle that people are consuming 8 ounces of fish for 225 days a year over a 70-year period. I doubt anyone eats that much Indiana fish, but the state would rather be on the safe side, a viewpoint with which I agree. A determination can then be made, based on the contaminants found in tested fish, as to how frequently they should be eaten.
Our state’s advisories are divided into five groups. Group one is unlimited consumption. Group two is one meal per week. Group three is one meal per month. Group four is one meal every two months. Group five is do not eat. These groupings are a little more stringent for the more "sensitive population” which includes women of childbearing years, nursing mothers and children under the age of 15. The bottom line is: Do not stop eating locally caught fish. Yes, there are areas high in contaminants, like a major portion of our Wildcat and Kokomo creeks where fish should not be eaten. But there are still plenty of places where they are safe to consume. To set the record straight, the portion of Wildcat Creek where fish should not be consumed (Group 5) begins at the lowhead dam, located several hundred yards west of U.S 31., continuing all the way to the creek’s confluence with the Wabash River in Tippecanoe County. The dam can be seen when looking north from the Carter Street Bridge. From that same dam upstream, which includes the Kokomo Reservoir; fish are safe to dine on. As for Kokomo Creek, fish can be eaten when caught east of U.S. 31. Besides being delicious, fish are a great source of protein. Anglers and their families can further reduce exposure to fish-borne toxins by eating only the species and size of fish recommended for particular waterways. Panfish, like bluegills and crappies, will not contain contaminates like a large catfish. Properly preparing those fish can also remove some pollutants. As for those waters where it is recommended no fish be consumed, there is no reason we cannot still operate under a “catch, release and have fun” philosophy.
The advisories are not meant to keep us from fishing or eating some of our natural world’s most delicious offerings. They are only meant to keep us informed. If you think about it, fried chicken and barbecue ribs have been deemed unhealthy. I have also read where meat grilled over a charcoal fire caused cancer in a few laboratory rats. I can’t imagine a life without consuming some our best tasting foods, or avoiding beautiful streams like our Wildcat Creek. A complete listing of Indiana’s fish consumption advisories can be found on the state Board of Health or the Department of Natural Resources web sites. KIDS FISHING CLINIC The 30th annual Jim “Moose” Carden Kids Fishing Clinic begins tomorrow. The nationally recognized outdoor oriented youth event will take place at Kokomo High School, located at 2501 S. Berkley Road. Presentations will start at 6:30 p.m. All participants are asked to enter the building using the south entrance. IDNR TRAPPER EDUCATION With the resurgence of trapping on the increase, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources will offer a Trapper Education class to Kokomo Residents. The program will take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on July 27 and 28. The program will take place at the Kirkendall Nature Center, located in Jackson Morrow Park, located at 4200 S. Park Rd. Lunch will be provided by the Indiana State Trappers association. Females have been a growing segment of the outdoor community. Avid trapper Georgia Gifford will serve as one of the qualified instructors. In addition to covering all types of dry land and water trapping techniques, a portion of the class will deal with how to remove problematic moles and groundhogs. The class is limited to 30 participants. You can register by logging on to www.register-ed.com then clicking on the trapper ed. link. TOURNAMENT RESULTS Henry Cavazos and Phil Reel swept last Tuesday’s Kokomo Reservoir open team bass tourney, sponsored by Cardwell Built Construction. The winners carried five fish to the scales weighing just under 9 pounds. A fish dropping the digital scales at 2.43 pounds also gave them the weekly event’s “big bass” trophy. Sam and Chance Taskey snagged second place with five fish topping out at 8 pounds. Mat Temme and Justin Smith grabbed third place with five fish weighing 7.90 pounds. Bob Rose and Wayne Nolder took first place and “big bass” honors at last Tuesday’s Delphi-Delco team bass tourney staged on Mississinewa Reservoir, with five fish weighing 12 pounds, 1 ounce. A 4-pound, 3-ounce fish also gave them the tourney’s “big fish” award. Keith Milburn took second with five fish totaling 8 pounds, 11 ounces. Gary Thompson and Mike Harrison claimed third with four fish weighing 1 ounce shy of 8 pounds.
John Martino is the Tribune’s outdoors columnist. He may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.