Monday, September 28, 2009

Mercury and PCBs in Salmon and Trout in Lake Michigan

"Is it ok to eat fresh Salmon from Lake Michigan?"
"Are there certain layers of fat I should cut out?"
"Should I remove the skin before I cook my Salmon or Trout?"

All commonly asked questions by anglers who intend to fillet and eat the Salmon or Trout that they catch from our beautiful Lake Michigan.

Here are a few answers for you. Firstly, yes in almost all cases it is ok to eat Salmon and Trout you catch in the lake. In all cases (with all species of fish) it is better to eat smaller, younger fish rather than trophy sized ones. This method of thinking is based upon the time the fish has to build up contaminants in it's body. The longer a fish is alive in the lake, the more PCB's, Mercury, and other contaminants it will have. So consider letting go that 20 pound 4 year old King Salmon, and keep that 8 pound 3 year old.

The same goes with Steelhead and Brown Trout, which can live to be even older than its short lived brother the King Salmon. These fish can live 5 years and longer, so consider eating fish between 18-26" before you take a 35" Steelhead home to the dinner table.

There are certain layers of fat, which contains the majority of the contaminants that should be cut out. The belly meat, and fat along the lateral line are examples of these tissues that can be removed during filleting. A diagram can be seen here.

Lastly, The skin, and layer between the skin and meat also contains a good portion of the contaminants kept within a fish. I always either remove the skin, or in the case of grilling or smoking the fish, will leave the skin on, but peel it away upon serving.

For information pertaining to the most recent sport fish consumption advisories feel free to contact:

Environmental Protection Agency at : 217.782.3362

Illinois DNR : 847.294.4134

1 comment:

  1. Well written article, good info to know, and GREAT timing as I will be heading to the Root River soon. I will definately enjoy catching some 20-pounders, but will resist the temptation of taking him home...I'll just take his younger brother. Amazing what 1 year can do on the weight difference between a 3-year-old, and a 4-year-old.

    Thanks for sharing.