Chow time: The two-sided issue of what fish to eat


On one hand, eating at least two meals of fish every week is a good thing. Fish is a healthy choice and a smart choice.
In fact, this hand claims that the fish you eat are chuck full of minerals, vitamins, and Omega-3 fatty acids, all good stuff and may even make one smarter.

Of course, this hand admits that some fish species are better than others when it comes to counting the good stuff. Now on the other hand, eating more than one meal a week could be slowly killing you, especially if it is a bad species, one that contains some really bad things like heavy metals such as mercury and chemicals such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB’s).

This hand spends a great deal of time raising awareness of the dangers of eating some fish at all and other fish too often. It’s complicated but important information. Thanks go out to this hand for calling a foul.

Consider the issue

Let’s walk through it right now, just days before the fish start biting and fishermen start catching and cleaning. Feds like the Food and Drug Administration and the EPA (apparently they aren’t busy enough making friends) perform all kinds of tests on fish and the result is a ban on eating some fish and limits on others.

They say that pregnant women and children should avoid eating shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish — fish that are found only in Ohio’s grocery stores. They also caution eating too much tuna steak, orange roughy, or grouper.

But let’s stick to Ohio fish. The Ohio Department of Health and the state office of the EPA have this to say about eating fish caught locally: Believe it or not, they claim that fast food fish sandwiches and fish sticks are for the most part, low in chemicals.

That’s a good trade-off for the caloric intake. They also suggest crappie, yellow perch, bluegill, and other sun fish as the safest fish to consume.


Stick to farm raised catfish is the best advice. Like a piece of real estate, a fish safe to eat is often based on location, location, location.

That is, fish caught from the Ashtabula River are taboo. Other waters produce bottom feeders unsafe to eat while several lakes and rivers are home to fish that should be eaten less often.

In any case, anglers should clean fish with minimizing dangers. Most contaminated areas of a fish are belly and other fatty areas.
The skin should be removed so that fat can drain away from the fillet while cooking. Grilling, rather than frying is also a good idea. Frying does not remove many contaminants and cooking oil should be discarded after each fish fry.

Overall, eating fish is a good idea for general health, but the downside is limiting how often one enjoys a fish meal.

Learn more

Learn all about this important issue by logging on to the EPA web site at or call 800-755-4769 and ask for the advisory.

Every Lake Erie walleye fishermen is wondering about last year’s rumors of a lower daily limit. So far, there has been no decision to lower the limit of six walleyes.

The daily limit continues to be four fish through the spawning season through April. In coming weeks Ohio, the feds, and other Lake Erie bordering states and provinces will meet to set limits and make any changes.

The next few weeks are critical for the Lake Erie walleye spawn when weather is everything.

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Mike Tontimonia has been writing weekly columns and magazine features about the outdoors for over 25 years, a career that continues to hold the same excitement for him as it did at the beginning. Mike is a retired educator, a licensed auctioneer and marketing consultant. He lives in Ravenna, Ohio and enjoys spending time at his Carroll County cabin. Mike has hunted and fished in several states and Canada from the Carolinas to Alaska and from Idaho to Delaware. His readers have often commented that the stories about his adventures are about as close to being there as possible. He is past president of the Outdoor Writers of Ohio and a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. Mike is also very involved in his community as a school board member and a Rotarian.



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