Press Release

January 24, 2008


2008 Sports Fish Consumption Advisory

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – The Illinois Department of Public Health today announced its 2008 consumption advisories for sport fish caught in Illinois waters. The advisory includes less stringent advice for some Lake Michigan fish. The following lakes are new to the special mercury advisory this year: Evergreen Lake and Mt. Olive New City Lake. These additions are the result of expanded and directed sampling by the Fish Contaminant Monitoring Program and do not suggest that Illinois fish are becoming more contaminated.

“The advisories are not meant to discourage people from eating fish, but should be used as a guideline to help anglers and their families decide the types of fish to eat, and how to prepare fish for cooking to reduce possible contaminants,” said Dr. Damon T. Arnold, state public health director. “Fish can be an important part of a balanced diet. It is a good source of high quality protein and other nutrients and is low in fat. However, contaminants in fish may make some fish unsafe to eat except in limited quantities, particularly for women of childbearing age and young children.”

While there is no known immediate health threat from eating contaminated fish from any body of water in Illinois, there are concerns about the effects of long-term, low-level exposure to pesticides and chemicals, such as chlordane, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and methylmercury, found in fish listed on the advisories. Methylmercury has been found to cause reproductive damage and have adverse effects on the central nervous system, including developmental delays.

The advisories are based primarily on protecting sensitive populations, including women of childbearing age, pregnant women, fetuses, nursing mothers and children younger than 15 years of age. They may be overprotective for women beyond childbearing age and men older than 15.

This year’s changes to the advisories include:

  • Largemouth bass larger than 19 inches from Evergreen Lake in McLean County should be limited to one meal per month for sensitive populations and one meal per week for all others because of elevated levels of methylmercury.

  • All sizes of largemouth bass from Mt. Olive New City Lake in Macoupin County should be limited to one meal per month for sensitive populations and one meal per week for all others because of elevated levels of methylmercury.

  • Less stringent advice for Lake Michigan includes: chinook salmon larger than 36 inches should be limited to six meals per year (previously larger than 32 inches), chinook salmon smaller than 36 inches should be limited to one meal per month (previously less than 32 inches), brown trout larger than 25 inches should be limited to six meals per year (previously larger than 22 inches), and brown trout smaller than 25 inches should be limited to one meal per month (previously less than 22 inches). All of these changes are because of decreasing levels of PCBs.

The remainder of the consumption advisories is unchanged from last year. The statewide mercury advisory cautions sensitive populations to eat no more than one meal per week of predator fish, which pose a greater risk because they feed on other fish and accumulate higher amounts of methylmercury. Predator fish include all species of black bass, (largemouth, smallmouth and spotted), striped bass, white bass, hybrid striped bass, flathead catfish, muskellunge, northern pike, saugeye, sauger, and walleye.

Women beyond childbearing age and males older than 15 years of age can eat as many meals of predator fish as they please with the exception of fish caught from the 17 bodies of water that are on the special mercury advisory and have more restrictive meal advice because of high levels of methylmercury. These include Arrowhead Lake, Campus Lake at Southern Illinois University, Cedar Lake (Jackson Co.), Devil's Kitchen Lake, Evergreen Lake, Kinkaid Lake, Lake Bracken, Lake in the Hills, Little Grassy Lake, Little Wabash River and Tributaries, Marquette Park Lagoon, Midlothian Reservoir, Monee Reservoir, Mt. Olive New City Lake, Ohio River, Rock River (from Rockford to Milan Steel Dam), and Wabash River.

Mercury occurs naturally in the environment and it can be released into the air through industrial pollution, including coal-burning power plants. When it falls into surface water, bacteria in the water cause chemical changes that transform the mercury into methylmercury, which is then taken up by fish as they feed on aquatic organisms.

For fish that may contain PCBs and chlordane, the advisory provides eating advice in five categories – unlimited consumption, no more than one meal per week, no more than one meal per month, no more than six meals per year and do not eat.

Anglers who vary the type and source of sport fish consumed – opting for the younger, smaller fish, and consuming leaner species such as walleye and panfish over fatty species such as carp and catfish, and who prepare and cook fish in ways that reduce the amount of contaminants - can limit their exposure to harmful substances that may be found in fish.

There are several ways to reduce any PCBs and chlordane present in edible portions of fish:

  • Before cooking, remove the skin from the filet and cut away any fatty tissue from the belly and dorsal areas.

  • Broil, bake or grill in a way that allows fat to drip away.

  • Discard fat drippings or broth from broiled or poached fish. Do not use in other dishes.

These precautions will not reduce the amount of methylmercury in fish. Mercury is found throughout the fish's muscle tissue (the edible part of the fish) rather than in the fat and skin. Therefore, the only way to reduce mercury intake is to reduce the amount of contaminated fish eaten.

The Illinois Fish Contaminant Monitoring Program screens fish samples from about 40 bodies of water per year for contamination from 13 banned pesticides and industrial chemicals. The program is a joint effort of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) and the Departments of Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Public Health.

The fish are collected by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) and tested by IEPA. The Illinois Department of Public Health bases its consumption advisories on the IEPA test results. This year's advisories can be viewed on IDPH's Web site at and are included in the 2008 Illinois Fishing Information Guide, which is available from IDNR and from businesses that sell state fishing licenses, and can also be viewed on IDNR’s Web site at:

idph online home
idph online home

Illinois Department of Public Health
535 West Jefferson Street
Springfield, Illinois 62761
Phone 217-782-4977
Fax 217-782-3987
TTY 800-547-0466
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