Probably the question I’m most asked is: can you eat the fish you catch at Grand Lake St. Marys and Lake Erie? Parts of both lakes and a few others in Ohio have been plagued by toxic blue/green algae blooms in recent years.
According to all of the test results conducted by state and federal wildlife and health agencies, the answer is yes.
“The Ohio EPA ran two rounds of tests (in 2012 and 2013) on crappies, bass, bluegills, catfish and carp from Grand Lake St. Marys,” said Rich Carter, executive administrator for fish management at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife. “In both instances, the tests came back with non-detectable levels of microcystin in fish fillets.”
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take a few precautions. For example, when cleaning fish go just for the fillets. Don’t consume or even cut into internal organs like livers and kidneys. And when you get those nice fillets, rinse them thoroughly in tap water. It’s also a good idea to remove the skin.
Some folks have also asked about touching the lake water while fishing, especially in lakes where no-swim advisories have been posted.
“One of the things health departments are concerned about is not so much touching the water, but ingesting it,” Carter pointed out. “But people who fish almost always wash their hands after fishing and especially before eating. It’s mostly a matter of common sense.”
Carter also said people often confuse common algae for the toxic blue/green algae. Most Ohio water is green from common algae and that doesn’t hurt anyone or anything.
“Most algae is good for a lake,” Carter said.
Here are a few tips for people who might be nervous about fishing anywhere in Ohio.
-- Take along a soapy washcloth in a plastic bag to wash hands from time to time. (The use of hand cleaners might keep fish away from lures and baits, but mild unscented soap should not.) After fishing, wash hands thoroughly or use a hand cleaner.
-- If you don’t like to handle fish – especially catfish – take along a pair of garden gloves. The kind with the pebbly rubber surface works well.
-- Rinse down your fishing equipment – anything that touched lake water – when you have finished fishing – rods, reels, lures, nets. It’s good to rinse the hull of your boat and around your motor’s prop and lower unit.
The thing is, fishing is good anywhere in Ohio, including Lake Erie. And there has been no indication you can’t eat any fish you catch. Follow the Ohio EPA guidelines online for frequency of fish meals at epa.state.oh.us/dsw/fishadvisory.