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What fish are safe to eat in Kansas?

TOPEKA (KSNT) – A notice released Thursday in Kansas lists concerns that should be observed when eating fish caught in state waters.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment and the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks have released the advisory identifying the types of fish or other aquatic animals that should be eaten only sparingly or avoided altogether.

One of the main concerns outlined in the notice relates to mercury in fish. While eating fish may be healthy, all contain at least a small amount of mercury, according to the advisory. Those who eat fish regularly or feed it to their children should be careful when considering the types and quantities they eat, including store-bought fish. Too much mercury in the diet can harm developing fetuses, nursing babies and growing children.

The advisory goes on to state that people sensitive to mercury, such as women who are pregnant, nursing or may become pregnant, and children under the age of 17, should follow these guidelines when eating Kansas-caught seafood:

  • Eat smaller portions: a tenderloin the size of your palm.
  • Eat types of fish with less mercury.
  • If you don’t know the type or size of fish you’re eating, wait at least a week before eating it again.
  • When fishing, keep fish shorter than forearms (from fingertips to elbow) or less than 20 inches as regulations allow.

The following favorite choice of fish should be eaten in portions only once or twice a week:

  • Blue and channel catfish
  • Common carp
  • Crappies
  • White Bass, White Perch, Wiper, Striped Bass
  • Walleye, Sauger, Sauger
  • Bullhead catfish
  • Drumming
  • Sunfish (Bluegill, Green, Redear, etc.)

The following second-rate fish should only be eaten once or twice a month:

  • Buffaloes (black, large mouth, small mouth)
  • Flathead catfish
  • Bass (Largemouth, Smallmouth and Spotted)

Portion sizes have been listed as follows for skinless fish fillets before cooking:

  • Adults and children 13 and older – 8 oz
  • Kids 6-12 – 4 oz
  • Children under 6 – 2 oz

If you plan to keep fish larger than about 20 inches, the advisory states that you should reduce servings to no more than one serving per week for preferred choice fish and no more than one serving per month for second choice fish.

If you have any questions or concerns about mercury in Kansas-caught fish, you can contact the KDHE. The US Environmental Protection Agency and the US Food and Drug Administration have multiple online resources on the subject of mercury in fish.

The advisory provides specific recommendations to limit consumption of bottom-feeding fish and catfish to one serving per week in the following locations:

  • Cow Creek at Hutchinson and downstream to its confluence with the Arkansas River (Reno County)
  • Kansas River from Lawrence (below Bowersock Dam) downstream to Eudora at the Wakarusa River confluence (Douglas and Leavenworth counties)
  • Little Arkansas River from the Main Street Bridge immediately west of Valley Center to its confluence with the Arkansas River in Wichita (Sedgwick County)

The advisory says you should limit your consumption of bottom-feeding fish and catfish to one serving per month at Lake K-96 in Wichita, Sedgwick County.

The following locations contain fish and aquatic life that are not recommended for consumption by the KDWP and KDHE:

  • Arkansas River from Lincoln Street Dam in Wichita downstream to its confluence with Cowskin Creek near Belle Plaine (Sedgwick and Sumner counties); bottom-feeding fish and catfish due to PCBs.
  • Shoal Creek from the Missouri/Kansas border to Empire Lake (Cherokee County); molluscs due to lead and cadmium.
  • Spring River from the confluence of Center Creek to the Kansas-Oklahoma line (Cherokee County); molluscs due to lead and cadmium.
  • Antioch Park Lake South in Antioch Park, Overland Park (Johnson County); all fish due to the pesticides dieldrin, heptachlor epoxide, chlordane and dichlorophenyltrichloroethane (DDT).
  • Arkalon Park Lakes in Liberal (Seward County) – Kansas recommends not eating aquatic life because the lakes are fed only by treated municipal wastewater.

The advisory also provides general advice to reduce the amount of exposure to chemicals found in fish:

  • Keep the smaller fish to eat and let the big ones go.
  • Avoid eating any parts of the fish other than the fillets.
  • Trim the fat off the fillets and/or use cooking methods that allow the fat to drip off.
  • Avoid subsistence fishing (relying on wild-caught fish for daily nutritional requirements) in rivers within or immediately downstream of large urban/industrial areas.
  • Do not eat fish or aquatic life from sewage outlets, waste treatment lagoons or stormwater retention ponds.

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