Fishy Waters

things to consider when fishing city rivers

Lindsey Quinnies, Thom Fountain, Andrea Paulseth

LUNCHING UPON THE CHIPPEWA. Besides health factors, the rivers themselves can influence the taste of the fish. Local fisherman Kyle Smits says he eats fish from the both the Chippewa and Eau Claire Rivers, but with mixed results.
LUNCHING UPON THE CHIPPEWA. Besides health factors, the rivers themselves can influence the taste of the fish. Local fisherman Kyle Smits says he eats fish from the both the Chippewa and Eau Claire Rivers, but with mixed results.

Fishing, like hunting, isn’t necessarily a necessity anymore. Not many people – though I’m sure there are a few – fish because their lives depend on it. However, there’s still a pretty satisfying feeling you get when you’re able to catch a fish and turn it into a dinner. But should you?

The Wisconsin DNR advises fishermen against two main threats: mercury and PCBs. PCBs are lingering pollutants that – although banned in 1979 – still linger in waterways around the U.S. Unfortunately, the Chippewa River is one of the those waterways.

While eating a fish or two out of the river won’t kill you, there are some restrictions (see the chart below). The fact that PCBs have stayed in our rivers for over 30 years doesn’t bode well for your body. The levels will just continually build up if you eat too much of the fish and can cause a myriad of health problems including immune system deficiencies, an increased risk of cancer and low-birth weights in children whose mothers have high PCB levels. So moderation is really your best defense.

That long-lingering effect of PCBs also means it may be awhile until it dissipates. There are efforts around the U.S. to clean up rivers with high PCB counts, including many that are dramatically higher than the Chippewa. On just the other side of Wisconsin, the Fox River – which runs through Green Bay – there’s a massive dredging project to clean up one of the worst PCB problems in the nation. However, dredging isn’t likely because of the size of the Chippewa.

Besides health risks, the rivers can influence the taste of the fish as well. Local fisherman Kyle Smits says he eats fish from the both the Chippewa and Eau Claire Rivers.

“I’ve gotten some decent bass in the Eau Claire River which are the most fun to fish for but taste like s***.  For fishing like that, anywhere between Hastings and Phoenix is do-able.”

So it’s possible that catch and release, then heading to a local restaurant is probably your best bet for a fish dinner.

For more information on safe eating, check out the Wisconsin DNR’s site at dnr.wi.gov.

HOW MUCH SHOULD YOU EAT? 
(from the chippewa river)

Women up to 45 & children under 15
1 Meal per week: bluegill, sunfish, bullheads, crappies, inland trout, yellow perch
1 Meal per month: bass, carp, catfish, lake sturgeon, pike, walleye, all other species and sizes
Do Not Eat:  muskies

Men 15 and over & women 45 and older
Unrestricted: bluegill, sunfish, bullheads, crappies, inland trout, yellow perch
1 Meal per week: bass, catfish, pike, walleye, all other species and sizes
1 Meal per month: carp, lake sturgeon, muskies

 

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