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Eating Smart, Fish....

by: Ben Swigle 8/9/2013

As Paul Winkle, the Denver-metro fishery biologist with Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW), sorts through this yearís annual gillnet catch at Cherry Creek Reservoir he smiles despite a heavy coat of slime covering his waders and a few common carp scales attached to his nose.  Sorting through the fish lengths and weights are recorded and fruits of his previous labors are revealed as young walleye, produced and stocked in early April, appeared in solid numbers.  Another portion of the net indicates the community of predatory fish in the reservoir will once again have plenty to eat as hundreds of small gizzard shad are stuck in the small mesh of the gillnet.  The small walleye will become the backbone of future recreational fishing as well as the brood stock which will eventually supply millions of eggs for stocking throughout Colorado.

Later the nets are cleaned and re-racked as a member of Paulís crew bags and labels a number of larger walleye and wiper.  No itís not time to prep for a fish fry - CPW policy dictates employees may not keep game meats for personal consumption - rather it is an opportunity to answer a frequent question about the safety of consuming fish from Colorado waters. 

Fish are an important part of a healthy diet. Trout, walleye, and kokanee salmon are just a few examples of fish in Colorado that provide a lean, low-calorie source of protein.  However, according to the EPA, some fish may contain elevated levels of mercury that could pose health risks. Because excessive consumption of mercury can be a health issue, an on-going program delivers fish caught during CPW surveys to the Colorado Department of Health to examine the level of contamination.  While properly cooking fish eliminates parasites, no cooking or cleaning method eliminates mercury as it permanently bonds to fish muscle.

Species of fish that are long-lived and high on the food chain, such as shark, walleye, or northern pike may contain higher concentrations of mercury than others through a process called bioaccumulation.  As a result, smaller fish generally contain less mercury than older and larger fish.  With more than 100 public waters and thousands of fish tested, most fish from waters in Colorado contain very low or undetectable levels of mercury.  A complete summary from Coloradoís fish consumption program can be found here:

Additional testing results along with more waters are continuously being added to the programís database. As you explore Coloradoís lakes, river, and stream I encourage folks to harvest a meal or 2 of fresh fish.  If you are concerned with consuming your catch, you now have the ability to make an informed decision.  Go Fish Colorado!

EPA source:

Blog content © Ben Swigle
Member comments
FishDr, CO   8/10/2013 10:49:30 AM
Thanks for the update, Ben, and the link to the CO fish consumption program.
Fishful Thinker, CO   8/11/2013 9:04:04 AM
Yet another reason why selective harvest is a great thing. Thanks Ben...good info as always. CL
Ben Swigle (Swigs), CO   8/12/2013 9:21:24 AM
Store that link, we have submitted several samples that should post soon.
FishinChris, CO   8/13/2013 3:33:26 PM
I would eat walleye/wiper/trout/perch for lunch and dinner everyday if I could...
Ben Swigle (Swigs), CO   8/14/2013 9:46:20 PM you can hopefully choose...I eat fish 1 time each week. Shrimp pizza....only when I must...
JKaboom, CO   8/15/2013 1:59:06 PM
Great BLOG with great links. In MI where I am from we had to really watch mercury and other contaminants closely...
Ben Swigle
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