I get asked a lot by people if I actually eat the fish that I catch out of the St. Louis River. It's a legitimate question, as the waterway has been an environmental area of concern for some time. Efforts have been underway in recent decades to improve the water quality of the river. A century of industrialization took its toll on the ecosystem, but the water quality has been improving. Still, there are recommended restrictions on how much fish you eat from the river, especially for children and pregnant women.

The concern actually has been extended to all freshwater fish in the state because of new studies on PFAs. They are called forever chemicals. A study published by Environmental Research shows there are high levels of contamination in samples of freshwater fish across the US. Minnesota and Wisconsin bodies of water.

How bad could it be? The research shows that the average single serving of fish contains 2400 times higher than the amount the EPA recommends for humans. That might make you consider being a catch-and-release fisherman.

That study came out in January of 2023. Current guidelines from the Minnesota Department of Health haven't been updated in regard to the most recent research.

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Now, let's go back to the St. Louis river as an example. There have been higher levels of mercury detected in fish tested in Great Lakes Waterways, which include the St. Louis River. There actually is an advisory for children under the age of 15 and pregnant women or those who may become pregnant, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Health. Specifically, the consumption guide tells the group to not eat more than one crappie meal a month from the river due to mercury contamination.

Those over 15 and men can eat up to two meals a week from the St. Louis River of Crappies and Yellow Perch. They advise only one walleye over 22" a month. The same goes for carp. Women and children should not eat any large walleyes, according to an article published in the Pioneer Press.

I know back in the day, my Uncle Earl fished the St. Louis River almost every day in the 1980s and 1990s. He always kept fish out of the river. He always said that you look at the belly of the fish. If it's mostly white and looks healthy, it's fine to eat. If it looks yellowish or brown, toss it back. That's what his guidelines were. I know some other friends who have different ways to filet the fish to remove as much belly fat as they can. They claimed that's where the toxins in fish collect. After reading more about it, there seems to be some truth in it. See this photo from the Minnesota Department of Health.

MN Dept Health
MN Dept Health

Another old timer I know told me he always tells people he doesn't eat fish from the St. Louis River. He says that just so others won't take all the fish. That's pretty funny.

Either way, the choice is yours. Personally, I don't catch enough fish to really be that worried about it!

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