Importance of using the Eat Safe Fish Guide

Educate yourself about health risks before you eat fish caught in Michigan lakes or rivers.

Michigan’s lakes and rivers team with a variety of fish, however there may be identified toxins found in some fish that could pose serious health risks. Each year the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) publishes the Eat Safe Fish Guide with test results that were conducted on fish that have been caught in Michigan rivers and lakes. Michigan State University Extension encourages people to consult the guide to make informed decisions to know which fish are considered safe to catch, prepare and eat.

Be aware of your surroundings; do not eat fish from a water source where signs are posted by MDCH warning “Do Not Eat.” Serious health risks and illnesses can occur from the chemicals and toxins that have accumulated in fish. Certain chemicals like dioxins and PCBs can remain in the human body for 35 to 60 years. The threat of illness and chronic disease due to consuming too much of these chemicals is real, and everyone should avoid swimming and fishing in water where signs have been posted “Do Not Eat.”

Eating fish on a regular basis is a heart healthy food choice. You can consume fish safely by being well informed about the type of fish that MDCH has acknowledged safe. MDCH performs annual scientific testing in labs to communicate to consumers through the Eat Safe Fish Guide which fish is safe to cook and consume.

Following the safe fish guidelines is especially important for several groups of people, including young children, youth under age 15 and individuals with weakened immune system. Women who plan to conceive within several years should be well informed about which fish are not safe to eat, to help prevent complications during pregnancy and to their future child.

Water quality is also monitored scientifically. Changes in area lakes and rivers can occur because of harmful bacteria, algae blooms or open sewage. Temporary warning against touching contaminated water and the fish in the water may be issued by local health departments. Call your local health department to learn more about water quality warnings in your area or visit the Department of Environmental Quality online at

Fishing in Michigan is enjoyed by young and old alike. However, even a seasoned fisherman will not be able to tell just by examining if a fish is safe to eat. Nor can people see chemicals like mercury in the water, or tell by the clarity of water if it is safe to eat the fish that swim underneath the surface. You can make safe, healthy and informed decisions and continue to enjoy Michigan fish by consulting the Eat Safe Fish Guide.

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