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Wisconsin Department of Health Services

Eating Safe Fish

CDC/ Dawn Arlotta U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services/photo by Eric Engbretson  Department of Interior U.S. Geological Survey/photo by Melissa Meier CDC/ Mary Anne Fenley

Consuming fish is part of a healthy diet, and has many benefits. The following information is helpful to determine the safe consumption levels for fish caught in Wisconsin streams, rivers and lakes. Search DNR for your county's fish advisories.

All external hyperlinks are provided for your information and for the benefit of the general public. The Department of Health Services does not testify to, sponsor, or endorse the accuracy of the information provided on externally linked pages.


  Wisconsin DNR Advisories  

Environment, Fish, and Your Health

Fish Eating Guidelines for Families Advisory Information for Fox River Valley

Information for Health Professionals


Resources and Links

Environment, Fish, and Your HealthFish Flying Over the Great Lake States

The two most common water contaminants found in rivers, streams, and lakes in Wisconsin are PCBs and Mercury. They frequently accumulate in fish. Below is more information:

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)
are a group of manufactured organic chemicals. People are exposed to PCBs through fish from contaminated waters. Because they do not break down easily, PCBs are now found widely distributed in our environment but remain in sediments near industries that manufacture or used PCBs.

Tips on reducing PCBs in Fish:

  • Fatty fish, bottom feeding fish, and fish from contaminated waters have the greatest PCB concentrations.
  • Eat smaller, younger fish.
  • People who have been regularly exposed to PCBs are at greater risk for health problems.
  • Great Lakes fish and fish from some of Wisconsin's major rivers (Sheboygan, Cedar Creek, Milwaukee, Lower Fox) have higher levels of PCBs than fish from Wisconsin inland lakes and other rivers.

For more information on PCBs:
Health Effects of PCBs
PCBs and the Food Chain (Diagram)
PCB information on the Lower Fox River (exit DHS)

United States Fish and Wildlife Services/Knepp, Timothy: Small Mouth Bass

Mercury (Hg) is an element that is released into the air from a variety of processes including coal burning. It can travel long distances and be deposited on soil and in lakes.

Tips on Mercury in Fish:

  • Mercury exists in several forms that build up in the bodies of fish, wildlife, and humans that consume food from aquatic food chains.
  • Mercury cannot be removed from the fish.
  • People are primarily exposed to mercury from eating fish or shellfish.
  • Choose fish species with low mercury levels according to state and national advisories (exit DHS)

For more information on Mercury:
DHS Fact Sheet on Mercury
Wisconsin DNR Mercury Guidelines (exit DHS)



Fish Eating Guidelines for Families

A Family Guide to Eating Fish (PDF, 848 KB)
A brochure about safe eating guidelines for fish from Wisconsin waters and for fish bought in restaurants and stores.
Available in Spanish and Hmong

A Guide to Eating Fish for Older Adults (Mercury) (PDF, 504 KB)
A brochure about safe eating guidelines for fish from Wisconsin waters and for fish bought in restaurants and stores.

What Women of Childbearing Age Should Know About Eating Fish
Available in Spanish and Hmong



Advisory Information for Lower Fox River Valley

Fish from the Fox River Valley surrounding areas contain chemicals. Eating too much may be harmful, especially for  women and children. Follow the safe fish eating guidelines below for the specified regions.

Little Lake Butte des Morts to De Pere Dam
(PDF, 800 KB)
De Pere Dam to Mouth of Lower Fox River
(PDF, 800 KB)
Green Bay
(PDF, 800 KB)
Little Lake butte des Morts to Depere Dam Sign DePere Dam to the Mouth of Lower Fox River sign Green Bay Fish Consumption Sign



Information for Health Professionals

The educational media module series, "Fish Facts" can be accessed at DHS) The media series is comprised of four, 3-5 minute media modules. It is designed for busy health professionals interested in learning more about the risks and benefits of fish consumption and methylmercury (CH3Hg) exposure. 

Fish Facts Workbook (exit DHS, PDF, 655 KB)
This workbook complements the media series and provides more in-depth information and resources for those seeking additional information.

Further Great Lakes States Fish Advisory Materials 

DHS Toxic Chemical Fact Sheet Series: PCBs



September 1993 Protocol for a Uniform Great Lakes Sport Fish Consumption Advisory (PDF, 193 KB)

May 2007 Addendum: A Protocol for Mercury-based Fish Consumption Advice (PDF, 184 KB)

Environmental Research Program, Final Report August 2005. Population-Based Methylmercury Exposure Assessment
*Prepared by: Lynda Knobeloch, PhD, Senior Toxicologist and Henry Anderson, MD, Chief Medical Officer, both from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services


Resources and Links

"Fishing Wisconsin" Information from DNR (exit DHS)
Environmental Protection Agency Fish Advisory for Pregnant Women (exit DHS)
Environmental Protection Agency Fish Advisory for Women and Children (exit DHS)
Fish Consumption Advisory for Wisconsin (exit DHS)


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Last Revised:  September 04, 2014