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General Recommendations

Person holding a fish.

General Mercury Advisory

The statewide mercury advisory is primarily for women of child-bearing age and children age 15 and under. They are advised to eat no more than one meal per week of fish (any species) from any Ohio water body unless there is a more or less restrictive advisory. Although the one meal per week advice applies mainly to these sensitive populations, the general advisory recommends that everyone follow that advice.

In 2017, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued advice to help women who are pregnant or may become pregnant – as well as breastfeeding mothers and parents of young children – make informed choices when it comes to store-bought fish and fish served in restaurants (including shellfish) that are healthy and safe to eat.

To help these consumers more easily understand the types of fish to select, the agencies have created an easy-to-use reference chart that sorts 62 types of fish into three categories:

Advice about Eating Fish Graphic
Graphic courtesy of the U.S Food & Drug Administration  www.fda.gov

For this national advisory, a typical adult serving is four ounces of fish, measured before cooking. Serving sizes for children should be smaller and adjusted for their age and total calorie needs. It is recommended that children eat fish once or twice a week, selected from a variety of fish types.

The updated advice cautions parents of young children and certain women to avoid seven types of fish that typically have higher mercury levels:

  • tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico;
  • shark;
  • swordfish;
  • orange roughy;
  • bigeye tuna;
  • marlin; and
  • king mackerel.

Choices lower in mercury include some of the most commonly eaten fish, such as shrimp, pollock, salmon, canned light tuna, tilapia, catfish and cod. For details, including a link to printable versions of the reference chart and questions and answers in both English and Spanish, visit U.S. EPA's website.

Do Not Eat

The fish in the table below have high levels of contaminants and should not be eaten in any amount. 

Body of Water Area Under Advisory Fish Species Contaminant 
Little Scioto River State Route 739 near Marion to Holland Rd near Marion All Species PAHs
Tuscarawas River Massillon to State Route 416, New Philadelphia Common Carp PCBs

PCBs = Polychlorinated Biphenyls

PAHs = Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons 


Do Not Wade or Swim

The waters and/or sediments in these areas have high levels of contaminants. It is recommended that a person not swim or wade in these water body sections.

Body of Water Area Under Advisory Contaminant
Dicks Creek River mile 4.1 (1 mile downstream from North Branch Dicks Creek), Middletown to the Great Miami River (Butler County) PCBs
Little Scioto River State Route 739, near Marion to Holland Road, near Marion (Marion County). PAHs
Mahoning River NW Bridge Rd (Warren) to Pennsylvania state line (Manohing, Trumbull Counties) PAHs, PCBs 

PCBs = Polychlorinated Biphenyls 

PAHs = Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons 


Turtle Advisories

Like fish, turtles can also become contaminated, and this contamination can be passed on to people who eat turtles. In general, contamination in turtles tends to be stored in the fat, certain organs, and the eggs of female turtles. If you decide to eat any snapping turtle caught in Ohio, take the following precautions to reduce your exposure to contaminants that may be present:

  1. Lay the turtle on its back shell (carapace).
  2. Remove the shell that faces you (plastron) by carefully cutting through the two bony ridges (on both sides of the turtle) between the front and back legs.
  3. Carefully remove and discard any fat and eggs present, and all organs, such as the liver, heart, and kidneys. Save only the meat (muscle) for eating.
  4. Remove claws from the legs.
  5. Remove skin from the neck, tail, and legs.


The table below provides guidance for Ohio snapping turtles: 

Body of Water Area Under Advisory Meal Frequency Contaminant
Asthabula River (Ashtabula County) All waters One/week Mercury
Black River (Lorain County) All waters One/week Mercury
Maumee River (Defiance, Henry, Lucas, Paulding, Wood Counties) All waters One/week Mercury
Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge (Ottawa County) All waters One/week Lead
Ottawa River (Lucas County) All waters DO NOT EAT PCBs

PCBs = Polychloronated Biphenyls 

*NOTE: One meal = One serving = 4 ounces uncooked meat


Meal Preparation

When preparing whole fish, trim off the skin and fat before cooking to reduce contaminants. Follow the tips below to prepare your catch in a healthy way:

Preparing whole fish
Graphic courtesy of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (www.epa.ohio.gov

  • Remove all skin from fillets or steaks. This allows fat to drain away from the fish during cooking.

  • Trim off the fatty areas that are shown in brown on the drawing. These include the fatty areas found along the belly, back, and both sides of the fillet.

  • Bake, broil, or grill the fish on a rack so that the fat can drip away. This will remove certain contaminants, such as PCBs, and won't add extra unhealthy fats as with frying. There is little evidence that pan frying removes contaminants. 

  • If you poach or deep-fry your catch, discard the poaching liquid or cooking oil. 

  • If you prepare soups or chowders from fish, be aware that this cooking method holds in juices that contain fat (and contaminants) from the fish. If you are preparing a soup or chowder, you can reduce the amount of contaminants by baking, broiling, grilling or poaching your fish first, then adding the cooked fish to the soup or chowder.

In cooperation with ChooseYourFish.org, we're providing these tasty recipes. Be sure to follow the Ohio Sport Fish Consumption advisory recommendations when preparing your catch. 

Parmesan Baked Fish Recipe


Fish Chowder Recipe


Perch Skillet Recipe

For more Ohio sport fish recipes, visit the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Fish Recipes page. 


Ohio Sport Fish Tissue Monitoring

Ohio's current sport fish consumption advisory committee functions under a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) among Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, Ohio Department of Natural Resources, and Ohio Department of Health. Technical staff from each agency meet several times a year as needed to coordinate fish advisories and other issues related to fish contaminants.

The methodology used for issuing fish advisories is described in the 1993 Protocol for a Uniform Great Lakes Sport Fish Consumption Advisory and its subsequent addenda. In cases where an advisory decision is needed for constituents not addressed in the protocol, the protocol is used as a framework for developing appropriate thresholds.

The fish contaminant monitoring sites are typically selected to coordinate with other water quality monitoring survey sites on an annual basis.

Typically, approximately 250-300 fish tissue samples are collected from Ohio streams each year for contaminant analysis, along with another 100 from inland lakes and Lake Erie. In addition, the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO) collects fish tissue from the Ohio River annually, which the states use collectively to issue advisories. Using those data, the Ohio River Fish Consumption Advisory Workgroup publishes an Ohio River regional fish consumption advisory.

Each year, the new fish contaminant data is evaluated, and advisories are issued or modified annually. The advisories are updated on the website, and updated outreach materials are distributed to anglers and citizens upon request. Materials may also be made available through the ODH WIC program, state park offices, libraries, or other facilities in the community. (The ODH WIC Program is the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children. WIC helps low-income eligible pregnant and breastfeeding women, women who recently had a baby, and infants and children who are at risk due to inadequate nutrition.)

The Ohio Sport Fish Tissue Monitoring Program has accomplished the following objectives over the last 10 years:

  • Sampled every major watershed in Ohio with at least a 50-square mile drainage area at least once.
  • Collected and analyzed screening samples from nearly all inland lakes and reservoirs with public access.
  • Collected and analyzed select Lake Erie species three times.
  • Collected and analyzed the Ohio portion of the Ohio River twice.
  • Provided fish consumption advisory information to Ohio citizens most in need through the Ohio Department of Health’s Women’s Infant’s and Children’s (WIC) and Help Me Grow (HMG) Programs.

For more information on Ohio sport fish tissue monitoring, refer to Ohio EPA's guidance manuals: