WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — State health and wildlife officials have updated their list of how much fish is safe to eat if it is caught in Kansas or if it is safe to eat at all.

In a joint news release, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) and the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP) issued their fish consumption advisory for 2022.

Before we get to the details, it helps to know what some of the definitions are:

  • Bottom-feeding fish: buffalo, carp, catfish, sturgeon, suckers
  • Shellfish: mussels, clams, crayfish

When the KDHE refers to serving size, it means the weight of skinless fish fillets before cooking. These are the appropriate sizes depending on the person’s age.

  • Adults and children age 13 and older = 8 ounces
  • Children age 6 to 12 = 4 ounces
  • Children younger than 6 = 2 ounces

Mercury advisory

The KDHE and the KDWP say that all fish contain some amount of mercury. Therefore, anyone who routinely eats fish or serves fish to children should carefully consider the types and amounts they eat, including store-bought fish.

Too much mercury can harm the development of fetuses, nursing babies and growing children. Women who are pregnant, nursing, or may become pregnant, and children younger than 17 should follow the guidelines presented below for eating fish caught in Kansas.

Fishing and eating guidelines 

  • Eat smaller portions — a fillet about the size of your palm
  • Eat types of fish with less mercury (see Preferred Choice Fish in the chart below)
  • If you don’t know the type or size of fish you are eating, wait at least a week before eating fish again
  • When fishing, keep fish shorter than your forearm (fingertips to elbow) or less than 20 inches as regulations allow.
Preferred Choice FishServings
• Blue and Channel Catfish
• Common Carp
• Crappie
• White Bass, White Perch, Wiper, Striped Bass
• Walleye, Sauger, Saugeye
• Bullhead Catfish
• Drum
• Sunfish (Bluegill, Green, Redear, etc.)
1 or 2 servings a week
(If the fish is larger than 20 inches: no more than 1 serving a week)
Second Choice FishServings
• Buffaloes (Black, Bigmouth, Smallmouth)
• Flathead Catfish
• Bass (Largemouth, Smallmouth, Spotted)
1 or 2 per month
(If the fish is larger than 20 inches: no more than 1 serving a month)

For specific questions or concerns about mercury in Kansas fish, please contact the KDHE. For information about mercury in fish caught in other states, store-bought fish, and other types of seafood, please visit the EPA and FDA websites.   

Waterbody specific advisories for all consumers

Kansas recommends restricting consumption of bottom-feeding fish and catfish to one serving per week from the following locations because of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs):

  • Cow Creek in Hutchinson and downstream to the confluence with the Arkansas River (Reno County)
  • Kansas River from Lawrence (below Bowersock Dam) downstream to Eudora at the confluence of the Wakarusa River (Douglas and Leavenworth counties)
  • Little Arkansas River from the Main Street Bridge immediately west of Valley Center to the confluence with the Arkansas River in Wichita (Sedgwick County)

Kansas recommends restricting consumption of bottom-feeding fish and catfish to one serving per month from the following location because of PCBs: 

  • K-96 Lake in Wichita (Sedgwick County)

Do not eat fish from:

Kansas recommends not eating specified fish or aquatic life from the following locations:

  • Arkansas River from the Lincoln Street dam in Wichita downstream to the confluence with Cowskin Creek near Belle Plaine (Sedgwick and Sumner counties); bottom-feeding fish and catfish due to PCBs
  • Shoal Creek from the Missouri/Kansas border to Empire Lake (Cherokee County); shellfish due to lead and cadmium
  • Spring River from the confluence of Center Creek to the Kansas/Oklahoma border (Cherokee County); shellfish due to lead and cadmium
  • Antioch Park Lake South in Antioch Park, Overland Park (Johnson County); all fish due to pesticides dieldrin, heptachlor epoxide, chlordane and dichlorophenyltrichloroethanes (DDTs)
  • Arkalon Park Lakes in Liberal (Seward County) — Kansas recommends not eating any aquatic life because the lakes are sustained solely by treated municipal wastewater

Waterbodies affected by harmful algae blooms

The KDHE says that so far, measured algal toxin levels in fish samples collected from waters affected by harmful algal blooms (HABs) suggest the fish are safe to eat. However, please take the following precautions:

  • Avoid skin contact with water
  • Wear gloves when handling wet fish and equipment
  • Rinse fish with clean water
  • Remove skin from fillets and rinse with clean water prior to cooking or freezing
  • Eat only skinless fillets
  • Do not eat shellfish

General advice for reducing exposure to chemicals in fish 

  • Keep smaller fish to eat and let the big ones go
  • Avoid eating fish parts other than fillets
  • Trim fat from fillets and/or use cooking methods that allows fat to drip away
  • Avoid subsistence fishing (relying on wild-caught fish for daily nutritional needs) in rivers within or immediately downstream of large urban/industrial areas
  • Do not eat fish or aquatic life from wastewater outfalls, waste treatment lagoons or stormwater retention ponds

Other resources

For information about fishing in Kansas, including licensing, regulations, fishing reports and fishing forecasts, please visit the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT) website ksoutdoors.com/Fishing.

For information about the health benefits vs. the risks of including fish in your diet, please visit this American Heart Association website heart.org.