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Fishing Is Fun, But What Fish Are Safe To Eat?

OSSINING, N.Y. – For Ossining chiropractor Leo Leung, fish bite often at Richard G. Wishnie Park.

Leung, who lives in Croton, caught close to 20 small fish there on a sunny day last month.

"It's a good place for kids because you're almost guaranteed to catch a fish," he said. "Today is one of those days when they're really hungry."

Fish from the Wishnie Park reservoir are relatively safe to eat, but people should be aware that fish from other bodies of water such as the Hudson River, the Saw Mill River and the Amawalk Reservoir may contain unhealthy levels of contaminants, such as mercury, polychlorinated biphenyl (or PCBs)  and cadmium.

"Women under 50 and children under 15 should not consume any fish from waters listed in [fish] advisories, including the Hudson River," New York State Department of Health spokesman Peter Constantakes wrote in an email. "They should also limit their consumption of fish from any fresh waters in New York to no more than four per month."

For other segments of the population, fish caught from the Hudson River and other bodies should be consumed in limited amounts or not eaten at all.

Due to unsafe levels of PCBs and cadmium, channel catfish, gizzard shad, white catfish, the greenish/yellow portions of crabs and the cooking water for crabs caught from the Hudson River should not be consumed at all, Constantakes said.

Other fish in the Hudson such as Atlantic needlefish, bluefish, brown bullhead, carp, goldfish, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, striped bass, walleye and white perch are recommended to be eaten not more than once per month, Constantakes said.

Any other type of Hudson River fish or shellfish can be eaten up to four times per month, Constantakes said. Crab lovers should limit their intake of blue crabs to six crabs per week.

Other bodies of water including the Amawalk Reservoir in Somers, the Saw Mill River, the Sheldrake River and the Titicus Reservoir in North Salem, have specific fish advisories that can be found here .

"Fishing has a strong tradition in New York and we want people to keep doing it, but don't eat too much of anything," Constantakes said.

To reduce exposures to PCBs and chlordane, a chemical used in pesticides, the state health department recommends removing the dark, fatty tissue along the belly of fish where contaminants concentrate, and allowing fish fat to drip away.

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