The Georgia Department of Natural Resources has published a booklet presenting guidelines for the consumption of fish caught in Georgia's lakes, streams and estuarine systems. In addition to general suggestions for safe consumption, the guidelines identify suggested restrictions on eating certain fish from some of Georgia's water bodies.
The DNR booklet, last published in 2008, states that the overall quality of fish taken from Georgia's lakes and streams is good, and that most fish can be safely eaten. However, their testing program found PCBs and mercury in significant amounts in a few species of fish from some of Georgia's water bodies. The pesticides chlordane, DDT/DDE/DDD, toxaphene and dieldrin were also detected, although less frequently. In additon to these contaminants, some fish in the Savannah River below Augusta were found to contain the radioactive elements cesium-137 and strontium-90.
Of 31 public lakes 500 acres in size or larger, only six -- Carters Lake, High Falls Lake, Lake Juliette, Lake Oconee, Lake Sinclair, and Lake Walter F. George (Lake Eufaula) -- have no restrictions on the amount you should eat. DNR also tested fish from 40 smaller public lakes and 21 of those have no restrictions. Restrictions vary by lake, and affect only certain species and certain sizes of fish.
Where restrictions are in place, the guidelines generally recommend limiting consumption to either one meal per week or one meal per month. The only exception in Georgia lakes is for hybrid and striped basss taken from the main body of Lake Hartwell, where Georgia DNR has a full "Do Not Eat" recommendation.
If you practice catch-and-release, then you have nothing to worry about. However, if you like to make a dinner out of your daily catch, then you can get more information by downloading the full fish consumption guidelines booklet from the Georgia DNR website at www.gaepd.org/Documents/fish_guide.html .