Fish Consumption

Cleaning and Cooking Fish2017-07-06T14:14:34-04:00

Cleaning and Cooking Fish to Help Reduce Pollutant Exposure

Fish is a good, lean source of protein that you can catch yourself, making it a cost-effective, healthy, and fun food. We don’t want anyone to stop fishing or stop eating fish!

There are certain cleaning and cooking methods that you can use to help reduce the pollutants in the fish you eat; trimmed fillets contain less fat and fewer pollutants.

Cleaning and cooking are not the complete solution, and it is important to catch and eat fish that are smaller and have fewer pollutants.

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Fish that are polluted with mercury, PCBs, or dioxins will not look, smell, or taste any different than fish without these chemicals in their bodies, so it’s important to know which fish are safer to eat than others and where the fish were caught. Use this map to learn about fish to avoid and to choose in your local river or lake.

In general, eat smaller fish, and always trim away the fat and guts.


Trimmed and cleaned fillets contain less fatty tissue, which is where contaminants tend to build up.


  • Remove head, guts, organs
  • Remove skin and visible fat
  • Cut away back, side, and belly fat
    • Including: belly flap, the line along the middle of each side of the fish
    • Cut a V-shaped wedge to remove any dark, fatty tissue along the length of the fillet
  • Clean and cook the fish as soon after catching as possible


  • Heat from cooking allows some chemicals in the fat to drip away.
    • Heating does not reduce the level of mercury or other metals; they are stored in the muscle tissue and fleshy part of the fish that we actually eat
  • Remove skin before smoking fish
  • Grill, bake, broil, boil, or poach
    • Don’t fry because it can seal in harmful chemicals
    • Don’t use drippings or broth for flavor
      • This is where there are higher concentrations of pollutants
    • Don’t make soups and chowders
      • They hold in juices that contain fat and pollutants

Check out these recipes for ideas on safe and healthy ways to prepare your catch!