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Unhealthy fish?

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POSTED October 30, 2011 11:52 p.m.

I got an email the other day from reader Jim Canning who had been fishing at one of the foothill area reservoirs and caught a couple trout that had some red sores on them. Jim was concerned that maybe the fish wouldn’t be safe to eat. Ironically, just a few weeks earlier, I had written a column entitled “They Are What They Eat” which discussed the concept that how a wild critter tastes is a direct reflection of what they’ve been eating.  The old Jim Croce song admonished, “You don’t tug on Superman’s cape, You don’t spit into the wind, You don’t pull the mask off the old Lone Ranger, and You don’t mess around with Jim.” Unfortunately you could probably add lines indicating “You don’t eat fish with oozing sores and You don’t eat meat with worm.”

While the human race has accomplished an amazing list of wonderful achievements, there is also a downside to our global activities. We humans have too often left a trail of pollution and destruction in our wake. The extinction of the passenger pigeon and the Dodo as well as almost wiping out the Buffalo are a few of our more egregious examples. We pollute the water and poison the fish and then wonder why it’s not safe to eat the fish. In parts of the Delta the state Department of Fish and Game was posting warnings that young children and pregnant women should seriously restrict their intake of fish due to mercury poisoning.

What a sad state of affairs. It used to be that eating fish was one of the healthiest things you could do. They are loaded with protein and fish oils seem to be a great way to reduce heart attack numbers. Now we screw up one of the best food sources available. Is our world really going to hell in a hand basket? Actually, things might not be as bleak as it seems at first glance. Clean air and water laws in recent years have had a great impact and both forms of pollution have been substantially reduced. Fresh trout from a clear mountain stream is still a very healthy source of food. We do, however, need to be mindful of our surroundings. Examine the fish you catch and if you find a fish with sores, don’t eat it! A little common sense goes a long way. If you eat wild boar meat or bear meat, be sure you cook it thoroughly to avoid trichinosis. If you do, it will be a great meal for you with no unhealthy additives and nothing artificial. You can still enjoy a watercress salad and trout cooked in wild onions.

Enjoying the great outdoors is a lot like any other human activity. Use a little caution and common sense and you should be fine.  There’s a great big world out there, get out there and experience it.

Until next week,
Tight Lines

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