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Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

Off the hook

State says Grand Lake fish safe to eat after no toxins found in tissue samples

By Nancy Allen
GRAND LAKE - The Ohio EPA on Monday declared it safe to eat fish caught in Grand Lake after tissue samples tested negative for algae toxins.
  "This is huge for Grand Lake," said Brian Miller, interim manager at Grand Lake St. Marys State Park. "This means we can once again market our fishing tourism, both for ice fishing and for the upcoming spring and summer fishing season."
The state enacted the do not eat advisory last summer as a precaution until fish tissue results were received. The analysis tested for the presence of microcystin, a liver toxin produced by the lake's blue-green algae.
Miller said the heaviest lake traffic in the spring is from anglers.
The fishing mainstay of the 13,500-acre lake has been crappie, followed by bass and catfish, he said.
"Bass fisherman typically catch and release. They do it for fun and to get ready for tournaments on the lake," Miller said. "But crappie is mostly for meat, so people can enjoy consuming them. We also have nice catches of bluegill people can catch and eat."
Microcystin levels spiked to more than 2,000 parts per billion (ppb) in July. Information from the World Health Organization says microcystin levels above 20 ppb pose a high risk to human health for recreational activities such as swimming and water skiing. No level is set for when microcystin could affect fish.
Tissue from 23 fish representing four species was taken from the lake in late October. Largemouth bass, bluegill, black crappie and channel catfish were analyzed.
The Ohio EPA said in a news release it plans to analyze more fish from Grand Lake and/or other state-owned water bodies with blue-green algae blooms to give state officials a complete picture of toxin levels in fish tissue. Microcystin levels are known to fluctuate during the year with blooms at their peak in the warmest summer months. Grand Lake was among 20 water bodies across Ohio that suffered blue-green algae blooms last summer.
Julie Miller, a member of the Lake Restoration Commission, said the tissue results also bode well for a state plan to remove rough fish, mostly carp, from the lake this spring and summer. Some estimate that more than 90 percent of the lake's fish are carp, large bottom feeders that continually rile up the sediment and excrete high amounts of phosphorous in their waste.
Studies show that reducing the number of rough fish helps improve water quality and decrease algae blooms.
"This can only help what might eventually be done with the fish," said Miller, who also leads the Business Enterprise Center at Wright State University-Lake Campus.
Southside lake resident Keith Buschur said he never stopped eating the lake's fish, though he reduced the amount he ate after the state issued the advisory.
"I didn't eat as much as I usually would have," he said. "I've been waiting on this report to come out."
Buschur said he and his family have been enjoying bluegill, crappie and an occasional perch he's caught ice fishing. He still has some in his freezer that he now feels completely safe eating.
"It's a little piece of mind," he said.
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