Spill away

The spillway at Cullman's Lake Catoma.

The Alabama Department of Public Health has listed two bodies of water in Cullman County in its annual fish consumption advisory report due to the high levels of mercury that can be found in the fish.

The fish consumption advisories for the area remain unchanged from recent years, with the health department recommending for no largemouth bass to be eaten if caught in the lower reservoir, forebay area of Lake Catoma.

In Smith Lake — specifically the portion at Ryan Creek extending from approximately 2.2 miles upstream of the bridge at County Road 222 to approximately 12 miles upstream of the Sipsey Fork — the health department advises against eating of any largemouth bass, spotted bass or striped bass.

Lake Catoma has been included in the state’s fish advisory report since 2018, and Smith Lake has been listed on the report since 2010.

Two other areas of Smith Lake located in Winston County were also included in the report.

Residents are recommended to limit consumption of channel catfish and largemouth bass to two meals per month in Rock Creek, in vicinity of Little Crooked Creek and Rock Creek Marina, approximately five miles upstream from Sipsey Fork.

The other advisory is for the mouth of Clear Creek, Sipsey Fork in the vicinity of Clear Creek and Butler Creek approximately 2.3 miles upstream of State Route 257 bridge. Residents should limit consumption of channel catfish to two meals per month and consumption of largemouth and spotted bass to one meal per month if the fish are caught in that area.

While the mercury levels in fish may be too high for human consumption in those areas, the health department’s advisory report does note that recreation in those bodies of water is still safe.

Mercury builds up in fish over the entire time that they live in the water, meaning that the older fish get, the more mercury they tend to have in their bodies. That means the water is still safe for activities like catch and release fishing, swimming, boating, and other water recreation.

The ADPH also provided recommendations for fish consumption for people who may be considered at-risk. At-risk groups include babies, children under 14, women who are nursing, women who are pregnant and women who plan to become pregnant.

• Do not eat any king mackerel, shark, swordfish or tilefish.

• Limit white (albacore) tuna to 6 ounces a week.

• Eat up to 12 ounces (two average meals) a week of a variety of fish and shellfish that are lower in mercury.

• Check local advisories about the safety of fish caught by family and friends in local lakes, rivers, and coastal areas.

• Follow the recommendations listed above when feeding fish and shellfish to young children, but serve smaller portions.

Tyler Hanes can be reached at 256-734-2131 ext. 238.

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