Can I eat the fish from
Lake Champlain?

The Lake Champlain watershed offers many opportunities to catch your own healthy fish meal. Trout, salmon, bass, and perch may be found in the Lake or in tributary streams. However, it is important to be aware of consumption advisories for some species of fish found in the watershed.

boy fishing on shore of Lake Champlain

Photo: LCBP

Fish can be an important part of a healthy diet, and a great way to eat local food in the Lake Champlain watershed. However, similar to the case of many seafoods, there are consumption advisories in place for fish caught in Lake Champlain and its tributaries. New York, Québec, and Vermont have each determined safe consumption levels for their jurisdictions, designed to provide guidance to consumers about safely eating fish from the watershed.

Lake Champlain fish consumption advisory graphic

Figure 10 | Lake Champlain fish consumption advisories

mercury in Lake Champlain fish graphic

Figure 11 | Mercury in Lake Champlain fish by indicator species

Most fish consumption advisories exist because of the amount of mercury found in the flesh of the species listed. Figure 10 illustrates the advisories for New York, Québec, and Vermont for many Lake Champlain species. Generally, smaller fish such as yellow perch have less mercury than larger sport fish, and younger fish have less than older fish. Lake trout and walleye are higher in the food chain; they consume many smaller fish over time, and bioaccumulate contaminants found in their prey. As a result, advisories are less restrictive for yellow perch than for lake trout, meaning the advisory suggests consumption of more meals of yellow perch than of lake trout is safe in a one-month period.

National and local efforts to reduce mercury pollution have been successful over the past two decades. Mercury concentrations in fish tissues, particularly in walleye and lake trout, have significantly decreased over the past several years (Figure 11), allowing some consumption advisories to be relaxed.


Mercury (Hg) is a highly toxic metal that can cause severe health effects at low levels in both the aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. It is also a persistent pollutant that bioaccumulates through the food chain. Older, predatory species, such as large lake trout and walleye, can have high levels of mercury and should be consumed sparingly. The biggest source of mercury in the Lake Champlain watershed actually comes from the sky as air pollution from coal-burning utilities, municipal waste incineration, and industries to the west of the watershed. Mercury also enters the ecosystem through the improper disposal of household products. Flourescent light bulbs, batteries, and thermometers contain mercury and should be handled carefully. Check out your state health department for information on proper disposal.

Microbeads are tiny (<5 mm) plastic particles added to over 100 different health and beauty products sold in the United States. Every day, these particles are washed down drains and end up in our lakes, rivers and ponds where unsuspecting fish and birds ingest them. Recent surveys have shown that microbeads escape wastewater treatment facilities, including those operating on Lake Champlain, due to their microscopic size. Now, legislative efforts in both Vermont and New York have banned the sale and distribution of products containing microbeads in an effort to curb plastics pollution in surface waters across the region.

pollutants of concern graphic
What You can do

Go Natural: Reduce or eliminate application of pesticides and herbicides on your lawn and in your gardens. Choose less toxic alternatives for pest control.

Clean Green: Use less toxic cleaners. Not all household chemicals are removed by wastewater treatment. Use personal care products that do not contain plastic microbeads.

Take It Back: Never flush unused pharmaceuticals. Return them to the pharmacy or find authorized drug collection locations in your area.

Don’t Trash Toxics: Take toxic waste to a hazardous waste drop-off center. This includes electronics, motor oil, paint, adhesives, pesticides, herbicides, and mercury-bearing items like non-digital thermometers and compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs).

Look for Leaks: Keep cars, boats and other machinery in good working order to eliminate oil and fluid leaks.

Pick Up after Pets: Dispose of pet waste in the garbage. The droppings of dogs and other pets contain harmful bacteria that can cause beach closings.

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