Coosa River still under fish consumption advisory

Fishing in Lay Lake and in the Coosa River near Vincent is still a fun way to pass the summer days. Just be sure to throw back what you catch.

The Alabama Department of Public Health released the 2008 Fish Consumption Advisories for the state on Monday, and the Coosa River in Shelby County was cited for containing PCB contaminants. People are warned not to eat striped bass from the river, which contains Lay Lake.

Jay Haffner, a district fisheries biologist with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, said the continuing advisory means people need to be careful of what they eat.

“This is an advisory by people that are in the business of protecting the public health and welfare,” he said. “I want people to pay attention to that.”

Haffner said while people should not eat the fish, they should feel free to pursue fishing as a recreational sport.

“I do want to stress that the largemouth bass and spotted bass fisheries on the Coosa River in Shelby County are outstanding fisheries, world-class fisheries,” he said.

Haffner pointed out that Lay Lake is in the running to host the Bassmaster Classic in 2010, which establishes the lake’s status as an excellent fishing site.

“It’s business as usual for the Coosa River,” he said. “There are some nice, pretty, big striped bass in the lake, and I encourage people to fish. But we don’t want them to consume it.”

The striped bass are particularly dangerous for consumption because they are top-of-the-line predators and are large enough to consume almost everything else in the water-as well as the contaminants those other fish have consumed.

“PCBs exist in the environment for a long time, and fish get exposed to them. Those particular types of contaminants collect in the fatty tissue,” Haffner said. “Those large predatory fish consume smaller fish, and the PCBs become accumulated in the fatty tissue.”

Haffner said the accumulation of contaminants in striped bass has been a problem in the Coosa River for a long time. Striped bass also have a relatively long life span, which compounds the problem.

However, striped bass can be caught without problems as long as they are thrown back after being caught.

“If you enjoy catch-and-release, come back and do it,” Haffner said. “Enjoy that world-class bass fishing.”

Fish from Shelby County’s Cahaba River can be consumed with no restrictions.