There might be more in that catfish from the Kaw than fillets for frying.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment and the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks on Thursday released new advisories for fish consumption in the state, including a recommendation about a local stretch of the Kansas River.
The 2005 guidelines advise that people should not consume bottom-feeding fish -- including the channel and flathead catfish popular with local anglers -- caught in the Kansas River between Bowersock Dam and the confluence with the Wakarusa River. The new guideline replaces an advisory that had been in place since 1986, which encouraged people to limit their consumption of fish from the stretch of river to one 8-ounce serving per month.
The new advisory comes after state environmental scientists analyzed five years of data from the area, and found a potentially dangerous level of polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, in bottom-feeding fish in the area.
PCBs are carcinogenic synthetic chemicals that were used in the manufacture of coolants, lubricants and electrical transformers during the 1970s. Though their use was banned in 1977, and they have not been used since, the compounds take a long time to decompose and can cling to the sediment in rivers.
Steve Cringan, an environmental scientist with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, said the advisory was not a response to a recent environmental change. Rather, the advisory was passed after the department collected more data from the river.
"It's not because they hadn't been there before," Cringan said. "It's simply because we haven't had sufficient data."
Still, the new advisory is just that -- a piece of advice -- and the government can only encourage people to stop eating the fish.
Josh Hackathorn, a local fisherman whose parents own Hack's Outfitters, thinks the advice will largely be ignored.
"The old advisory was to eat 8 ounces," Hackathorn said, "and there are guys who catch 60 and 70 pounders out of there once a week, and they eat every bit of them."