Fishing For Beginners: 18 Fish You Should Never Eat

Fishing For Beginners: 18 Fish You Should Never Eat

If you are one of those anglers who prefer to cook and eat their caught fish species, did you know that there are fish that you should never eat? For beginners, make sure that you are always safe with the trawls that you will consume.

Due to several reasons like mining, sewage, fossil fuel emissions, and heavy metals like mercury, some species are not suitable for consumption. Let us take a look at some fish species that you should never eat.

  1. Atlantic Cod
  2. Atlantic Flatfish
  3. Chilean Seabass
  4. Eel
  5. Orange Roughy

Fish can serve as a power food, but it can also be a nightmare for your body, depending on the species that you consume. For example, low-level mercury poisoning from contaminated fish can be a real threat to your life, leading to devastating health effects. Hence, you must pay attention to the fish that you should never eat. Let us take a look at more sea and freshwater species that you should not consume.

18 Fish You Should Never Eat

Unfortunately, you can’t eat every fish species that you caught no matter how much time you spent and bait you used to get it. The good news is that these species are suitable for catch-and-release fishing. So, if you are a beginner angler, here is a complete list of the 18 fish that you should never eat.

1.Atlantic Cod

Historically, Atlantic cod is a species that has been essential to feeding the population of the New World and the early Caribbean Sea colonization. However, intensive fishing has taken its toll in the last thousand years. In the late 1990s, tragedy struck as the fishing industry crashed. While a female cod releases more than a hundred million eggs, only a few can live to adulthood.

According to Oceana scientists, as a result of the collapse of the Atlantic Cod, North Atlantic food chains have radically changed, and the species is now considered vulnerable to extinction. If you’re a cod liver oil fan, make sure it doesn’t come from Atlantic cod. Choose Alaskan cod instead, which you can catch with a longline, jar, or jig.

2.Atlantic Flatfish

Those fish are high in toxins, including the sole, flounder, and Halibut. They still have a long history of overfishing, leading to our oceans’ collapse. 

3.Chilean Seabass

In reality, seafood dealers, called the Patagonia toothfish, began selling this deep-sea predator fish as “Chilean seabass” because it sounded less threatening. Chilean seabass overfishing, now prevalent on menus across the U.S., has left this species in deep trouble. Its high mercury levels are also concerning, aside from overfishing. 


The Seafood Watch of the Monterey Bay Aquarium puts eel on its sushi guide’s “avoid” list because it is slow to mature and has been overfished in many parts of the world, causing some stocks to collapse. It also leaves Asian nations looking at American eels, which are also vulnerable among the populations of the United States. It’s a problem because when it comes to protecting our water resources, eels are extremely valuable.

For instance, in the Delaware River, eels are an integral part of spreading populations of mussels that act as natural water filters. Eels tend to readily ingest and store hazardous chemicals and pollutants, such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and flame retardants, in addition to problems with overfishing. River eels are so polluted in some states like New Jersey that even adults should only consume no more than one eel a year.

5.Orange Roughy

Orange Roughies can live up to 150 years old, and they are one of the longest living marine fish species. Within the scientific community, seafood marketers had other plans for this fish and gave the species a more appetizing name, commonly known as “slimehead.” However, a highly over-fished species was the result.

Since orange roughies do not achieve sexual maturity until they are at least 20 years old, their recovery is prolonged. The exceptionally long lifespan and late age at maturity mean that it will take a half-century or longer before a decimated population can recover. Besides, higher amounts of mercury have orange roughy, which can be harmful if ingested in large quantities.

6.Atlantic Bluefin Tuna

While Atlantic bluefin tuna is a trendy ingredient for sushi, it is best to say “no thanks” to this famous fish. It means bluefin tuna, sometimes referred to on sushi menus as Hon Maguro, which you should avoid at all costs. Katsuo or Skipjack tuna would be a great sushi option. For a few reasons, you should avoid eating Atlantic bluefin tuna.

To the point of near extinction, there has been overfishing for this species. For its high demand for sushi, however, fisheries managers still encourage commercial fishing to target it. Unfortunately, the amount of bluefin tuna is just 2.6 percent of historical population levels. It is also a substantial predatory fish that harbors higher levels of mercury, apart from the apparent population decline and danger of extinction.


Fishing For Beginners: 18 Fish You Should Never Eat

When it comes to the consumption of swordfish, a high level of mercury is the biggest concern. The mercury in these fish is so high that women and children should not eat it according to the Environmental Protection Fund to prevent it from consuming. For men, consuming no more than one serving a month is their suggestion.

8.King Mackerel

Certainly, mackerel is full of balanced omega-3s. But you might be getting more than you negotiated for when it comes to those kinds of mackerel. The Food and Drug Administration urges women and children to avoid eating this fish because of its high mercury content.


Owing to its relatively high levels of mercury, Grouper is on the list when it comes to fish you can never consume. This species is very susceptible to overfishing as well. In 2015, the research found that more than a third of Atlanta’s 19 restaurants sold grouper pangasius (also known as ‘Vietnamese catfish’). 

10.Wild Caviar

Beluga caviar and wild-caught sturgeon are vulnerable to overfishing, but they also become endangered by a rise in the development of dams that pollute the water they live in. All types of Caviar come from fish that take a long time to mature, meaning it takes a while for fisheries to recover.

If you love Caviar, look for fish eggs from the Mississippi River system from American Lake Sturgeon, American Hackleback, or Shovelnose Sturgeon. You can also check out California Caviar that supplies only sustainably harvested fish eggs.


For many reasons, sharks are usually on the list of fish that you should never eat. It is because these species are very high on the food chain as bosses of the sea. It results in higher levels of mercury. Apart from that, most shark species are highly endangered, which are slow to mature and do not have a lot of offspring. It is partly due to the high demand for shark fins in Asian cuisine, as well as the fact that thousands of sharks are frequently mistakenly caught and discarded as waste by fishing for tuna and swordfish.

Fishing For Beginners: 18 Fish You Should Never Eat

12.King Mackarel

It is one of the types of fish that children and pregnant women should not consume due to high levels of mercury and methyl mercury. There is an excellent omega-3 fatty acid in mackerel. However, in essence, specific varieties of this type of fish may be too much for you because they contain too much mercury. 

The Food and Drug Administration cautioned children and women to stay away from king mackerel because it contains elevated mercury levels. Try Atlantic mackerel if you want to eat some good mackerel. This form has high levels of omega-3s and is low in mercury, so its longevity and health are strongly favored. 

13.Atlantic Halibut

The Atlantic halibut is a thick-set flatfish with both eyes located on the right side of its body. It lives in deep and cold waters and develops slowly. However, due to overfishing, these species become endangered. It means there are higher numbers of catching activities that its existing population leading to the unhealthy fishery.


All species of dogfish that belong to the same family as sharks and rays include spiny dogfish, spurdog, rock salmon, or flake. These species are slow-growing, long-lived, and have a high maturity age. These features make them especially vulnerable to high levels of mortality from fishing. Moreover, the IUCN declares these species as endangered.


Porbeagle refers to a group of sharks, generally referred to as mackerel sharks. Sharks, since they are slow-growing, long-lived, and have the low reproductive ability, are vulnerable to exploitation. The IUCN assesses Porbeagle as critically endangered. Until the 1970s, when they became unprofitable, their northern Atlantic population was massively over-exploited by targeted longline fisheries.

You should avoid consuming any shark species captured not only for their meat but for their fins as well. Shark-finning is a needless and cruel practice for the Asian shark-fin soup market, where fins cut off, and throw sharks back into the sea to die.


Plaice is a species that is long-lived and subject to high fishing pressure. Stocks in the Celtic Sea, the Western River, South-West Ireland, and Western Ireland are in depletion, and there is a need to reduce fishing activities to achieve sustainable stock levels drastically.


With females reaching lengths of 285 cm and males 205 cm, the common skate is the largest European Flatfish. However, they belong to endangered species including long-nose, black and white skates.


As much as possible, avoid eating these fish species because there are fewer existing soles than those anglers who catch them. As a result, Sole now belongs to “endangered” fish species. Do these species some favor and let them grow for better fishing. It is also a good act of being an angler.

How To Reduce Health Risks From Eating Fish Containing Chemical Pollutants?

The best way to eliminate the risk of eating fish with chemical pollutants, like mercury, is never to consume them at all. If you can’t avoid it, it is better if you select certain kinds and sizes of fish for eating. For example, you can choose a younger species because it contains fewer pollutants than older and larger fish.

Moreover, make sure that you clean and cook your caught fish properly. You can decrease the levels of specific chemical contaminants in the fish by thorough hygiene and cooking techniques. However, take note that you can’t eliminate it. When it comes to cleaning, it is a good idea to remove the skin, fat, and internal organs because it is where harmful pollutants are most likely to accumulate.

As an added precaution, make sure to remove and throw the head, guts, kidneys, and the liver. Then, fillet the fish and cut away the fat and skin before you cook it. As much as possible, rewash the fish and put some salt to clean it well. The way you cook the fish also makes a difference in the number of chemical pollutants that will remain. 

Whether you bake, broil, or grill – do it correctly by letting the fat drain away. Ignore or decrease the amount of broth that you use to spice the meal with fish drippings. Higher levels of contaminants can contain these drippings. Finally, eat less fried or deep-fried fish, although it is everyone’s favorite. It is because frying seals any environmental toxins that could be in the fat of the fish into the part you’re going to consume.

How Can You Find Polluted Waters?

We know that its color pollutes water and if there are any garbages on it. However, did you know that a polluted body of water can still exist even without the presence of any trash? It is almost difficult to tell if there is a contaminated body of water by looking at it. Fortunately, there are ways to find out. First, check and see if there are warning signs posted along the edge of the lake. Follow the advice written on them if there are signs. 

Secondly, contact the local or state health or environmental protection agency to ask for their advice, even if you don’t see warning signs. Ask them if there is any advice on the types or sizes of fish that you can eat from the waters where you are preparing to fish. Follow these recommendations to reduce the health risks from eating fish that might contain small quantities of chemical contaminants.

Do Some Fish Contains More Pollutants Than Other Species?

You can’t merely look at the fish and tell whether it contains chemical pollutants, but some species have more of it than others. Unfortunately, testing through a laboratory is the only way to know whether a fish contains harmful levels of chemical pollutants or not; and it takes some time. So, as a general rule of thumb, follow these to make sure that you and other anglers are safe for eating your heard-caught fish.

  • Try the smaller ones if you eat game fish, such as lake trout, salmon, walleye, and bass,
  • Younger trouts that are within legal limits are less likely than more significant, and older fish to produce unhealthy levels of contaminants.
  • Eat panfish like bluegill, perch, stream trout, and smelt. These species feed on insects and other marine organisms and are less likely to produce harmful contaminants at high levels.
  • Consume less fatty fish, such as lake trout, or fish that feed on lake bottoms and streams, such as carp and catfish. It is more likely that these fish would produce higher levels of chemical contaminants.

Frequently Asked Questions

Finding the fish to eat is easy if you know what are the species that you should avoid. It may be challenging at first, but it takes time to familiarize yourself with endangered or contaminated fishes. So, keep on learning and asking on the trawls that you should and should not cook and put on your plates.

What is the least toxic fish to eat?

Generally, smaller species like sardines, anchovies, farmed trout, fresh tilapia, and arctic char are the least toxic fish to eat. Moreover, you can go with bivalves which include scallops, clams, and oysters. These species don’t build up as many contaminants as large carnivore fish.

Which fish has the least mercury?

Some fish species that have the least mercury content include canned light tuna, salmon, pollock, and catfish. These are safe even for children and pregnant women. However, make sure that you consume the recommended amount per day. They may have the least mercury, but these species can still pose a threat with overconsumption.

Is it OK to eat fish everyday?

It is safe to consume fish every day for most individuals, but you should always check it with your physician, especially if you have special health conditions. Fish is better to eat every day than pork and beef, but the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends eating fish at least two times a week. Significantly, eat fatty fish like salmon, lake trout, sardines, and albacore tuna that are rich in omega-3s.


Fish should be a part of our diet, but make sure that you are aware of the species that you should not add to your menu. When you eat fish after catching them, you can never get fo wrong with wild-caught Alaskan salmon, Pacific sardines, and Atlantic mackerel. Eating bass is also good for your health. Better yet, ask your local fishery guide if what are the fish species that you can eat on that specific body of water.

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