US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Published in Data Series 103 by the U.S. Department of Interior and the U.S. Geological Survey, 1-28, (2004)


This report summarizes results of total mercury measurements in skinless fillets of sport fishes collected during August 2000, September–October 2002, and July 2003 from Lake Natoma, a small (8,760 acre-feet) afterbay for Folsom Dam on the lower American River. The primary objective of the study was to determine if mercury concentrations in fillets approached or exceeded guidelines for human consumption. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) human-health action level for methylmercury in commercially caught fish is 1.0 μg/g (microgram per gram); the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) human-health criterion for methylmercury residue in fish tissue is 0.30 μg/g. Wet weight concentrations of total mercury in skinless fillets were as high as 0.19 μg/g in bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus), 0.39 μg/g in redear sunfish (L. microlophus), 1.02 μg/g in largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides), and 1.89 μg/g in channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus). Maximum concentrations of mercury in other fish species varied from 0.10 μg/g in rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) to 0.56 μg/g in white catfish (Ameiurus catus). Altogether, 1 of 86 largemouth bass and 11 of 11 channel catfish exceeded the FDA human-health action level. In addition, 1 of 20 redear sunfish, 26 of 86 largemouth bass, 2 of 3 spotted bass (M. punctulatus), 1 of 1 brown bullhead (A. nebulosus), and 1 of 1 white catfish exceeded the USEPA human-health criterion. These results indicate that some fish species inhabiting Lake Natoma contain undesirably high concentrations of mercury in their skinless fillets.