Despite warnings, officials still encourage fishing on James and New rivers

NEW RIVER VALLEY, Va. – A warning from the Virginia Department of Health is getting a lot of buzz: Certain fish in the James and New rivers may be dangerous to eat. 

This year, the state of Virginia is warning those who fish to take a little extra time and make sure they aren't taking home fish that could be filled with contaminants. 

"I would recommend that anybody that's going to be fishing this spring or summer knows what the advisory is for the water bodies they're fishing," said Bill Kittrell, with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

The annual advisories show that certain fish in the New River and James River, such as smallmouth bass, carp and catfish, are coming up contaminated with chemicals such as PCBs and mercury. But Kittrell wants to make it clear that these advisories are common and they shouldn't stop you from casting a line or hitting the water.

"Recreational fishing is a great sport, great opportunity this time of year. Just be aware of the advisories but certainly don't be overly concerned," said Kittrell. 

Around Claytor Lake, many people are not fishing for food but for fun. Kittrell said the majority of fish that are being caught in this area are being returned to the water. That's the story of Nancy Beecher and her family.

"We catch and release. We do it for the sport, just the fun. The kids all get involved. They have a great time," said Beecher.

If you plan on eating the fish you worked so hard to catch, officials say look for smaller, younger fish and, when you get them home, clean them thoroughly.

To learn more about the advisories in your area, click here.