River Myths

Swimming happily along the Ohio River like the queen of fresh water is a carp bigger than a truck. That’s how the myth goes anyway, and wouldn’t it be great if the next time the Ohio River waters receded, we’d see a one-ton carp lying on the Riverfront Dress Plaza like a beached whale? Not possible, say the biologists at the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO). The biggest carp doesn’t weigh much more than 40 pounds. Though fellow river dwellers such as paddlefish and catfish can exceed 100 pounds, no Ohio River fish species reaches the size of a truck. We asked the ORSANCO experts about other river myths in need of busting.

Myth: Flesh-eating fish are in the water.
Reality: There have been a few piranha found in the Ohio River but only because someone released them from a home fish aquarium. It is very unlikely these fish could survive throughout the winter.

Myth: It’s safe to swim in the Ohio River.
Reality: We advise caution when swimming in the Ohio River, not because of the water quality but because of barge traffic, floating debris, and possibly submerged branches and trees.

Myth: Don’t swim in the river after it rains.      
Reality: Bacteria levels usually are elevated after a heavy rainfall, especially downstream of large metropolitan areas. A good rule of thumb is to wait at least 24 hours after a heavy rainfall.

Myth: The river’s fish are not edible due to pollution.
Reality: It is safe to eat fish as long as state advisories are followed. Check with state health departments for advisories on fish in the Ohio River. (For Indiana’s guidelines, visit www.in.gov/isdh/files/2009_FCA_Booklet.pdf. One piece of helpful advice from the government: “…keep in mind that larger fish are likely to be as contaminated, or more, than any that were tested.”)

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