Quite a few fishing regulations say something similar to this,

Don’t dispose of fish entrails or other byproducts into any body of water

2018 Colorda Fishing

Fish die in the water all of the time, what is the reasoning behind not disposing of fish guts in the water?

Related to both "Is it really necessary to gut a fish?" and "How do I gut a fish?".

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    Just a partial thought, most lake caught fish are planted, the were not born in the lake. This is true for some rivers as well. It is not a balanced ecosystem. Commented Jun 27, 2018 at 14:22
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    My first guess would be disease prevention. Loose guts expose the environment to more potential harm than an intact fish, similar to how you might be fine with a dead deer near your campground, but not with a still vaguely deer shaped heap of blood and entrails.
    – Monster
    Commented Jun 27, 2018 at 15:31
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    This is too short to be an answer, but, according to Leave No Trace, @Monster is right about disease, but LNT focuses specifically on spread of disease to other fish in the water, especially trout. Trout have a fatal disease called Whirling Disease, and exposed entrails spread it quickly and are responsible for the serious decline in trout population in some western states. Commented Jun 28, 2018 at 0:33

1 Answer 1


It really does seem to depend on where you are. As you mention some states do not allow for the disposal of fish in water. For example from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources:

Disposal of unused portions:

Unused or uneaten portions of fish should be buried or disposed of with household waste. Fish entrails should never be discarded back into the lake.

On the other hand, from the state of Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife:

Although fish entrails are biodegradable, a respectful alpine angler will never discard them in lake shallows where they can be seen by others. Pack out viscera in a zip-lock bag, or dispose of them in water at least 25' deep.

Basically, in many areas disposing of fish guts in the water is considered dumping. This is especially true where there are many visitors to these areas that may smell or see the remains. However, if you're in an area of deep water, where the public will not notice the remains, then putting the fish guts back into the water, after puncturing the air sac, will add beneficial nutrients for other animals. These additional nutrients may be especially beneficial in an alpine lake as one may find in Washington state.

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