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Jeff Lampe
Jeff Lampe

Jeff Lampe has been outdoor writer at the Journal Star in Peoria for 12 duck seasons. He lives in Elmwood with his wife Monica, sons Henry, Victor and Walter, and Llewellin setter Hawkeye. A native of Buffalo, N.Y., he is an avid fan of the Bills and still has mental scars from four consecutive Super Bowl losses. Outside of hunting and fishing, Lampe's main passion in Illinois was Class A boys basketball (which sadly no longer exists). Former publisher of the Class A Weekly newsletter, Lampe is a co-author of "100 Years of Madness" and "Classical Madness," both books focusing on prep basketball in Illinois.

Illinois Outdoors


A Web log by Jeff Lampe of the Journal Star

Illinois hunting and fishing

Can I eat worms in my fish?

January 30, 2010 at 07:46 PM

Reader Keith Sutton of Pekin asked the following question.

“My son-in-law went ice fishing with some friends recently, and nearly all of the fish they caught had little white worms in the flesh.  My son-in-law called another friend who has a large pond and he said that his fish were the same.  Have you ever heard of this and if so, what might be the cause? Also, are fish like this safe to consume? Thanks and I hope to hear from you soon.”

I’ve seen the little white worms myself and fried them up in the past with no ill effects. Just to be safe, though, I asked fish biologist Rob Hilsabeck. Here is his reply.

“I believe 100 percent that he is describing what is known as yellow grub. Fry them up. These are not a parasite of humans and fish infected with them are edible.”

Here is the appropriate answer from page 42 of the IDNR “Management of Small Lakes and Ponds in Illinois”: 

Worm parasites spend part of their life cycle in one or two animals other than fish. The adult yellow grub worm lives in a heron’s mouth. They lay eggs in the saliva, which wash out of the bird’s mouth as it feeds. Upon entering the water, the eggs hatch and the larvae must invade the flesh of a particular type of snail of the genus Helisoma.  If these snails are not present in the lake, the life cycle is broken.  If this genus of snailis present, the larvae invade its flesh and multiply themselves manyfold.  When they mature, they burst out of the snail, penetrate the fish’s skin and become cysted in the muscle. This encysted form may be white or yellow and 1/8 to 1/4 inch long. When teased out of its cyst, it wiggles, squirms and crawls about. The large size and active behavior of this grub causes universal comment when anglers fillet infected fish! The life cycle is completed when the fish containing these encysted grubs is eaten by a feeding heron. Dissolved out of their cysts by the digestive juices of the heron, they mature into adult worms, which migrate up the bird’s gullet to its mouth, where the life cycle beigns again.


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