Fish were collected in late 1995 from 34 National Contaminant Biomonitoring Program (NCBP) stations and 13 National Water Quality Assessment Program (NAWQA) stations in the Mississippi River basin (MRB) and in late 1996 from a reference site in West Virginia. Four composite samples, each comprising (nominally) 10 adult common carp (Cyprinus carpio) or black bass (Micropterus spp.) of the same sex, were collected from each site and analyzed for organochlorine chemical residues by gas chromatography with electron capture detection. At the NCBP stations, which are located on relatively large rivers, concentrations of organochlorine chemical residues were generally lower than when last sampled in the mid-1980s. Residues derived from DDT (primarily p,p'-DDE) were detected at all sites (including the reference site); however, only traces (<or= 0.02 microg/g) of the parent insecticide (p,p'-DDT) were present, which indicates continued weathering of residual DDT from past use. Nevertheless, concentrations of DDT (as p,p'-DDE) in fish from the cotton-farming regions of the lower MRB were great enough to constitute a hazard to fish-eating wildlife and were especially high at the NAWQA sites on the lower-order rivers and streams of the Mississippi embayment. Mirex was detected at only two sites, both in Louisiana, and toxaphene was found exclusively in the lower MRB. Most cyclodiene pesticides (dieldrin, chlordane, and heptachlor epoxide) were more widespread in their distributions, but concentrations were lower than in the 1980s except at a site on the Mississippi River near Memphis, TN. Concentrations were also somewhat elevated at sites in the Corn Belt. Endrin was detected exclusively at the Memphis site. PCB concentrations generally declined, and residues were detected (>or= 0.05 microg/g) at only 35% of the stations, mostly in the more industrialized parts of the MRB.