This study forms part of an investigation into the effects on fish of immersion in three rivers around Birmingham, UK. The rivers Blythe, Cole and Tame exhibit relatively high, intermediate and poor overall water quality, respectively, according to combined levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and organochlorine pesticides (OCPs), as well as heavy metals. Specifically, biomarkers of genotoxicity (DNA strand breaks and adducts) were measured in feral and caged chub (Leuciscus cephalus), complementing another study in which data were presented for a number of other hepatic biomarkers measured in the same animals. In both feral and caged chub, there was a general elevation of DNA strand breaks with a decrease in chemical water quality, with some time points exhibiting significantly higher levels at the most (Tame) compared with least polluted sites (Blythe), particularly in the cage-held animals. Combined-season DNA adduct data suggested a higher degree of toxic insult in the feral compared with caged chub and revealed particularly high levels of adducts in fish caught from the Cole. The pattern of adducts shown was typical of exposure to a complex mixture of PAHs which were relatively high, and similar, in both the Cole and Tame. Overall, these data are consistent with exposure of both feral and caged chub to contaminants which are able to induce specific, moderately genotoxic effects.