A method was developed to estimate specific rates of demethylation of methyl mercury in aquatic samples by measuring the volatile 14C end products of 14CH3HgI demethylation. This method was used in conjunction with a 203Hg2+ radiochemical method which determines specific rates of mercury methylation. Together, these methods enabled us to examine some factors controlling the net rate of mercury methylation. The methodologies were field tested, using lake sediment samples from a recently flooded reservoir in the Southern Indian Lake system which had developed a mercury contamination problem in fish. Ratios of the specific rates of methylation/demethylation were calculated. The highest ratios of methylation/demethylation were calculated. The highest ratios of methylation/demethylation occurred in the flooded shorelines of Southern Indian Lake. These results provide an explanation for the observed increases in the methyl mercury concentrations in fish after flooding.