We measured the concentrations of Cr, Fe, Ni, Cu, Zn, Cd, Pb and Hg, and the stable isotope ratios (δ13C and δ15N) in 87 fish samples within 12 economic fish species collected from the Dongting Lake, the second largest freshwater lake in China. With few exceptions in concentration of Cr, most of fish species showed lower concentrations of the 8 metals than legislation thresholds. Piscivorous fishes had significantly higher values of δ15N (possessing higher trophic level) and metal concentrations than planktivorous and herbivorous fishes. Moreover, demersal fishes showed higher concentrations of Cu, Zn, Cd and Pb than pelagic and benthopelagic fishes. We found positive correlations between concentrations of Fe, Pb and Hg and δ15N ratio, confirming the biomagnification of the three metals through trophic transfer. In contrast, fishes showed clear growth dilution effect for Ni, Zn, Cu, Pb and Hg, indicated by the negative correlations between their concentrations and fish weight or length. Multiple regression analysis demonstrated that growth dilution and biomagnification effects simultaneously governed the metal concentrations in fish muscle, and the two effects' importance varied among different metals. The human health risk assessment indicated that all 8 metals gave target hazard quotient (THQ) values < 1.0, i.e., the estimated daily intake (EDI) of metals did not exceed the oral reference dose (RfD), indicating a safe consumption of these fish species for consumer. Our study provides comprehensive approaches to better understand the determining processes and potential risk of heavy metals in freshwater lake fishes.