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  • Pennsylvania Outdoor News

    PFBC Confirms Bass with Black Spots Observed
    Location: Pennsylvania

    HARRISBURG, Pa. – Following recent reports from anglers that some smallmouth bass caught in the Susquehanna River have had irregular black blotches, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) today confirmed that similar spots have been previously observed on fish from other waters in the state and that the spots do not appear to harm the fish. The PFBC added that because the spots are limited to skin discoloration, the fish are safe to consume under the state’s general fish consumption guidelines.

    “The condition is commonly known as ‘blotchy bass’ or ‘black spot’ and has been documented occasionally in various Pennsylvania waters since as early as 1980,” said Andy Shiels, PFBC deputy director of operations. “In fact, in 1986, a nationwide survey found that the condition was present in 11 other states, including N.Y., Delaware and Maryland.”

    The PFBC started hearing from anglers late last year concerning the black spots, which are most often found on the head, lips, tail or fins. Melanin is a black pigment in the skin cells of fish and this condition is often referred to by fisheries scientists as melanosis.

    “It’s not precisely known what causes the condition, but the bass that our biologists examined in previous years were generally healthy and in good condition,” said Shiels. “While the appearance of these spots may be alarming, there is no harm to human health from consuming these fish.”

    He added that the condition has not been linked to specific pollution events, nor is there any evidence to suggest that blotchy bass condition is related to the young-of-year smallmouth disease issues in the Susquehanna River and some of its tributaries that the PFBC and other agencies have been studying since 2005.

    PFBC biologists have documented the blotchy bass condition previously in Pennsylvania in the Susquehanna River (2011, 2006); Cowanesque Lake, Tioga County (2003); the Allegheny River (1999); and in the 1980s in Conneaut Lake (Crawford County), Presque Isle Bay (Erie County), Raystown Lake and several other waters. It also was observed in New York’s Hudson River during the 1980s, which resulted in a N.Y. fisheries biologist surveying other states about the condition. The survey showed that the condition was present in largemouth and smallmouth bass in 12 states in the East, South and along the Gulf Coast.

    PFBC biologists who have previously observed this condition indicate that it often occurs during the cold-water period of fall, winter and early spring, and it appears to affect only fish larger than 12 inches. It typically occurs in a localized area and not uniformly in a lake or throughout a river system. Some bass have had one or two spots while others have had a dozen or more.

    Because of the previous disease issue with juvenile smallmouth bass resulting in multiple poor year classes, the PFBC has placed catch and release regulations on all smallmouth and largemouth bass on portions of the Susquehanna and Juniata rivers and on their tributaries to a point one-half mile upstream, with a closed season from May 1 through June 15. The regulations apply to approximately 32 miles of the Juniata River, from the State Route 75 Bridge at Port Royal in Juniata County downstream to the mouth of the river at Duncannon, Perry County. On the Susquehanna, the regulations cover 98 miles, from the inflatable dam near Sunbury in Northumberland County downstream to the Holtwood Dam in York County.

    Anglers who observe sick fish or other unusual conditions can report it to the PFBC through the website

    April 14 Marks Opening Day of Trout Statewide

    Harrisburg, PA – With fishing license sales up by more than 20 percent, anglers from across the state are showing that they are ready to fish their favorite spots on April 14, which marks the traditional opening day of trout.

    John Arway, executive director of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC), says opening day is a special time that families and kids look forward to every year.

    “Opening day is a time-honored tradition for so many families, including grandparents, parents and their children,” Arway said. “I remember lying awake the night before and then getting up early and fishing with my family on opening day. It’s a lot of fun that I now share with my grandkids."

    With this spring’s record warm weather and the significant jump in license sales, the PFBC expects the opening day to be very busy. The 20 percent jump in license sales amounts to about 53,000 more anglers who have bought a license compared to this same time last year.

    “Last year we had a cold and wet start to the fishing season,” Arway said. “This year we’ve had significantly warmer weather and anglers everywhere are excited to get out and start the season. And even though the early regional opener was colder than many people would have liked, reports from our field staff indicate that a lot of anglers and their friends and families were still out.”

    March 31 marked the regional opening day of trout in 18 southeastern counties.

    In a special promotion this season, the PFBC has teamed up with Pittsburgh Pirates baseball. During the baseball season, 2012 fishing license holders are eligible to purchase discounted outfield box tickets and receive a free custom, limited-edition Pirates ball cap with each PNC Park game ticket. The offer is good on any day of baseball, with the exception of opening day and Saturday games.

    The promotional offer is good for advance ticket purchases only. Visit the Pirates web site at for a seating chart. Fans can complete an order form on the PFBC website and mail it to the Pirates office or fax it to 412.325.4410. Phone orders cannot be accepted. The online form (with more details) can be found at:

    In addition to being one of the biggest fishing days of the year, opening day is one of the biggest social events.

    “Research shows that when it comes to fishing, anglers like being together with friends just as much as they like catching fish,” Arway added. “It’s great if you catch trout, but the day is really about getting out of the house, enjoying the outdoors and spending quality time with family and friends. If you haven’t done so yet, purchase your license and join us to kick off a new fishing season.”

    The PFBC’s "great white fleet" of stocking trucks has been busy since mid-February replenishing Pennsylvania's waterways with a fresh supply of brook, brown and rainbow trout. Every year the PFBC stocks about 3.2 million trout in waterways across the state.

    More than 850,000 anglers buy a fishing license each year. A resident fishing license costs $22.70 and a trout-salmon permit is $9.70. A license is required for anyone 16 and older. Licenses can be purchased at sporting goods stores and online at

    News Source: Pennsylvania Fish & Boating Commission - Apr. 09, 2012

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