The spotted bass is native to Pennsylvania, but not these spots. For several years anglers have noticed irregular black blotches on smallmouth bass caught in the Susquehanna River, where agricultural run-off is suspected to be the cause of genetic mutations found among aquatic wildlife.
But last week, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission reported that the spots don't seem to be dangerous to the fish, and bass showing the blotches are safe for human consumption.
The condition has been documented in the state since 1980 and under review by the PFBC and other wildlife agencies for several years, said Andy Shiels, deputy director of operations. In 1986, he said, a nationwide survey found "blotchy bass" in 12 states including Pennsylvania, New York, Delaware and Maryland.
"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," Shiels said in a news release. "While the appearance of these spots may seem alarming, there is no harm to human health from consuming these fish."
The blotches have not been linked to another Susquehanna smallmouth disease studied since 2005. Black-spotted smallmouths were noted in other Pennsylvania waters, including the Allegheny River in 1991 and Presque Isle Bay, Conneaut Lake and Raystown Lake in the early 1980s.
"We don't know if it's related to other things showing up in the Susquehanna," said PFBC executive director John Arway, in a phone interview last week. "It could have something to do with hormonal exposure due to low doses of antibiotics that get into streams through sewage treatment plants, or sun exposure like when people develop melanoma."
This column reported March 25 that a new state record had been set for brook trout, based on a report posted on Fish and Boat's website. In fact, a brook trout exceeding the current state record was caught in Bedford County's Yellow Creek in Catch and Release Fly Fishing Only waters. Angler Steve Cook nailed the "catch" part, but the "release" occurred before it could be weighed on certified scales. The previous brook trout record of 22 inches, 7 pounds stands.
At precisely the wrong time for Pennsylvania trout anglers, regional tackle shops are reporting an impending shortage of butter worms, a Chilean moth larva used mostly as aquarium reptile food. The soft-as-butter larva squirm when submerged in water, making them a good bait, particularly for trout.
One retailer said a supplier told him a South American drought had limited the supply of butter worms. Another said he'd heard the same thing but has experienced supply problems every year. Butter worm prices have held steady so far, but the word among anglers is, get 'em while you can.
Roland Martin and Jimmy Houston, two of the most successful competitive bass anglers, will greet fans all day April 14 at Cabela's in the West Virginia panhandle. Their appearances are part of the store's Fishing Classic weekend promotion.
John Hayes: 412-263-1991 or email@example.com. First Published April 8, 2012 12:00 AM