According to the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission and many professional fishing guides on the Susquehanna River, smallmouth bass that have been caught in the river with irregular black spots is neither strange nor unusual, and, for those who eat bass, the fish are safe to eat.
Theories to the cause of the spots have ranged from the dumping of mine pollution to industrial waste into the river. More recently, the natural gas companies that are drilling throughout Pennsylvania have become suspect for the condition.
"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," PFBC deputy director of operation Andy Shiels said. "In fact, in 1986, a nationwide survey found that the condition was present in 11 other states, including New York, Delaware and Maryland."
Late last year, the PFBC started hearing from anglers late last year concerning the black spots, which most often are found on the head, lips, tail or fins. Melanin is a black pigment in the skin cells of fish and 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," Shiels said. "While the appearance of these spots may be alarming, there is no harm to human health from consuming these fish."
Shiels 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 since the 1980s.
Tickets are on sale through Friday, April 20, for "Operation One Wish," a fundraising even by the One Wish Foundation that will be Sunday, May 6, at the Leesport Farmer's Market. A variety of outdoors-related products and trips, autographed sports items and game tickets will be awarded to help One Wish with its goal of helping children with special health or financial needs enjoy an outdoors adventure of their choice. In addition, the cost of a ticket includes T-shirts, dinner and a program by Corey Brossman, host of "Innerloc's Out-There" outdoors television program. For tickets and information, call One Wish at (484) 645-3868.
Sunday's edition of "Experience The Outdoors," hosted by award-winning Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association member Doyle Dietz, at 7 a.m. on 1410 WLSH and 9:30 a.m. on Magic 105.5, will feature PPL Montour Preserve director Jon Beam.
A 3-D course for vertical and crossbows is open daily, 24/7, at the Hazleton Archery Club, 170 Woodside Drive, Freeland. For information, call the club at 570-450-0988.
Bear's Head 3-D course is open daily through Friday, Oct. 12, from dawn to dusk, located on club grounds located off I-81 exit 134, 148 Lofty Road, Delano. For information, call the association at 570-467-0331.
Pennsylvania Spring Biathlon will be, Saturday, April 28, beginning at 10:30 a.m., at Whitetail Preserve, Bloomsburg, comprised of 4k running and rifle marksmanship for scholastic and adult divisions. For information, contact Frank Gaval at (570) 788-4219 or email email@example.com .
Registration is underway for the Schuylkill County Youth Field Day at Friedensburg Fish and Game, Saturday, May 19, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. This is a free event for youth between the ages of 10-15 sponsored by the Schuylkill County Sportsmen's Association and Schuylkill Conservation District in cooperation with various outdoors and conservation organizations.
For information and required pre-registration, call "Porcupine Pat" McKinney at (570) 622-4124, ext. 113 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org .
A National Wild Turkey Federation Women In The Outdoors event will be held Saturday, June 9, at Ontelaunee Rod and Gun Club, New Tripoli, for those age 14 and older. For information and required preregistration, contact Donna Balgosky at 610-767-6932 or email LehighValleyWITO@yahoo.com  by Friday, June 1.