Cancerous Bass Caught in Susquehanna River Raising Concerns

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HARRISBURG (CNN/WPMT) — It’s a catch that would make any angler gasp — and not with pride.

A smallmouth bass that was pulled out of the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania had a large cancerous tumor protruding from its jaw.

The fish was caught back in November, northwest of Harrisburg, and the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission announced this week that independent laboratory tests had confirmed that the tumor was malignant — an unusual and worrisome development.

“Cancerous growths and tumors on fish are extremely rare in Pennsylvania and throughout the U.S., but they do occur,” the commission said in a statement, noting that this was the only documented case of a tumor found on a smallmouth bass in Pennsylvania.

Fishery at risk

Officials said the discovery, although a one-off at this stage, tapped into broader concerns about the health of fish in the Susquehanna.

“As we continue to study the river, we find young-of-year and now adult bass with sores, lesions and more recently a cancerous tumor, all of which continue to negatively impact population levels and recreational fishing,” said John Arway, the executive director of the commission.

“If we do not act to address the water quality issues in the Susquehanna River, Pennsylvania risks losing what is left of what was once considered a world-class smallmouth bass fishery,” he warned.

Health warning over fish with sores, lesions

The commission said it is working with state and federal agencies, as well as other organizations, to try to get to the bottom of what’s affecting the smallmouth bass in the middle Susquehanna and lower Juniata rivers.

Dr. Karen Murphy, the acting secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, said there was no evidence that cancerous growths in fish are a health hazard to humans. But she warned that people should avoid eating “fish that have visible signs of sores and lesions.”

Arway said it was up to individual anglers to decide whether to eat the fish they catch. But he noted that catch-and-release regulations for smallmouth bass are in effect for a 98-mile stretch of the Susquehanna, including the area where the cancerous fish was caught.


  • James Moffatt

    On the pittston side of the fort jenkins bridge a brown substance has been leaking into the susquehanna for years. it is chemicals that were dumpted into a mine borehole around dupont. The chemical probably follows the abandoned mines thru that area and comes out at river. It is probably the same chemicals that are causing cancer clusters around that area of pittston which now has a mine flushing operation going on.

  • SwampPenguin

    Actually about 7 yrs ago the river was its healthiest in many yrs.
    Not now though huh? What industrial revolution (=pollution) could have
    changed that ? What’s the tally so far millions of gallons of ?
    pumped in the ground here in pa. How bout a no. id like to know.

  • rose

    there was a guy it after the 72 flood according to my father he actually wanted to rake the bottom of the Susquehanna River the city told him no the catch was he wanted to keep whatever he
    raked out of that river maybe if they had let him do it in 1972 maybe the river would be cleaner who knows how many dead bodies are laying at the bottom of that river

  • mmmmkay

    I guess nobody remembers the 1972 flood and multiple floods this isn’t a surprise or a shock considering the state issued warnings to not eat any fish out of this branch of the river for years. So stop making it a big shock

    • SwampPenguin

      The floods mostly flush all the muck / contaminants into the bay.Yes i remember 72 flood quite well
      and how clean the river was afterward.I also remember the convictions of those who were caught dumped fluids down a mine hole.

  • miss hyner

    The insightful data JWH provides mirth to the ladies and gents observing a distressed individual’s mug shot splattered allover the media for dumping their defacation into the river because well went dry due to drought. What is not so funny,the guys and gals not professionally skilled ,get wonderful wages from the firm that caused the really big dirty clouds in N.D. STATE a while ago. I pray for the people of Oklahoma right now!

  • Jim

    It’s a dirty river. I can only imagine how many used car batteries and other forms hazardous trash are sitting at the bottom of The Susquehanna River.

  • john wesley hardin

    Over the years ,time manufactures incontrovertible practices which in return absolves culprits of immorality.Now that they are free of prosecution who PAYS to clean this mess up?It comes to mind in a reflection,a good man wears a article of clothing that stands for a once very strong backbone country and gets gloated upon as a asinine disgrace of society. To peevish a prig over a piece of clothing so one is properly attired is tantamount in a symbolic measurement to “Shoot somebody for Snoring to Loud! I know there was not enough for” HIGH” society to trickle down to the unskilled ,but “PLEASE” forbear your tempers!!!

  • Barracko Q Public

    Thats supposed to be the clean part of the river. Just wait another 5-10 yrs.

  • Jer Tobin

    Just taking a look at the handbook you get with your fishing license should be enough to tell you how screwed the waters are in PA. There’s a list of bodies of water (Almost every body of water in the state) detailing how many ounces of fish you can safely eat from each particular body per week due to mercury or PCB contamination. The amount of fish they recommend staying under is so laughable that if you were forced to fish around here to actually survive, you would start going crazy from mercury poisoning and die within the year. That just raises the question that being mercury takes such a long time to leave your system and can obviously cause huge health issues while it’s inside you, how can the game commission justify eating ANY of it? Why would you intentionally put mercury into your body? The game commission should also tell you when you should probably cut yourself off from ever eating the fish again assuming you ingest the fish based on their guidelines, and how long it will take for the mercury to leave your body so you can start eating it again. But, as I said, why even bother? No one should be eating anything they catch form any of the waterways listed in the handbook labeled as having toxicity issues, it’s such a stupid choice.

  • Johnson

    This is more than a population of fish dying. It represents everything wrong with industrial pollution and why us humans are getting it more and more. Dollars are the only thing that matter and it’s literally killing us all.

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