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We are getting a lot of bass with "ink spots" on Travis and Austin the last few years. The pale color is from being in deap water on Travis (clear lake) no light penitration deap to create color. In other lakes with murky water it can happen shallow.

MF
 

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The pale color does indeed mean that this fish has been hanging out in deep water for awhile...the black spots, however, indicate that he very recently has moved into shallower sunny water. This is a sign that the Spring spawn is near, and if you fish shallow, you'll catch a bunch more these with spots on them through March, less so in April after they've adapted to sunlight.
 

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I first started noticing black spots on bass caught on LA and LT over the last couple of years. More recently I've noticed black spots on fish caught on Fayette, Bastrop and even stock tanks and private ponds. I read that
the black spots are caused by pigment that the fish deposits around the larval stage of a parasitic infection. In general, the presence of the "black spot" parasite does not affect the growth or the longevity of the infected fish; however massive infections in young fish may cause fish mortality.

John
 

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Im not sure but I think the spots have something to do with the time of the year. You always catch those fish near the spawn. And they are always sexually mature fish. Ive never seen a dink with those spots,only keepers.
 

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You are all wrong! I had a biologist tell me that the spots are from a heavy diet of primarily crawfish. They do get more in the spring months when the water temps bring the crawfish into the eaten zone.

In other words the bass with black spots are from cajun bloodlines! ;)
 

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Ha, well, clearly after reading all of these posts it seems as though there is a whole lot of hot air being produced about this subject.  haha.  Before I go through and explain why some of these answers cannot possibly be correct let me just say...I don't know what the real answer is.  I'm not going to pretend to know what I'm talking about.  The first time that I ever caught one of these bass was when I was 15 and was on vacation with my family in the northeast.  I talked my dad into pulling the rental car over at Lake Ontario and I fished from shore for a while.  I caught a 4lb largie flipping at a bridge piling and it had these black blotches on it.  Ever since then I've tried to gather as much info as I could about these dark blotched fish and what I've found is...no one really knows what causes it.  I have read several documents of studies done by universities trying to figure out the cause and in each one, no one is able to find out the real answer.  There are always speculations, but there is no for sure answer.

Now, let me explain why most of these answers are just plain silly...haha

Heavy diet of crawfish?  This can't be for several reasons.  Well, considering the fact that the first reported cases of these dark blotches didn't appear until the 1980s in the northeast...and crawfish and bass have existed for much longer than that...sometime before the 1980s, bass had to have been eating a lot of crawfish.  Also, back in January, I caught about a 14" largemouth out of Lake Travis that had these blotches on it.  I took him home with some spotties to filet for dinner.  I have a habit of inspecting what fish have been eating on the rare occasion that I decide to bring some home.  The fish with the dark blotches...had a belly full of shad.  Not a single crawfish in him.  Last of all, I've been bass fishing for most of my life and grew up in the west.  I've caught literally thousands of bass out west, and not a single one of them ever had these dark blotches.  Now, I've also vacationed out east several times, and now after living in Texas for a few months...there is a reasonably high percentage of fish that I've caught out here with these blotches.  You'd think that if it was caused by eating lots of crawfish, those fish out west (where there's also lots of crawfish) would occasionally have these blotches.

Time of year?  Makes no sense either.  Whenever I have visited the south or the east coast it has always been in the summertime.  I caught just as many of these dark blotched fish during the summer as I have been catching for the past months living here in Texas.  Also, I moved here back in October, and I caught the dark blotched fish with just as much regularity then as I do now.  The only reason I can think of someone thinking it is the time of the year is because in general, most guys catch more fish in the spring than at other times of the year.  Therefore, catching more fish in general, means catching more fish with blotches.  And yes, I have caught fish as small as 9" with these blotches.  

Parasite?  This could be feasible...but there is no real supporting data yet.  Most findings so far indicate probably not though...

Moving from deep, dark water, to shallow sunny water?  No way...again, if this were the case, you'd think that out of the thousands of bass I've caught in my lifetime in the super deep lakes we've got out west, at least one of them would've had these blotches.

Anyways...the answer is a resounding...who knows?  Maybe someday we'll figure it out...
 

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It's called "melanosis", and there has not yet been one single factor that has been precisely identified as the cause (genetic, viral, and environmental factors have been considered), there is some consensus that exposure to sunlight is at least a contributing factor.

A few thoughts:

1. Melanin is produced as an pigment adaptation to sunlight in many animals, including fish, and even humans (freckles on the shoulders, nose, etc)

2. You'll tend to see this most frequently on spawning fish in the spawning months when the fish are shallow during daylight hours--March & April in Central Texas; it's much less common in the winter months, or even in the summer months, as the fish only move into shallow water in lowlight conditions (dawn, night, dusk);

3. You will rarely find them on an immature (ie not spawning) bass, because they don't bed up in shallow water;

4. Spots are almost invariably found on the top half of the fish, the part that's getting the most direct sunlight (see photo).

There's probably some other factors at play, but while there are exceptions to the above 4 pieces of evidence, they generally hold true, so be prepared to catch a few of these freckled fish in the next couple of months. Tight lines!
 

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well fishing on lake austin i caught a 12 lber that had black spots on the bottom of belly on one of the fins. also my buddy caught one with a black dot on the bottom of its tail fin. in 14ft of water. i was always told that the black dots on these fish meant they had a heavy protien diet. be it shad, crawfish, or fingerlings. with all the grass that was in lake austin and town lake fish could ambush their prey much easier thus ingesting a heavier meal. over time their protien levels reach an all time high and these black spots are formed. i dont know if that is the case at all but it sound somewhat logical. although i dont create black spots when i overendulge in heavy protein, it could be the pigment thing though i guess. :-/
 

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I don't think it's protein--all bass eat protein, and nothing BUT protein, theyre pure carnivores and you'll never see one munching on leaves. The spots on the underside are unusual and definitely the exception to the spots being on the top half of the fish...my guess is reflective light off of a dock, submerged stairs or something, just a guess.
 

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Ok, once again, the sunlight thing doesn't make any sense either. I've caught thousands of bass out of lakes in CA, AZ, NV, and UT out west and not a single one of them had the black spots that are found on some of these bass out this direction. And some of those lakes out west are some of the clearest lakes in the nation, therefore having much greater light penetration. The only way it could make sense is if the bass out this direction have some sort of gene or condition or something that makes their skin vulnerable to the sunlight...
 

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On one of the bassmaster tv shows recently KVD caught one with the spots and said its a sign of a healthy bass population. Since KVD is basically the bass GOD, (excluding this years classic) then it must be true, especially since I saw it on tv and didn't read it on the internet.   :p

-Brent
 
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