Snakehead fish found back in Maryland

ZACH JACKSON, Reporter

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      Amongst the rivers and streams of Maryland lie an invasive species of fish called “snakehead.” According to USGS, they are found in 10 out of 50 states in the US and are invasive to small critters and other native fish species around their natural habitat. 

     They are originally native to Asia and Africa and found in 29 different species. The average adult size of these fish weighs in at about 17 pounds along with a length of up to three feet.

     One feature unique to fish and unnatural to others is that they can “walk on land.” Although it looks and seems very unnatural and harmful to them, by wiggling their bodies and fins and keeping moist, snakeheads can travel as far up to a quarter of a mile and survive up to four days on land to migrate to other bodies of water.

      Snakeheads, however, are very invasive and dangerous to the environment since they threaten other native fish species, the aquatic ecosystem, and the overall recreational fishing industry. Due to these kinds of behaviors, the government made and passed a law that declines the trade and possession of these fish to prevent attack and injury on other life forms and species living amongst the aquatic environment.

      Senior fishermen Garrett Strine and Kieran Hogan both state, “it is pretty crazy that they’re back in Maryland because they’re very invasive and kill a lot of game fish caught in competitions and the overall recreational sport of fishing, once they’re in a pond, they pretty much have control until once exterminated and removed.”

      Zoology teacher Mr. Brady Green who used to own a snakehead back in his college years says, “I believe the department of natural resources is well aware of the situation and doing what they’re supposed to, but besides they’re behavior towards other species, they’re cool aquarium pets, but once they reach a certain age and length, you have to let them go.”

      Electrofishing surveys have been performed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in the Potomac River to determine the feeding and distribution behaviors of northern snakehead fish that show how it acts seasonally. On the other hand, angler tests have also been performed to determine the amount of reproduction done by the snakeheads and how they affect the native species already inhabited in the water.

      Almost two decades ago, a population of northern snakehead fish (the species in Maryland) were discovered in a pond in Crofton, Maryland. When soon discovered they were immediately exterminated. The results concluded with a safer environment and no harm done to other life forms and species in the pond.

      The average female snakehead lays about 40 thousand eggs but can produce up to 100 thousand eggs multiple times a year. It is very easy for snakehead fish to reproduce quickly once they’re in a body of water according to political leaders and biologists who have studied and observed the fish living in the Potomac River.

      If you ever catch or see a snakehead fish, the first thing to do is to immediately kill it by exposing it to really cold temperatures, do not put it on the ground as it can walk on land and find its way back into the water. Once killed, if you have access to a camera, take a picture of the fish than immediately contact your nearest fish and game agency so it can be reported to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to prevent reproduction of the snakeheads and any other fish and wildlife species from being harmed in anyway by them.

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