|Good cover, good oxygen|
In 2002, an angler headed out to this pond for what turned out to be a very newsworthy day, or at least what passes for newsworthy when an invasive species is something other than a tiger or 20 foot crocodile. He was bass fishing and instead of bass, found something very different, something that had been brought all the way from the canals and wetlands of Southeast Asia. This is the actual photo (courtesy of Maryland DNR).
The alarms immediately went off for federal and state fisheries biologists, and an immediate, aggressive control effort was put into place. And it failed. We'll never really know if the Northern Snakehead invasion began in this pond, but it's pretty likely, and the fish reproduced and moved into the Patuxent River very quickly - more were discovered downstream that very year. Two years later, it was found in the tidal portion of the Potomac. Other rivers followed. In 2011, it was confirmed to have crossed the Chesapeake Bay successfully, and invading tidal freshwater rivers on Maryland's eastern shore. Most warm, tidal tributaries of the Potomac and Patuxent now have documented Snakeheads present. Biologists hope that saltwater to the south and cold winter temperatures to the north can work to limit its spread. Hasn't worked yet.
The Snakehead is a voracious killer, and it's said to love juvenile largemouth bass (themselves introduced to Maryland about 100 years ago, although from Florida, not Asia). Maryland DNR requires that all Snakeheads be killed once in possession - it's illegal to have a live one in your possession, no matter what the circumstances. A few snakehead tournaments have already been held, and more are yet to come. But it certainly seems like this toothy invader is probably here to stay. I've been trying to chase one down for about a year and have failed. It's almost time for my next attempt, at Mattawoman Creek, one of North America's hotspots for snakehead fishing. Stay tuned....