Last week, an angler fishing a private stocked pond in Georgia landed something frightening, an invasive Asian Snakehead. Snakeheads are voracious predators that can quickly dominate most bodies of water they inhabit because they lack natural predators. Once called “fishzilla” by National Geographic, they can survive up to 4 days on land and are capable of moving over a quarter mile to find new water to colonize.
Valued in Asia for their meat and sometimes as pets, Snakehead were first accidentally introduced to US waters in 2002 in Crofton, MD, and quickly spread to the nearby Potomac River, establishing themselves permanently in the river system by 2004. Following the invasion, the US Department of Interior to place a ban on the transportation and import of the fish. Since then Snakehead fish have been found in California, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, Virginia, Rhode Island and now, Georgia.
The sighting of a Snakehead in Georgian waters is not a good sign, due to the fish’s ability to colonize new systems very quickly. Authorities and conservationists are already in action shocking systems near where the fish was caught, trying to do their best to prevent the spread of the species. After the first catch, Georgia Department of Natural Resources electrofished the private pond and found one 2-foot snakehead and 3 juveniles. They are currently surveying surrounding waters hoping to find the remaining fish before they disperse and colonize other areas.
According to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, anglers should kill any snakehead they find, freeze the body and then give them a call to give more information on the catch. This may seem a little excessive, but its imperative these fish are not allowed to spread to new bodies of water.