Southeastern Fishes Council
Dedicated to the Conservation of Southeastern Fishes

14th Snakehead Caught In Potomac Tributary
July 14, 2004

Release from:
Associated Press

The number of Northern snakehead fish caught in the Potomac River is now at 14, including two females full of eggs, state officials said Friday.

A state fisheries biologist caught No. 14 Friday while electrofishing in Dogue Creek, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries said. The fish was caught in the same area where a 17-inch mature female packed with eggs was caught on Thursday.

Experts fear the snakehead, a top-tier predator with a voracious appetite, could destroy the river's ecosystem if left to breed unchecked in the shallow, grassy waters it prefers. One fear is that the river's smallmouth bass population could be decimated.

All 14 of the snakeheads caught since May have come from a 14-mile stretch of the Potomac and its tributaries. Five have been caught in Dogue Creek, including four in the last six days, and three have been caught in Little Hunting Creek. All of the fish have been sent to the Smithsonian Institution for genetic testing, officials said.

The snakehead, native to Asia and Africa, is considered an oddity because it can move short distances on land using its fins and live out of water for up to three days.

The fish was first discovered in the U.S. two years ago in a private pond in Maryland. More than 1,000 juvenile snakeheads and six adults were recovered when state officials poisoned the pond and two others nearby to keep the fish from spreading.

In 2002, the Department of the Interior banned the import of 28 species of snakehead, including the Northern variety.