Posted by Brandon Jarvis
Authorities this week sent out press releases urging citizens to kill the Snakehead fish that has now been found in a Colonial Heights waterway for the first time. Not only is it the first time finding this fish in the Swift Creek, it’s the first time that a Snakehead fish has been found in the entire water system connected to the James River.
The asian fish was first found on the east coast in 2002 in Maryland. People at the time were afraid that the Snakehead was going to eat the native fish and take over the waterways. This became true, partially.
Snakeheads reproduce twice a year and both parents closely guard their offspring, which is unusual for our fish fauna, and that has led to high levels of survivorship. The biggest fears that anglers have is that the competitive fish like the Largemouth Bass will not be able to survive around the Snakehead, but in the Potomac system that doesn’t appear to be the case. Some sample tests in different tributaries did show a smaller sample size of bass, with larger numbers of Snakeheads.
Snakehead fish reproduce twice a year. The parents stay tight with their offspring keeping them safe, which is not seen often in fish. There is a 2012 story about a boy in Delaware reaching in the water to touch a small Snakehead fish and the parent fish jumped out of the water and bit the boy. The boy did not suffer anything beside superficial injuries, but it is still interested that a fish actually did that.
In 2002, a family introduced multiple Snakehead fish to into a pond as a symbolic gesture, a family member had just survived an illness. Officials treated the pond with Rotenone to kill the fish. Rotenone effects their respiratory system.
The northern snakehead has since established itself firmly in the Potomac River system, with a population estimated at somewhere above 21,000 individuals, ranging through more than 120 river miles (200 kilometers). Growing up to 18 pounds (8 kilograms) and three feet (one meter) long, the “Frankenfish” keep spreading; they have recently been found above Great Falls in the C&O Canal (north of Washington, D.C.), as well as in the upper Chesapeake Bay.
It was legal to import Snakehead fish until 2004, when it became apparent the risks and dangers that the fish brings to an environment. Anglers are working to stop the spread of Snakehead fish officials are working to discourage the human aspect of the spread of Snakehead fish by threatening fines up to $2500, and jail as long as 12 months.