Beware of the Snakehead
Invasive species have been discovered from Maine for Florida, with quite a few in the Potomac River. One was discovered at the Dyke Marsh in 2004.
An invasive species, known as snakehead fish, exists in tidal and non-tidal tributaries of the Potomac River.
According to a U.S. Geological Survey map, a snakehead was found in 2006 at the Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve in Belle Haven.
In 2004, the species became prevalent near the Mason Neck peninsula of the Potomac River. A map attached to this story from Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries shows where the fish were found.
The fish has been on Virginia's list of predatory and undesirable exotic species since 2002. This makes it illegal to possess a snakehead without a permit.
Because they are an invasive species, snakeheads may disrupt and compete with the feeding and breeding of native and naturalized fish. Compounded with the ability to transmit parasites, these fish could significantly affect Virginia's natural aquatic ecosystems.
The VDGIF is currently studying the migration, population growth, and feeding habits of the fish and its potential impact on our ecosystem.
If you think you've caught a snakehead, check the VDGIF website to distinguish the difference. There are a lot of native species—including bowfin, lamprey and the American eel—that look similar to the snakehead fish.
Fishermen who think they've caught a snakehead are asked to report and kill the fish, but aren't required by law.
"However, if an angler wishes to keep a legally caught northern snakehead," the VDGIF site says, "the fish must be killed to be in possession, and the angler must call the hot-line [1-800-770-4951] and report the angler's last name, date of catch, location of catch and size."