With razor sharp teeth and a freakishly long tongue -- for a fish -- the invasive northern snakehead is decimating the native fish population in Maryland's bodies of water, not to mention other surrounding states. Since 2002, the state has been battling the fish but they're upping the ante for a second year, hosting contest with a $200 gift card to Bass Pro Shops as an incentive to the anglers who can land the invasive lunker.
Fox News reports the northern snakehead -- a fish also known to go by "fishzilla" and "fish from hell" -- are not only prolific breeders with frightening characteristics but they also can grow up to two feet long and live -- gulp -- for up to four days out of the water. The snakeheads are native to Asia and Africa and presumably came to the Maryland ecosystem through Asian seafood markets. The fish was first spotted in 2002 in Crofton pond and eradication efforts -- including killing all fish in the pond with a pesticide -- were successful. But it was really too late. The fish had already spread to other water ways, including the Potomac River.
“We do not want snakeheads in our waters,” said DNR Inland Fisheries Director Don Cosden in a statement on the reward system.. “This initiative is a way to remind anglers that it is important to catch and remove this invasive species of fish.”
This is the second year the DNR has held this competition and last year it reeled in more than 170 snakeheads. If you're going to be out fishing for the beasts, here's some advice from last year's winner:
“These fish clobber any type of moving bait you throw,” said Rodney Hose of Lexington Park, who won the Bass Pro Shops gift card in last year’s contest. “When they smash into your lure, be prepared for a fight -- especially if they are around some sort of cover.”
Check out this video for more information on how to catch them:
For those who bring in one of the invaders, they need to submit a photo of themselves with their dead catch to dnr.maryland.gov/fisheries/fishingreport/log.asp. A drawing for three $200 gift cards from among participants will occur at the end of November. Other incentives for prize-winners include a Maryland State Passport, which provides unlimited day-use entry for up to ten passengers in a vehicle, unlimited boat launching at State Park facilities and a 10 percent discount on State-operated concessions and boat rentals, or a Potomac River Fisheries Commission fishing license.
Although the initiative can help reduce the population to an extent, officials have reasonable expectations as to the effect and don't expect overfishing to get rid of the pests.
“We don’t expect that anglers will eradicate the snakehead population,” said Joe Love, DNR Tidal Bass program manager, in a statement. “We do believe this promotion and inspiration of anglers can help control the snakehead population. The information we gain from the Angler’s Log reports are also helpful in assessing the abundance, spread and impact of these feisty fish.”
National Geographic has more on the invasion of the snakehead in this video: