Northern snakeheads are top-level predators in most environments they inhabit and can survive for several days on land. In fact, this fish has been known to migrate up to a quarter-mile by wiggling through wet soil. When the fish were first discovered in American waters during the early 2000s, many worried that snakeheads could prove to be an ecological disaster. Against a cooler however, this adaptable beast has no chance.
Virginia resident Caleb Newton, 27, caught what could be the largest of these invasive fish on Saturday. According to The Free Lance-Star, Newton and a friend spotted the snakehead weaving through the water towards their boat in Aquia Creek, a tributary of the Potomac River. It was first offered a rubber worm, which it ignored in favor of a crank bait. Newton was using a 15-pound line and a light rod, and knew then that it was the biggest snakehead he had ever seen.
“It took me about a minute to get it in the boat,” he said proudly.
Shivering on the boat, the snakehead measured 36 inches long. Newton and his fishing buddy, Phil Wilcox, almost forgot they were in the middle of a tournament with 14 other boats. In reality, the tournament was a celebration for Wilcox, who had an upcoming wedding. Newton then took the large snakehead to a sporting goods store where it was weighed at 17 pounds, six ounces. If confirmed, Newton’s catch would be two ounces heavier than the current world record caught by a Japanese angler in 2004.
Reportedly a larger 18-pound snakehead had been caught last summer in Virginia, but since the state did not at the time have a category for snakehead records, the fish was promptly cooked and eaten. Newton was not about to let his record slip in the same fashion, so he packed the snakehead into a large cooler and drove it to a Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries office so it can be confirmed by wildlife officials. There, snakehead expert John Odenkirk said it was one of the largest snakeheads he had seen and speculated that the species can grow up to 20 pounds in Virginia waters. Bow fishermen have also caught snakeheads over 17 pounds, but are not eligible to enter the fish into traditional hook-and-line records.
Newton will have to submit the snakehead’s measurements to the International Game Fish Association, the world authority on fish records, in order to confirm the record. In the meantime, the angler says he has a nice patch of wall to mount the fish on.