The soldiers at Marines Corps Base Quantico in Virginia will soon have the chance to take on a fierce, invasive enemy. No, it’s not the plot of a new Syfy original–the Marines’ foe will be snakeheads.

The fact that their enemy is only half the Marines’ height and a fraction of their weight make the snakehead no less formidable. These fish can grow to maturity in two to three years and can mate several times a year, spawning hundreds of thousands of young. To some, the snakehead makes Asian carp look like almost like a mild nuisance.

Who better to fight this fish than the Marines? For a period of 24 hours, the marines of Quantico–and their families–will eschew their regular gear for rods and bows to try and catch some snakehead.

“What we’re trying to do is promote some fun and some fishing opportunities,” said Euel Tritt, one of the event’s organizers. “I think it’s going to be a great event, just for Marines and their families to do something different on a weekend.”

Any gar, carp, or catfish caught during the tournament will also be considered for prizes. The chief goal is to net some snakehead, which can put up a fight. As food however, snakehead can be an acquired taste. The fish is fairly popular in eastern Asia, where it has a part in many traditional dishes and can even be considered a delicacy. The snakehead that found its way to the United States is also generally agreed to be a good-tasting fish, but like carp, can differ according to preference.

Despite initial concerns over the snakehead’s introduction to the area, locals say that the fish did not seem to have that big of an effect on the local ecosystem. While this might be true, experts say long term effects of non-native species may take years to surface. For the time being the fish is still considered by Virginia wildlife officials to be invasive and is illegal for a resident to own without a permit.

The competition will take place in the waters around the base using canoes and kayaks rented from a nearby wildlife viewing area.

“The tournament is to let people know it’s a good resource out there that’s good to eat and fun to catch,” said Tim Stamps, head of the base Natural Resources Section. “Hunt for them, fish for them, kill them, eat them.”

Image courtesy Marines Corps Base Quantico

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