It seems that there are not only more snakeheads in Maryland, they are also getting bigger. According to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Dan Moon of Woodbridge, Virginia caught an absolutely massive 18.8-pound snakehead off the Potomac River on June 20. At that weight, Moon’s catch not only beat out the current state record, but also the all-tackle world record recognized by the International Game Fish Association (IGFA). Unfortunately, the angler could not find a certified scale and ate the fish instead, rendering it ineligible for either the state or world record.

“For any official state or world record you must get the fish weighed on a certified scale. Unfortunately it is difficult to find a certified scale in some areas, and many tackle shops do not carry them,” the DNR Fisheries Service stated on Facebook.

“Your best bet then is to take a possible record fish to a seafood dealer or a grocery store for a certified weight. Get the scale operator to mark the weight and sign his/her name and contact number on a sheet of butcher paper. Then get a DNR biologist out to confirm the species,” the agency said.

The Potomac River is a hotspot for the world’s largest snakeheads, much to the dismay of biologists who consider the fish an invasive species. Record snakeheads caught from the Potomac include the current state record, a 16.94-pound fish caught by Teddy McKenzie last June, and the previous world record, a 17-pound, 6-ounce snakehead caught by Caleb Newton in 2013. Both were found just within two miles of where Moon caught his fish. The current world record is a 17-pound, 12-ounce fish from Quantico Creek, Virginia captured by Luis Aragon last year.

While records are impressive, DNR biologists are now trying to prevent the species from reaching the Upper Potomac through the C&O Canal. If the fish do gain a foothold in the river above the Great Falls, the species will almost certainly establish itself and become next to impossible to remove. Visitors to the river reported last fall that snakeheads have reached the canal and at least one adult has been spotted guarding a school of fry nearby.

“Eradication is not possible once these fish become established in an open river system such as the Potomac,” said DNR inland fisheries biologist John Mullican. “We expect that these fish will eventually become a permanent part of the Upper Potomac fish community. Confronting snakeheads in the canal system is the best way to mitigate their emigration into the Upper Potomac.”

The northern snakehead is considered a highly invasive species by many biologists, and is often compared to Asian carp based on the scale of its threat. In recent years some experts have noted that snakeheads were not as destructive as anticipated, but Maryland biologists still consider the fish as a threat to native fish populations. There is no seasonal, size, or creel limits for snakehead in the state, and all invasive fish caught must be kept. Thankfully, many anglers consider the snakehead to be excellent table fare and they are especially versatile in cooking.

 

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  • S. Armstrong

    I was walking on the C&O Canal in August (2015) and saw a school of fingerlings moving slowly along the bank. I could not identify them, but watching closely I soon saw a big snakehead parent that was following them. This was just above Georgetown in DC. Its gonna’ be a real mess when they get upriver.