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Northern Snakehead Fish Identified in Refuge Lake

13 Aug 2015 2:16 PM | Jim Taylor (Administrator)

An unwelcome intruder was discovered by refuge and U.S. Geological Survey  biologists while taking  fish samples from Belknap lake(just south of Hwy 1) last week.   

It’s a non native invasive species of  fish that breathes air, walks on land, has a scale pattern  that resembles that of a diamondback rattlesnake, and a sports a wickedly ferocious set of  “canine like” teeth that enable it to attack and eat  everything in its sight.  It's  a top level predator with a   reputation so hideous  some fisherman  refer to it as "Frankenfish".  Refuge biologists like Jay Hitchcock know it as the Northern Snakehead fish.  By whatever name, if left unchecked,  our sportfishing might be impacted  through either direct predation on our crappie, bass and bream and/or  through indirect competition for their food.   

Here’s how you can help. 

1.  Learn to identify Northern Snakehead fish.   At first glance they have the appearance of our native Bowfin(grinnel)  but the long, 20 plus rays of the anal fin is the DEAD GIVEAWAY.   Bowfin have only 9-10.  See graphic below.

2.  Fisherman are asked to kill  any Northern Snakehead fish they catch and/or  report  sightings to the refuge office by calling  870-282-8200.   (Note: Snakeheads can live a day or two out of water so  throwing them out onto the bank won't do it.  Remember they have the potential to crawl back into the lake.)

fws file photo


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