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