The northern snakehead is a large fish that has a long body with a mottled, snake-like pattern. (U.S. Geological Survey Archive/Bugwood.org)
The northern snakehead is a large, long fish with a mottled, snake-like pattern. It lives in the Potomac River and its local creeks and streams. It is an invasive species.
Tan, dark brown and/or black with a mottled, snake-like pattern
Large mouth with a protruding lower jaw and many teeth
Long dorsal fin that runs along most of the back
Grows to 33 inches long
Ponds, lakes, streams, rivers and other freshwater areas
Lies dormant in mud during droughts
Can live out of water for up to four days if kept moist
Found in the Potomac River and several of its tributaries in Maryland and Virginia
Native to China, Russia and Korea
Prefers to eat fish
Will also feed on frogs, crustaceans and small birds, mammals or reptiles
No natural predators in the Chesapeake Bay watershed
Reproduction and Life Cycle:
Spawns in June-July
Females can lay as many as 15,000 eggs one to five times per year
Eggs hatch in 1-2 days
Larvae remain in the nest, which both parents guard
Larvae are nourished by a yolk that they absorb by the time they are less than one-third of an inch long. After that, they feed on small crustaceans and fish larvae.
Young may be golden brown or pale gray, darkening as they grow older
Reaches sexual maturity at 2 years old
Able to breathe air from the atmosphere using an air bladder that works similar to a lung
First discovered in the Bay watershed
in a pond in Crofton, Maryland, in 2002
It is illegal to move, possess or release snakeheads in Maryland. It is also illegal to transport snakeheads across state lines without a federal permit.
If you catch a northern snakehead in Maryland or Virginia, you are
required to kill it
If you catch a northern snakehead outside of the tidal Potomac River in Maryland, the Department of Natural Resources asks that you report it by calling (410) 260-8287. In Virginia, you must report all northern snakehead catches to the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries by calling (804) 367-2925.
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