Invasive Fish Destroying Ecosystems and Hurting Local ish Populations

Owen Dunbar, Reporter

The Northern Snakehead is a highly invasive fish species from Asia; they have invaded all the way from some of the great lakes, to Maryland, and to Florida.

The first reported Snakehead in Pennsylvania was in July 2004, in Meadow Lake, Philadelphia.

These fish cause major problems to the ecosystems that they have invaded due to their big appetite; young snakeheads will eat small fish, frogs, small birds and mammals, while 90% of the adults’ diet is made up of fish like Largemouth Bass and White Perch.

By eating certain native fish, there is the risk the snakehead will wipe them out, which disrupts the natural food chain, which then leads to overpopulation of certain species and destruction of others.

Snakeheads are even affecting sport fishing by eating sport fish like the Largemouth Bass.

These fish are incredibly aggressive. As a result, they have no natural predators. This means that their population can grow and grow with no limitations.

And grow they will; one of the main reasons these fish are so hard to get rid of are their breeding habits. Females can lay up to 15,000 eggs up to five times a year, and both female and male will guard the young until they can fend for themselves.

On very rare occasions snakeheads have attacked people. When guarding their young if anyone or anything approaches they will become very aggressive, and with their big needle-like teeth and sharp gill plates, getting bitten could cause a lot of damage.

Another startling and scary aspect of the Northern Snakehead problem is that they are very hardy fish to the point that they can survive out of water for four days.

Juveniles can even migrate short distances across land by using their front fins like oars in a rowing motion.

Unlike other invasive species, like many of the carp in PA waters, the snakehead will continue to upset many more ecosystems.

To help fix this growing problem, more people should try and target snakeheads or if they catch one, don’t put it back. The PA boat commission say’s “Anglers catching Snakeheads should dispose of them properly. Anglers suspecting they have caught a Snakehead are encouraged to NOT release it, and report it to the Commission at 814-933-4471.”

An easy way to catch a snakehead during its breeding season is to look for fry or baby snakehead, they travel in big schools with the parents circling them and put just about anything that resembles a fish, lizard, crayfish, etc. under attack.

Snakehead is supposed to taste very good, despite how it looks. 

Also, if you’re an avid fisherman, catching a snakehead could be a lot of fun–if you’re ready for a fight. 

If the Northern Snakehead situation is left unchecked, this problem will only grow.