|Northern snakehead fish (Getty Images photo by William Cain)|
A northern snakehead was caught earlier this month in a pond in Gwinnett County, near Atlanta; it's the first time the species has been found in the state, but it has been reported in 14 other states and is abundant near the Chesapeake Bay. It's native to eastern Asia and was sold in American pet stores and live-food fish markets before the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service banned it in 2002. "Invasive fish like the northern snakehead are often introduced through unauthorized release, according to Georgia wildlife authorities. In Georgia, it’s illegal to import, transport, sell, transfer and have any species of snakehead without a valid wildlife license," Beachum reports.
The northern snakehead can grow to three feet and weigh up to 18 pounds. Because it's a voracious predator with a varied diet, it's well-placed to crowd out native species, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. "Should the species succeed in establishing more populations of predatory offspring, it could alter food webs and ecological systems that could leave a permanent change to other species in water bodies," Beachum reports.
"Wildlife officials in Georgia are asking anglers to learn how to identify, kill and photograph the fish and reporting their catch to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division Fisheries office," Beachum reports. Bonus: since northern snakeheads are pretty nutritious, fishermen can help the local ecosystem and take care of dinner in one shot. We suggest a nice cornmeal dredge.