The second annual Maryland state bounty on snakeheads is sure to boost the media hype around this Asian invasive species.
Coming to a website near you: "Frankenfish" or "Fishzilla" or "The Fish That Ate Maryland."
Maybe that should be the next Maryland contest: Another Fearsome Nom de Mar for the Channidae family fish, that is believed to have originated in northern India some 50 million years ago.
No doubt, the concern over the snakehead species is justified. Already, the fish can found in at least eight US states. It's not just the fierce teeth, or that it can actually exist out of water, breathing air via a suprabranchial organ, for up to four days. The real threat is that it is a "top-level predator." In other words, it has no natural predators in the US.
The major concern is that it may replace the largemouth bass in Maryland and Virginia waters. In 2004, snakeheads were first spotted in the Potomac River. Since then, they've multiplied, and gotten bigger.
A study by Maryland's Department of Natural Resources and the state's Fish and Wildlife Department concluded that largemouth bass and snakeheads are battling it out for survival. The study found that the two species would eat each other's offspring, live in shallow water beneath protective lilies and grass and chase frog baits. The study also found that when snakehead populations declined, largemouth bass populations grew.
Last year, 69 fishermen entered the snakehead bounty contest, killing 82. Given that a single female snakehead can spawn 15,000 eggs at once, and typically mates five times a year, the contest isn't likely to put a huge dent in the snakehead population.
“We don’t expect that anglers will eradicate the snakehead population,” said Joe Love, DNR Tidal Bass program manager. “We do believe this promotion and inspiration of anglers can help control the snakehead population. The information we gain from the Angler’s Log reports are also helpful in assessing the abundance, spread and impact of these feisty fish.”
This year's Maryland bounty includes a $200 gift card to Bass Pro Shops at Arundel Mills, a Maryland State Passport, which provides unlimited day-use entry for up to ten passengers in a vehicle, unlimited boat launching at State Park facilities and a 10 percent discount on State-operated concessions and boat rentals, or a Potomac River Fisheries Commission fishing license.The winner will be randomly drawn on November 30, 2012.
To enter, anglers must submit catch details and a photo of their dead snakehead online through the DNR Angler’s log, a fishing site.
Not sure if your catch is really a snakehead? Check out the Maryland state video on how to spot a snakehead – or Fishzilla.