Northern Snakehead is native to Asia but has successfully colonized the Chesapeake Bay watershed. In 2002, they were first found in a pond in Crofton, MD. Soon after in 2004, snakeheads were found in the Potomac River, and have since been found throughout nearly all of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Northern Snakeheads have also been found in rivers in NY, PA, and AK.
Northern Snakehead is listed as an injurious species under the Lacey Act, meaning it cannot be possessed or transported live. Authorities in all states are working to control snakehead populations, and prevent colonization of additional waterways.
The Maryland Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office is working with state and federal partners to determine the most effective way to reduce the spread of this invasive species invasive species
An invasive species is any plant or animal that has spread or been introduced into a new area where they are, or could, cause harm to the environment, economy, or human, animal, or plant health. Their unwelcome presence can destroy ecosystems and cost millions of dollars.
Learn more about invasive species in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. We are monitoring the status of snakehead populations in several Chesapeake Bay tributaries, and are studying whether they can be controlled through removal. For example, we have been studying the fish community in the Blackwater River drainage to assess changes following establishment of Northern Snakehead. We have learned that harvest by anglers can remove over 25% of the local population, which goes a long way toward reducing snakehead numbers. For this reason we encourage anglers to target and harvest Northern Snakehead when captured.
Although it is doubtful that complete eradication can be achieved, control efforts have been successful. With the help of the public we can continue to control populations of Northern Snakehead where they exist, which should help minimize future negative impacts.
If you catch a tagged snakehead, please call the toll free number 1-800-448-8322. You will be asked to provide information about the location, date, gear used and length of the tagged snakehead. Anyone reporting a tag will receive a certificate of participation and a reward. Anglers are asked to NOT RELEASE Northern Snakehead alive.