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Potomac River Snakeheads Might Not be as Bad as All That


It's looking more and more like the snakehead invasion in the Potomac River might not be so bad. Here's why,

Washington Post author and angler Kevin Ambrose set out to learn whether the invasive snakehead fish in the Potomac River system has been doing a lot of damage.

While the fish originally set off down the path of most invasive species and spread like wildfire, the view is now is not so much that it's taking over as much as simply becoming another sport fish in the river.

Included herein are some excerpts from an interview Ambrose did with Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries biologist John Odenkirk who says among other things that the bass population in the river is better now than it has been in some recent years.

More so, the snakehead seems to be coexisting with other game fishes and not taking over as first thought.

When asked where most of the snakeheads in the river are, Odenkirk replied:

"The areas further downstream (from D.C.), in newer colonized areas, generally will have higher numbers -- these will usually be found in the back of tributary arms between Occoquan and Colonial Beach within both Maryland and Virginia. Areas closer to D.C. with higher numbers in Virginia are Aquia Creek (Stafford Co.) and the Occoquan River."

Odenkirk added,

"Snakehead abundance increased dramatically after colonization, but trends suggest that increases in abundance may have slowed" and that "I am fairly certain that a high level of exploitation (both commercial and recreational), which encompasses the huge increase in bow fishing, due to this fish, has helped suppress numbers."

Ambrose is one of many that now believe there is another solution, and it's a tasty one. You can see some of what a breakfast and lunch of snakehead looks like here.

Culinary Gods

Ambrose asked if there has been any increase in popular gamefish to which Odenkirk replied,

"We never see walleye in the Virginia portion of the tidal Potomac. This year, the largemouth bass population looks fantastic. On balance, the bass fishery has been better in the past five or six years than longer ago"

Odenkirk even said that the biggest fish may come into the 17-18 pound range.

While snakeheads were first found in the Potomac in the spring of 2004, and have increased in numbers, anglers and bow fishermen have begun to find out that they are not only a great 'sportfish' but terrific table fair as well. The near future will tell whether or not this wrongly introduced species will do more harm than good, but right now it may not be as bad as it first looked.


Potomac River Snakeheads Might Not be as Bad as All That