Snakehead Maryland
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Maryland Now Paying for Reporting Tagged Snakehead Catches in Chesapeake Bay

Maryland has a problem with northern snakehead fish, and they are hoping a new incentive program in Chesapeake Bay will help them learn more about the spread of this invasive species from public reports. They are offering rewards for harvesting tagged northern snakeheads from the bay or its tributaries. According to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, the wildlife agency is now working in conjunction with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on the program.

The two agencies are tagging 500 of the invasive fish with blue or yellow tags with individual tag numbers. Anglers lucky enough to catch a snakehead with one of these tags and report it could get a gift card for anywhere from $10 to $200. The amount rewarded will depend on the tag.

According to the Washington Post, $18,800 was set aside for this program. Officials hope to learn more about exactly how many destructive snakeheads anglers are removing from Maryland's waterways. The DNR already has programs in place that are intended to curb the population. However, Joseph Love, the DNR's program manager for the freshwater fisheries division, said it was difficult for the agency to assess just how many fish were being culled by anglers. Previously, the job was done by surveying anglers in person at docks.

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"This is the first time we've given out cash for recording tags of snakeheads," Love told the Washington Post. "We're doing this because we want to know how many snakeheads are getting harvested. This type of project and incentivizing people will help get that information."

The program was introduced as the DNR also announced that the snakehead population seems to be increasing in the Chesapeake Bay region. Snakeheads are originally native to southeast Asia, but they've taken up residency in multiple states after finding the climate to their liking. Because they are capable of breathing oxygen, the predatory fish can live out of water for long periods provided their skin stays wet.

The snakehead is a problem because they are voracious eating machines that prey upon native fish species like perch, bluegill, and catfish. They also eat crayfish and frogs. Additionally, they can carry viruses that are fatal to bass and other native fish. Th problem is compounded by the fact the fish have been observed spawning more than once a year.

The program is only open for those 500 tagged fish. Anglers must document their catch with a photo and report it to the USFWS by calling 800-448-8322.

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