Why so much press just for a fish? The Northern Snakehead, Channa argus, is no ordinary fish, biologists explain. It is a voracious top-level predator, meaning that it has no natural enemies, and could decimate populations of native fish. About 90% of its diet consists of other fish, though it also eats crustaceans, insects, and plants. In its native range it can live in water with temperatures ranging from 0 to 30 degrees C; it is found in muddy or vegetated ponds, swamps, and slow-moving streams. Snakeheads can breathe air and survive for up to four days out of water, and can survive for longer periods of time when burrowed in the mud. They are capable of traveling over land to new bodies of water by wriggling their bodies over the ground.

Reproducing populations of snakeheads have now been discovered in Maryland, California, and Florida. Individual fish have also been caught in Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Hawaii.

As of July 9th (2004), a total of fourteen have been caught in the Potomac, with lengths of up to 18 inches, including a sexually mature female ready to lay eggs. For a complete inventory, see: It seems likely that a breeding population has been established, but if it has it will be virtually impossible to eliminate. Explains Florida fisheries scientist Kelly Gestring, once a snakehead population gets established, “neither man nor nature can get rid of them.

This information was put out in 2002 and 2004. The problem continues unabated, particularly in the Potomac system.