Good news from the snakehead front, as the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced that catch and distribution of the exotic predator in the Potomac River was lower in 2013 than in 2012.
In announcing the finding from the Tidal Bass Survey, biologist Joe Love said, “The 2013 observations represent the first decrease in catch and distribution since the species was first discovered in the Potomac River (2004). It is not clear whether the cause of the decline is increased angling effort or other factors.”
But angling effort has increased considerably in recent years, aided by initiatives from both DNR and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Additionally, the state is providing more incentive for catch and harvest of snakeheads by instituting a state record program and including an invasive species category for awards in the Maryland Fishing Challenge.
Not all the news regarding snakeheads is good, however, as two adults were captured by electrofishing for the first time ever in the Wicomico River. Anglers had reported catching them there as early as 2011.
“It appears that it takes two years between angling reporting and collection by Maryland DNR’s Tidal Bass Surveys,” Love said.
Additionally, adult snakeheads were collected from the Patuxent, in numbers similar to 2012.
“Based on suitable habitat for northern snakehead and the population estimate, we calculated that there were about five per acre of suitable habitat,” the biologist explained. “Reports for Little Hunting Creek and Anacostia River ranged from four to nine northern snakehead per acre.”
The invasive fish also was collected “in relatively small numbers” from the Rappahannock, Rohde, Blackwater, and Nanticoke Rivers.
A small snakehead was captured in a trap from a ditched area that connects the Blackwater to the Little Choptank. This suggests that the fish could use this pathway to also colonize the latter, the biologist said.