Although the official world record is 17.75 pounds for northern snakehead, at least three that topped 18 pounds have been pulled from the Potomac, disturbing evidence that suggests, if nothing else, that this exotic predator grows larger in U.S. waters than in its native Asian.
Most recently, bowfisherman Emory "Dutch" Baldwin captured and killed a snakehead that weighed 18.42 pounds on May 20. Maryland recognized the fish as a state record because it does not require that this exotic, along with invasive flathead and blue catfish, be captured on rod and reel to qualify.
In 2015, Dan Moon caught one that weighed 18.8 on an uncertified scale, and, three years before, Juan Duran boated a Potomac snakehead that weighed 18.37.
As snakeheads become an increasingly popular fish for bowfishermen and rod-and-reel anglers alike because of their size, fighting ability, and edibility, resource managers continue to be concerned about their long-term impact on bass and other species.
"Part of the reason we should be worried about it is we don't really know what the impacts are going to be," said Joe Love, tidal bass program manager for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (MDNR). "We do know that, in some cases, invasive species cost millions of dollars in damage to the ecosystem."
One concern is that the aggressive and fast-growing predators will outcompete bass for food.
Additionally, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources continues to emphasize that snakeheads can be caught legally in any season and at any size. "We'd like it to be harvested if anyone catches it," Love said.