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Entries in snakehead (10)

Friday
May222015

Monster Silver Carp Suggests Nightmarish Future Awaits Anglers, Native Species

What will happen to fisheries nationwide and even to outdoor recreation in general as Asian carp continue to spread, reproduce, and outcompete native species? We’ve just received a glimpse of a nightmarish possibility from Kentucky Lake, where angler Bill Schroeder foul-hooked and landed a 106-pound silver carp.

Although I’ve been unable to confirm it, I suspect that’s the largest silver carp taken in the United States, and possibly even the world. Experts say maximum weight for the exotic fish is about 60 pounds. And even now, the Tennessee state record for the silver carp, caught in 2013 on Kentucky Lake, was just 14 pounds, 13 ounces.

What’s going on? Silver carp like it here. So do bighead carp. Typically a larger fish, its maximum weigh is about 90 pounds. But in 2011, an angler targeting paddlefish hooked and landed a 106-pound specimen at Lake of the Ozarks.

And the exotic lionfish likes it here too. As it spreads all across the Gulf of Mexico and up the Atlantic coast, anglers are catching larger and larger specimens of this voracious predator. In its native range, it grows to 12 to 15 inches. Just a few days ago, one was caught off in the Florida Keys that measured nearly 19 inches.

Why are these exotics growing to horror-movie size proportions in our waters? Because they are exotic species, they have no “natural” predators, as they do in their native ranges. And they’re feasting on an abundance of food in our relatively fertile and healthy waters. By contrast, Asian carp struggle to survive in their native range because of pollution and overfishing.

Will the same happen with the Burmese python in the Everglades? Introduced to the wild by an irresponsible and little-regulated pet industry, it is now gobbling up native mammals and reptiles, and likely will expand its range into more developed areas. Will it grow to unprecedented size as well?

Now consider this: Asian carp are schooling fish. Frightened by disturbances on the surface, silver carp often go airborne, striking and injuring anglers and other boaters.

But the fish we see in videos of these airborne attacks usually weigh no more than 10 or 15 pounds. Imagine dozens of 100-pound silver carp taking flight all around you as you motor to your favorite fishing hole.

Of course, no one thought about such possibilities when the carp were imported by aquaculture facilities during the 1970s. And it wasn’t until the 1990s that we really started worrying about them crowding out native species in our rivers.

And then there’s the snakehead . . . 

Wednesday
Jan152014

More Appetizing Name Sought for Snakehead

Clients catch snakeheads as well as bass with guide Steve Chaconas on the Potomac River. Click on the photo to visit his website.

“Snakeheads are considered a good eating fish but who wants to order snakehead for dinner? 

“The Charles County Commissioners invite citizens to participate in a Snakehead Naming Contest. Beginning at noon on Tuesday, Jan. 7, go here and submit ideas for a new and improved name for the snakehead fish . . .

 “The first phase of the Snakehead Naming Contest runs for 30 days from Tuesday, Jan. 7, through Thursday, Feb. 6. At the end of phase one, a panel of judges will select three entries to move forward in the contest.

 “The second phase of the Snakehead Naming Contest begins Tuesday, Feb. 18, and ends Thursday, March 20. During this time, the public will be able to vote online for one of the three selected entries. Prizes will be awarded to three individuals whose entries receive the most votes.


“The final, winning name will be sent to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources in hopes that the state will consider the name as the Snakehead’s new, ‘official’ name.”

 From Chesapeake Current

Friday
Dec272013

Snakehead is Carrier of LMBV

Scientists have confirmed the presence of Largemouth Bass Virus (LMBV) in northern snakeheads taken from two Potomac River tributaries.

That might seem a positive development for those who view the exotic predator as a threat to bass and other native fish. After all, LMBV killed thousands of bass during the late 1990s and early 2000s; now maybe it will do the same to snakeheads.

But that’s not a foregone conclusion. The virus doesn’t always turn into a deadly disease. As a result, researchers caution that snakeheads simply could be carriers for spreading LMBV to bass throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed, especially since the two share similar habitats.

“The virus has been found in bass, sunfish, and other fish species, but largemouth bass is the only species known to develop disease from it,” reported the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

USGS and Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries made the discovery while studying snakeheads for possible pathogens. Until now, little has been known about what diseases this introduced predator might carry and/or be susceptible to.

In 2011, though, researchers found bass with LMBV in all 16 bodies of water tested in Virginia, except the tidal James River.

“The long-term and population-level effects of Largemouth Bass Virus on bass inhabiting these rivers are unknown,” added Luke Iwanowicz, a USGS research biologist.

Meanwhile, efforts to control the spread of snakeheads have been unsuccessful, the USGS pointed out, with scientists predicting they likely will expand their range.

Wednesday
May222013

Record Size Burmese Python Killed in Florida

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission photo

Burmese pythons in Florida are going to keep growing and becoming more widespread, as a Miami man confirmed earlier this month. The same story already is playing out with other exotics, as we pay the price for government’s failure to regulate and restrict the import of potentially dangerous and damaging fish, wildlife, and plant species.

Only in the case of Burmese pythons, there’s an increasing risk to human life.

You doubt that?

General wisdom has it that these snakes grow to 17 or 18 feet and can weigh 200 pounds or more. But here’s the thing: These snakes are established in new territory, with none of the variables (climate, disease, predators, etc.) that naturally would inhibit growth and expansion in their native range.

That’s already being shown with silver and bighead carp, as they spread and crowd out native fisheries with their massive numbers. It’s evident with the snakehead. Just a year ago, one of world-record proportions was pulled from the Potomac River.

The python that Jason Leon killed in a rural area of southeast Miami-Dade County measured 18 feet, 8 inches long and weighed 128 pounds, a record for Florida.  That’s already large enough to kill and consume a child or dog.

And these invaders are going to keep growing . . . and spreading . . .

Here’s a report from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

 

Wednesday
Apr032013

Aquarium Trade Is Source for 1/3 of 'World's Worst Aquatic and Invasive Species'

Bullseye snakehead captured by Florida bioloigsts. FWC photo.

Snakehead, Oscar, Jack Dempsey, Burmese python, iguana, hydrilla, Eurasian watermilfoil.

We have the exotic pet industry and its irresponsible customers to thank for all these troublesome species, as well as many more.

But don’t take my word for it.

"Globally, the aquarium trade has contributed a third of the world's worst aquatic and invasive species," said Sue Williams, an evolution and ecology professor at the University of California, Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory.

Williams also is the lead author of a recent report about the aquarium business in California. Go here to see some of the disturbing evidence.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Herpetoculture Alliance opposes proposed federal legislation --- H.R. 996, Invasive Fish and Wildlife Prevention act---  that would put controls on the industry and better protect our lands, waters, and native species.

Here are a couple of random examples of what the pet industry has done to our waters:

On Lake Tahoe, researchers looking for invasives scooped up a 4.2-pound goldfish in their trawls.

"During these surveys, we've found a nice corner where there's about 15 other goldfish," environmental scientist Sudeep Chandra of the University of Nevada, Reno, told LiveScience. "It's an indication that they were schooling and spawning."

And in Florida, biologists netted a 14-pound, 3-ounce bullseye snakehead while conducting an electrofishing survey. Had the fish been caught on hook and line, it would have been a world record. 

In reporting on that catch, the Miami Herald says this:

“Gestring said the FWC also considers the bullseye snakehead permanently established in Northwest Broward. Scientists expect they will eventually escape into the Everglades but believe the warm-water species probably wouldn’t survive north of Orlando.

“In the Northwest Broward canal system, they don’t appear to have wreaked ecological havoc, Gestring said. After a decade, there is no sign they’re doing any more damage than 22 other foreign fish that also have settled in Florida’s freshwater canals and lakes.”