By Clint Morgeson
Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) staff has been monitoring the expansion of Northern snakehead (Channa argus) from established areas. Recently, reports of snakehead in the Pamunkey River were confirmed when DWR staff caught a live individual during a sampling event.
Follow-up monitoring is being conducted in the Pamunkey and Mattaponi rivers to assess the level of establishment in these locations. So far, no additional snakehead have been collected through these efforts, but monitoring efforts will continue. The Pamunkey and Mattaponi rivers make up the York River, with the snakehead-colonized Lake Anna upstream of the Pamunkey and the colonized Rappahannock River adjacent to the York River in the Chesapeake Bay drainage.
Exotic species like snakeheads can disrupt natural aquatic systems and may have significant impacts on native and/or naturalized fishes through predation and competition. As snakehead continue to spread throughout Virginia, their impacts on existing aquatic systems remains unclear. DWR is committed to documenting their spread and investigating potential impacts.
Snakehead can be possessed, as long as they are killed by the angler and reported to DWR. Possession of live snakehead is illegal and punishable by a Class 1 misdemeanor. Call DWR at (804) 367-2925 to report any potential snakehead catches. For more information regarding snakehead identification, please check out https://dwr.virginia.gov/fishing/snakehead/identification/. You can help prevent the spread of invasive species by never releasing fish outside of where the body of water they were caught and keeping your equipment clean.