Relax, anglers. If you catch a fish in West Virginia and think it might be one of those nasty northern snakeheads you've heard about, chances are it's not.
It's almost certainly a bowfin - a species that has prowled the depths of Mountain State waters since before the last Ice Age.
"We've gotten calls from people who think they have caught snakeheads, but really what they had caught were bowfins," said Scott Morrison, a district fisheries biologist for the state Division of Natural Resources. "We've never had a confirmed sighting of a snakehead in West Virginia."
A 2004 search found an established population of snakeheads in the Potomac River between Great Falls and the Chesapeake Bay. Fisheries experts believe the fish are restricted to that single stretch of river by the presence of the falls upstream and the salinity of the bay downstream.The graphic can also be use to distinguish snakeheads from "dogfish", "mudfish", "grindle" (or "grinnel"),"swamp muskie", "black fish", "cottonfish" "swamp bass", "poisson-castor", "Speckled Cat" "beaverfish", "Cypress trout","lawyer""tchoupique" or "choupique"
Even so, West Virginia officials have been on the lookout for snakeheads ever since. If the species ever gets established upstream from Great Falls, it could then migrate upstream into West Virginia's Cacapon and South Branch rivers.
As awareness of snakeheads has increased, so have reports from anglers who believe they might have caught them.
Morrison said all those fish turned out to be bowfins. To help fishermen distinguish snakeheads from bowfins, DNR officials had a graphic created, and have posted the graphic on the agency's website.