A report from the Eastern Shore puts the northern snakehead — that slithery, toothy Frankenfish introduced to Central Maryland by some ecological saboteur a decade ago — in Marshyhope Creek, suggesting that the invasive species has moved beyond the Potomac River, across the Chesapeake Bay and into the Delmarva Peninsula.
Apparently, these bad boys like to swim as much as they like to eat.
Or, here's another theory: Some scoundrel caught a few snakeheads on the Western Shore, transported them across the Bay Bridge and stocked them in either the Marshyhope, east of Hurlock, or the Nanticoke River into which it flows.
Joey Love, snakehead expert with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, subscribes to the latter theory, but acknowledges the possibility of the fish's natural expansion. "We are currently investigating the genetics of the populations to determine if we can decipher which hypothesis has some legitimate support," Love says.
Either way, Frankenfish expansion probably isn't good news for the Chesapeake ecosystem. The state still thinks they should be fished hard and eaten often.
While the authorities continue to fear the "Frankenfish", fisherman have been coming to terms with them:
In fact, Austin Murphy, who fishes for them regularly — and passionately, with a fly rod — says he sees the region becoming a destination fishery for people who like to go after big, aggressive species. Snakehead could even provide a modest economic boon to Maryland.
Murphy, founding director of the coming weekend's Potomac Snakehead Tournament, likes to stand on an elevated platform of a boat, in the manner of guides who scout bonefish in the Florida Keys or redfish in South Carolina. He only casts to snakeheads he can see.
"I like a cloudless sky, bright sun and the middle of the day. ... It's an obsession with me. A typical day might be 25 shots to snakeheads within my [casting] range, and out of that maybe five or six fish will chase my fly, and out of that I might get four hookups, and out of that I might land two. And that's a good day."
I have a snakehead fishing trip scheduled with Capt. Mike in August, and I hope to be able to report back on their fighting ability and their tastiness.
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