In early April, anglers caught several northern snakehead fish from private ponds in Wicomico and Queen Anne's counties.Queen Anne's is the county immediately across the Bay from Annapolis. It's well populated, and it's entirely possible that this population represents a fresh introduction.
While surveying the pond in Wicomico County, Maryland Department of Natural Resources biologists found three more adult snakeheads. A DNR survey of the Queen Anne's County pond turned up seven more, including subadult fish, which suggests that snakeheads are reproducing there.
"Thanks to these anglers, who appropriately killed the invasive fish and reported their catches to DNR's Fisheries Service, we can use this data to determine where they came from and update our management strategies accordingly," said Joe Love, DNR fisheries biologist. "We suspect that the fish may have been illegally introduced to at least one of these sites because it's a neighborhood pond normally disconnected from Wicomico River."
It is illegal in Maryland, Virginia and Delaware to move, possess or release live snakeheads because these jurisdictions, along with the federal government, consider them an invasive or nuisance species. The penalty for possessing a live snakehead or introducing one into Maryland waters can reach $25,000 and 30 days in jail. Transporting invasive fish across state lines without a federal permit is a Lacey Act violation, and the penalty can reach $250,000 and up to five years in jail.
As I've written before, the war against Snakeheads is essentially over. We lost. Snakeheads are well established now in Maryland, will spread to all suitable habitat that they are able to reach in an overnight wiggle between two water bodies. Fortunately, there's less evidence that they are harmful to native species than had been feared, they are good and a good sports fish. I'd rather have them than silver carp, although hunting using a sword from water skiis has a certain appeal.