|Some good eaten' there!
On the morning of May 29, angler Colby Horne landed what appeared to be a northern snakehead from a dock on the upper arm of Lake Anna near Gold Mine Creek. Uncertain of the fish’s identity, Horne and his father snapped a photo of the catch and released the fish back into the lake..It now seems inevitable that the Northern Snakehead will reach every body of water in the Bay watershed with suitable habitat (and they're fairly forgiving). Fortunately it doesn't seem to be the ecological disaster that some predicted.
The photo quickly began to circulate and was soon confirmed as an invasive northern snakehead, a fish native to the Yangtze River basin in China. They were first discovered in Virginia waters in the Potomac River in 2004, quickly following word of the region’s first invasive population in a pond in Crofton, Md., in 2002.
Biologists studying the Maryland invasion learned that introduced snakeheads can reproduce rapidly. Thus, after the fish began to populate the Potomac River, they quickly spread out to cover all of its tidal reaches — from Great Falls downstream to the Chesapeake Bay. In 2012, it became apparent that the fish are capable of using freshets — surges of freshwater pushing into saltwater as a result of heavy flooding — to move along the Virginia coast when they turned up in small numbers in the Tidal Rappahannock River below Fredericksburg.
Horne’s photo from Lake Anna represents the first snakehead capture by an angler in the York River watershed, but is hardly the first suggestion of their presence in the lake.
“A woman took a photograph of a snakehead in upper Contrary creek last year adjacent to a dock in a bed of Hydrilla,” said John Odenkirk, a Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) Regional Fisheries biologist and snakehead project leader. “She stated that the fish in the picture was with another adult and that there was a school of small fish nearby. We sampled the area and found two of last year’s fish, which were probably among the school of young she saw.”
Odenkirk believes that the fish were illegally introduced to the lake. “A viable population will persist — and grow — but current abundance is very low,” he said.