Georgia officials are warning residents to be on the lookout after an angler caught a northern snakehead fish in Gwinnett County. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division reported that the fish, which is considered an invasive species was caught in a pond on private property.
The long, thin fish, which can grow up to three feet in length, has a dark blotchy appearance. It is also capable of breathing air and surviving in areas with low amounts of oxygen.
The northern snakehead is native to the Yangtze River basin in China; however, the fish has been spotted in 14 states around the country.
Officials want to stop the spread of the non-native species before it gets out of control. So far the DNR have captured a total of four northern shakeheads.
“They’re gonna come in and take over. Most of the places they’re in, they take over that particular habitat,” Tim Hawkins, manager at Hammond’s Fishing Center, told WSB-TV.
Those who catch one are urged to “kill it immediately and freeze it.”
“We have boots on the ground here, and we’re trying to understand the magnitude of the problem,” Hunter Roop, with the DNR, said.
Currently, the DNR is working to determine where the fish originated—they believe someone dumped them from an aquarium. In the meantime, they strongly urge anyone who comes across one or who catches one to document their location and contact their regional DNR office.
The northern snakehead is at the top of the food chain and has no natural predators in Georgia.
“They would be competing among all the stripe, spotted bass, all of the catfish,” Hawkins said. “It wouldn’t be a very good thing.”
If you catch a northern snakehead or see one, Georgia’s DNR wants you to follow five steps: do not release it, kill it and freeze it, take pictures, take note of where it was caught, and contact your regional DNR office.
These fish have no natural predators and are an invasive species. They have the potential to destroy ecosystems.
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