The northern snakehead (Channa argus) is a native of the Yangtze River basin in China. It can reach over 33 inches in length and tolerate a wide range of temperatures (32-85°F). This fish prefers stagnant shallow ponds,swamps, or slow moving streams and rivers with mud substrate and aquatic vegetation. Female snakeheads average about 40,000 eggs but can release up to 100,000 eggs and can spawn multiple times per year. Newly hatched larvae are protected by one or both parents until they reach the juvenile stage. Sexual maturity is reached in two years when the total body length is about 12 inches. The USGS has more information on their website.
Knowledge gained from Maryland introductions: Political leaders and biologists have learned from the introductions in Maryland that snakeheads can quickly start reproducing once released in a body of water. This important information helped motivate local, state, and federal officials in Arkansas to pursue aggressive efforts to eradicate northern snakeheads from irrigation ditches and prevent spread into the Mississippi River watershed. Officials in New York have also pursued control measures to prevent snakeheads from colonizing the Hudson River. A statewide plan to address these introductions was adopted in 2016.
What can you do? If you catch a northern snakehead, harvest it. If the snakehead has a tag, measure the length, make note of the exact location of capture, and call the toll free number printed on the tag. Information that you provide is important in determining control and management strategies.
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