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April 23, 2009

Invasive northern snakehead caught by angler in Lake Wylie

An angler fishing the Paw Creek arm of Lake Wylie in Mecklenburg County, N.C., caught a 31-inch northern snakehead on April 19. Lake Wylie is located on the border of North and South Carolina.

The capture of a northern snakehead is potentially bad news for the Lake Wylie fishery, as well as Lake Wylie anglers. Northern snakehead, which is native to eastern Asia, can cause undesirable impacts on native fishes in waters where they have been illegally introduced by competing for food, habitat, and through direct predation. An established snakehead population could potentially reduce the abundance of popular game fishes, such as largemouth bass, crappie, and sunfishes, as well as nongame fishes, including catfish, and, thereby, ultimately affecting angler catch rates.

The S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) stresses the importance of not releasing a suspected snakehead. Snakeheads can easily be confused with native bowfin (also known as "mudfish"). One distinguishing difference between a bowfin and a snakehead is length of the anal fin, which is the bottom-rear fin near the tail. The snakehead has a very long anal fin, which is more than half the length of the dorsal (back) fin, and the bowfin has a shorter anal fin, which is less than half the length of the dorsal fin.

A printer-friendly flyer illustrating the differences between a bowfin and a northern snakehead is available.

If you catch a fish you suspect is a snakehead, do not release it, instead, place it on ice or freeze it. Contact DNR Freshwater Fisheries Region 2 Coordinator Elizabeth Osier at (843) 661-4767 or Wildlife & Freshwater Fisheries Region 2 Biologist Robert Stroud at (803) 366-7024 for more information.

Staff from the DNR, Duke Energy and the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission will continue to sample the 13,400-acre lake over the next few weeks to identify the extent of the snakehead infestation, as well as develop an appropriate future northern snakehead management strategy.

DNR protects and manages South Carolina’s natural resources by making wise and balanced decisions for the benefit of the state’s natural resources and its people.


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