Mon09012014

Last updateWed, 19 Nov 2014 8pm

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Snakeheads are delicious, great to catch

When the first snakehead was discovered in the tributaries of the Potomac River upstream from us years ago there was an outpouring of fear, irritation and anxiety by some anglers, particularly bass anglers. The fear was that this strange looking creature was going to decimate the bass population and ruin the ecosystem. Thus far that has not materialized. In fact, not much has changed in the river except maybe the number of anglers, particularly, the bass anglers, that are trying to catch them. 

No one wants to encourage non-native species, aka invasive species, to invade our ecosystem. Some creatures are accidentally introduced while others are purposely introduced with hopes of doing some good. The blue catfish is such an example. Now, many feel that introduction possibly should have been left alone. 

No one knows for sure how the snakehead was introduced to our river system but they are here to stay. VDGIF requires that all snakeheads caught are killed immediately and reported. However, the cat is certainly out of the bag now and trying to even slow down their natural distribution is likely to be a waste of time. The last piece of information that I received about the snakehead was that they were reported near the mouth of the Potomac River and could possibly get into the Rappahannock within a few years. 

The theory is that during heavy rains when the river salinity level is diluted the fish are able to stand the levels long enough to migrate a bit further downstream until they meet salinity levels that are too much. At this time it is thought that they head up the nearest tributary and hold in the headwaters until the next heavy rain event.
   Regardless, all of the major tributaries of the Potomac are thought to have them. The best we can do is enjoy them for their ferocious bite and fight, and table fare. Yes, I said table fare. Though odd and downright creepy looking, these torpedo shaped fish are more than willing to smash bass lures and break rods if you want to tangle with them. The meat is very firm, white and delicious when grilled, broiled or even fried lightly. You are missing out if you refuse to give snakehead a try. I suspect it is only a matter of time before they become a hot item in seafood stores.

Catching them

I recently went out with Monty Clift on a tributary of the Potomac River. Clift told me he knew a good spot to give it a try and I was game. These fish like cover. Grass mats, weedlines, logs or any other place they can suspend and wait for a meal is a good place to fish. We hit grass mats. Clift used Senkos and he used a topwater lure to draw a strike. I used a Mann’s Phat Rat to fish for bass and snakehead. I love topwater fishing and I love bass fishing in a peaceful environment without the roar of boats zipping by. We had that exact situation going on when I flung the Rat out on the water. It landed with a SPLAT! The birds were wheeling overhead, geese were honking and only distant boats were heard. I let my bait sit for a second, twitched it a bit and then we both saw the water start to surge from behind it.

“Uh oh,” Clift began. I immediately tensed up and tried telling myself not to set the hook too soon. 

“Just hold off a few seconds. Count to three before running out of the other side of the boat and snapping the rod back,” I tried telling myself. 

The commotion and terrifying boil of water and splashing of the fish trying hard to destroy the bait was too much. My Rat came flying back at me, I ducked and my heart raced to near dangerous levels. Once I calmed down we both had a good laugh. Bass hit topwater hard and can really be fun to catch. This hit was something in a league of its own. This fish was not trying to simply inhale the bait. It wanted to decimate the bait and then eat it. Snakeheads hit with a ferocity that will make your head spin. 

Interesting enough, they don’t really target gamefish to eat. They like killfish, mosquito fish and other minnows. Sometimes they will eat small bream or perch.

 

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