Snakeheads

While the northern snakehead is an invasive species to Maryland’s waters, it has become popular among sport fishermen. These little-known fish come from Asia, and have quickly gained a reputation for having an aggressive nature and tasty white meat. However, its appetite has created a big environmental problem throughout Maryland and the United States since the fish devours most any living creature in the water, leaving little for other species. For this reason, there is an open season on snakeheads. They are encouraged to be caught and removed from Maryland’s waterways.  As a fun, delicious fish to go after – and a population that needs to be controlled – snakeheads are a great fish to chase in Maryland.

7314622448_88d3cf0d94_oFish of the family Channidae are commonly referred to as snakeheads and consist of two genera (Channa and Parachanna) and approximately 21 species. Eighteen species from the genera Channa are native to Asia while three species from the genera Parachanna are found in tropical Africa. Snakeheads are freshwater fish, but a few may tolerate low salinity waters. Snakeheads can resemble native bowfin, have well toothed jaws and palates, and breathe atmospheric air through the use of a simple labyrinth organ. The ability to breathe air allows snakeheads to survive in habitats with low dissolved oxygen. They can also survive out of the water for several days if their skin remains moist.

Unfortunately, northern snakeheads have become firmly established in over 60 river miles of the Potomac River. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, together with its partners, continues to conduct research to assess impacts on the ecosystem and effects of the snakehead introduction on fish populations. Research conducted in the Potomac River includes electrofishing surveys to determine distribution and feeding habits, telemetry tagging to assess daily and seasonal behavior, and angler surveys to determine effects of the growing snakehead population on recreational fishing. The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, D.C. Fisheries and Wildlife, and The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have placed reward tags on snakeheads to estimate the size of the population in the Potomac River and learn more about how they are moving in the river and its tributaries. Learning about the biology and behavior of this fish will help biologists determine more efficient methods of removal and control.

Looking for the perfect fishing spot? Access Maryland DNR’s Public Fishing Access Map.

View Map
  • 03/20/2015-06/20/2015
  • 06/21/2015-09/22/2015
  • 09/23/2015-12/20/2015
  • 12/21/2015-03/19/2016

Snakehead season is open throughout the year in hopes of controlling the increasing populations of these invasive fish. If you catch a northern snakehead, dispose of it quickly and humanely. DO NOT put it back in the water. 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.

Looking for the perfect fishing spot? Access Maryland DNR’s Public Fishing Access Map.

View Map

One of the most unique fishing experiences in Maryland is the chance to go bow-fishing for snakeheads. With a line tied to the end of an arrow, anglers can essentially harpoon the fish from a boat. Guides specializing in bow-fishing are available, taking you to some of the best fishing spots in the state. Not only are they experienced, but you are not required to have your bow license when fishing with a licensed guide. Those going bow fishing on their own are required to have their bow hunting license.

If you plan to bring your own boat, there are a great deal of access points across the state where a boat can easily be dropped and snakeheads can be reeled in. Snakeheads can be found in nearly 60 of Maryland’s rivers and tidal waters, including a large population in the Potomac River.

Looking for the perfect fishing spot? Access Maryland DNR’s Public Fishing Access Map.

View Map

Getting a fishing license in Maryland couldn’t be easier. Download DNR’s app on your smartphone (MD DNR), click Apply for License, and enroll. From here, you can register any catches, post photos, and check for regulations updates. Simple, quick, and at the palm of your hand, DNR’s app is the easiest way to get your Maryland fishing license. Or, you can apply for a license through Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ website.

There are a few instances where registering for a license may not be necessary; visit Maryland DNR for a full list of these exceptions. For more information on fishing without a license – and locations where licenses are not required – visit http://dnr.maryland.gov/Fisheries/Pages/Free-Fishing.aspx.

Visit the Maryland Department of Natural Resources for a complete list of Maryland’s Fishing Regulations.

Unless you go fishing with a guide, you must have your bow hunting license in order to go bow-fiishing for snakehead. Visit Maryland DNR for more information concerning bow-fishing for snakeheads.

The transportation and or distribution of live snakeheads is illegal. If you catch a northern snakehead, dispose of it quickly and humanely. DO NOT put it back in the water. 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.

For regulations of fishing for – and transportation of – snakeheads, visit http://www.dsd.state.md.us/comar/comarhtml/08/08.02.19.06.htm.

Visit Maryland Department of Natural Resources for a complete list of Maryland’s Fishing Regulations.

Money generated from the sale of licenses goes directly to the conservation, protection, and preservation of Maryland’s natural habitat and cherished wildlife.

Looking for the perfect fishing spot? Access Maryland DNR’s Public Fishing Access Map.

View Map