Maryland has always been known for its world-class deep sea fishing, along with trophy rockfish opportunities. However, a fairly recent species has set claim to Maryland's tidal streams, creeks, rivers, and even some parts of the bay. 

Northern snakeheads are freshwater fish that resemble native bowfin. Tolerant to low salinity waters, snakeheads have well toothed jaws and palates, and can breathe atmospheric air through the use of a simple labyrinth organ. This invasive species relatively new to Maryland provides fishermen an exciting fish to chase with even stronger runs and head shakes than a rockfish. 

So get out and catch these feisty creatures.

Only in Maryland


One of the most unique fishing experiences in Maryland is the chance to go bowfishing for snakeheads. Normally done at night, snakeheads are less spooked and can be easily spotted, anglers will use a line tied to the end of an arrow; essentially harpooning the fish from a boat.

 In the state of Maryland, it is illegal to possess a live northern snakehead.  Angler’s are encouraged to harvest their catch.  There are no bag, size limits, or seasons.  

Guides specializing in bow-fishing are available to take you to some of the best fishing spots in the state. 

Having The Right Gear 

Conventional Tackle 

The most common way for anglers to locate fish is to find grass edges, lilly pads, or thick mats;  snakeheads are easily found in these places. These fish are known to attack pretty much anything you can throw at them. Pulling moving baits at a moderate retrieval speed, parallel to structure should put you in a high percentage cast-to-catch ratio. Topwater frogs and buzzbaits work great in the early and late hours of the day. Anglers should also try throwing spinnerbaits with a double willow blade, and rip it through the water letting it pause and jerk for just a second to entice these finicky fish. For more novice anglers, try chasing the fish with live shad or minnows using a bobber. These methods might also lead you to catching a few large mouth bass!

Proper Tackle

Snakeheads are known to destroy most lures, snap leaders, and even break rods. Having even the most successful day of fishing can cost a hefty buck if you don't have the proper gear. As a non-official industry standard, anglers should use a minimum of a 30 lb line. Braid works best and has a smaller line diameter, giving your lure those extra few yards to maximize casting distance. For your rod, fast and heavy to medium action rods are the way to go. You should also find a happy point of control to the length of the rod. Taller rods allow for a longer and more accurate cast, but make it hard to get into some of the structure-filled areas the snakehead inhabits. We find that 6’ 8” to about 7’ 5” rods are the happy medium.  

Ways To Cook

Most anglers know that cubing up a fillet and tossing it into some hot oil is an easy method to cook your fresh catch. Yet, there are some other exciting and relatively simple recipes for northern snakehead. We've included two two recipes to try to increase your appetite.  

Pan Seared


4  6oz snakehead fillets (skin off)

1-2 tbsp of grapeseed or canola oil (high smoke point)


  • Preheat your oven to 300 degrees.
  • Using an ovenproof pan on the stove top, heat the oil over medium high heat, until simmering.
  • As the oil is coming to temperature, season both sides of the fish with salt and fresh ground pepper.
  • Place the fish in the pan, face down, for 2-3 minutes to form a nice crust. 
  • Turn it over gently and cook for another 2-3 minutes on the stovetop.
  • Place the pan into the oven.
  • Depending on the thickness of the fillet it will take anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes to finish cooking through the oven. Check a couple of times to ensure it doesn't overcook. Internal temperature of the thickest part of the fillet should be 140 degrees. Finish with another light pinch of salt and pepper and serve.

Tom Weavers Ceviche Recipe

  • Cube the snakehead and place in a bowl with ¼ cup lime juice. 
  • Transfer to the fridge to sit for 2 hours. In a separate bowl, combine equal parts cucumber, tomato, red onion, cilantro, sesame oil, hot pepper, and salt & pepper.
  • Once 2 hours is up, drain the fish leaving some of the lime juice. Then pour the fish and leftover lime juice into the other bowl. 
  • Enjoy!


In need of additional inspiration? Check out Fish & Hunt Maryland’s latest articles written by fellow sportsmen and local partners.

Be sure to get  your license from and visit the Maryland Department of Natural Resources online for more information on seasons and regulations before heading out. 

Visit our Plan Your Trip page for information on fishing charters and guides, lodging options, marinas, retailers, and more. And if you’re up for a quick getaway, explore our Open Road Itineraries built for you by Maryland’s Office of