Are Snakeheads Invading Georgia Waters?

By author of The Realblog with Stephanie Mallory

Officials tell anglers to kill the invasive species immediately

If you find a northern snakehead in Georgia, kill it. That's what Georgia DNR officials are telling anglers to do after a man caught the invasive species in a private pond in Gwinnett County earlier this month. Several more of the fish, including juveniles, have since been located in a creek that feeds into the pond. 

No one knows how the snakehead got there, but according to a Georgia DNR press release, it's the first time the species has been confirmed in Georgia waters, and it's a big deal. 

"As adults, snakeheads can be voracious predators. Should snakeheads become established in North American ecosystems, their predatory behavior could also drastically disrupt food webs and ecological conditions, thus forever changing native aquatic systems by modifying the array of native species," the United States Geological Survey writes on its website.

Fourteen other states have reported sightings of the snakehead.

Hunter Roop, an official with the DNR, told WSB-TV they have "boots on the ground" as they search for the fish, and are "trying to understand the magnitude of the problem."

"They have the potential to prey directly on bass — especially younger bass," Roop said. "We would ask that anglers that do catch a snakehead to kill it immediately. Then call the DNR so we can document when and where."

State officials say if possible, take pictures of the fish, including close-ups of its mouth, fins and tail, and note where it was caught.

Native to Asia, snakeheads are long, thin and can measure up to 3 feet. They have blotchy brown skin and their dorsal fins stretch the length of their backs. They can breathe air and temporarily survive on land and in low-oxygenated systems, which makes them especially resilient.

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