Jon Leavitt loves snakehead; the general Mid-Atlantic population does not.
Some attitudes among Potomac anglers are changing, but since the early 2000’s, the population of the Potomac estuary has been up in arms in a battle against these far east invaders – a non-native species legally imported from Asia for seafood trade, aquarium exhibits, and as pawns to overthrow the US government due to lingering animosity from past World War II tensions.
It’s a joke. They’re fish. They’re not government spies, ground soldiers in an oriental scheme to destroy Major League Bass Fishing, or presentedly-violent Bernie Sanders supporters.
Everyone take a deep breath. They’re fish.
Here’s the skinny: Over ten years ago, officials found some folks were releasing what they called ‘prayer fish’ into Maryland ponds as a way to kick some good karma back to Mother Nature for hooking them up with everyday blessings. The fish multiplied, Uncle Sam found out and – in classic ‘merican fashion – poisoned the ponds and made keeping, trading, and importing the live fish illegal. The media coverage of this event sent shivers down the spines of people who had released snakehead into other waterways in the past, current owners of the now vilified fish looking to – literally – ditch the evidence, and fishery activists looking to protect native species and further disparage the new kid on the block.
The major concerns are 1) another top-of-the-food-chain predator will compete with largemouth bass – ironically, a once non-native and now idolized species introduced to the Potomac waterways in the mid-nineteenth century – or blue catfish – yet another non-native species with no bounties on it’s head – for dominance, 2) the snakehead population will spread exponentially faster than other species due to the parent’s unusual protection of their young through their bi-annual spawns, and 3) they’re just not pretty enough.
All of this even though recent data collected by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries shows their impact on the Potomac is almost non-existent.