Invasive northern snakehead fish found in southeastern Missouri for second time
Jun 23, 2023, 8:30 AM
(Christine Tannous/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP)
PUXICO, Mo. (AP) — An invasive and fish that is voracious predator capable of surviving out of water for days was recently caught in southeastern Missouri, causing worry that the hard-to-contain species will spread and become a problem.
The northern snakehead was caught last month in a drainage pool at Duck Creek Conservation Area. The last time one showed up in Missouri was four years ago, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
Wildlife officials sounded the alarm, but many anglers say they’re unaware of the fish, its potential impact and what to do if they catch one.
The northern snakehead is originally from east Asia, where they are a delicacy believed to have healing powers. They reproduce quickly, have sharp teeth, can wiggle across muddy land and grow to nearly 3 feet (nearly a meter) in length.
The federal government in 2002 banned the import and interstate transport of live northern snakeheads, but they are flourishing in some parts of the U.S.
“They are knocking on the door in Arkansas,” said Dave Knuth, a Missouri fisheries management biologist based in Cape Girardeau. “They are a beast.”
The catch in May was worrisome, Knuth said. “I didn’t expect them to be this far up the state already,” he said.
The first northern snakehead found in Missouri was caught in 2019 out of a ditch within the St. Francois River levee system in the Missouri Bootheel region.
On May 19, state workers using a net to catch bait for a youth jug-fishing clinic, pulled a 13-inch northern snakehead out of Duck Creek Conservation Area. Knuth said the fish was found in the same watershed as the first one, though about 70 river miles (113 river kilometers) north of the initial catch.
Wildlife officials spent two days searching for additional northern snakeheads in the conservation area and neighboring Mingo National Wildlife Refuge. No others were found, but they fear others are lurking, at least in low numbers.
Larry Underwood, 73, who lives near the conservation area, wished the state well in its efforts to keep out the northern snakehead. As he fished, he noted that the state also tries to control feral hogs, but with little luck.
“It’s kind of like the hogs,” he said. “You are going to eliminate that? Yeah, good luck.”