They have “canine-like” teeth sharp enough to bite through steel, can survive on land for four days, grow up to 4 feet long, and have even inspired a low-budget sci-fi horror movie. The snakehead fish, also known as the “fish from hell,” has been invading Maryland waters for 10 years, and now, fishermen finally have an incentive to target the menacing beasts.
Eager to control the species, which has no natural predators in the area and preys on local bass, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Inland Fisheries (DNR) has offered a $200 gift card to Bass Pro Shops if fishermen manage to hook and kill a snakehead, Fox News reports. All they have to do is upload a photo of themselves with their catch to the state’s Angler’s Log website.
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“We don’t expect that anglers will eradicate the snakehead population,” Joe Love, the state’s Department of Natural Resources Tidal Bass program manager, told Fox News. “We do believe this promotion and inspiration of anglers can help control the snakehead population. The information we gain from the Angler’s Log reports are also helpful in assessing the abundance, spread and impact of these feisty fish.”
The first sign of the fish came when an 18-inch snakehead surfaced in a pond 20 miles north of Washington in 2002. Since then, the fish has migrated to the Potomac River and made itself at home in its tributaries. Named for the large scales on its head, the snakehead is an air-breathing freshwater fish native to Africa and parts of Asia. It has been known to carry spreadable parasites and diseases. When females reach the age of two, they start releasing up to 75,000 eggs a year, according to the International Business Times.
At least 30 different species of snakehead exist, but the largest and most dangerous is the giant snakehead. Spotted in riverways between Maine and Arkansas, the giant snakehead can grow up to 6 feet in length, weigh 66 pounds and has been known to attack humans in Asian waters, according to Animal Planet. These fishzillas will devour more than just other fish. Frogs, lizards, rats — even small ducks — are fair game as it wreaks havoc on nonnative ecosystems.
Though considered a harmful, invasive species in the U.S., the fish is praised for its medical uses and regarded as a delicacy in Southeast Asia. For instance, in Vietnam, it is common to pickle, grill and braise them, as the Smithsonian notes.