Studies show snakeheads do less harm than generally thought

Chronicle News Services

Snakehead always worries fisheries managers.

“One of the finest fish I’ve had,” Arostegui, a retired physician, said.

Arostegui, who has caught and eaten seafood delicacies everywhere from Suriname to Thailand, had bagged this dinner the previous day in a narrow, muddy weed-lined canal that runs along a busy highway in North Lauderdale, Fla.

He served it to his family and three guests in his elegant dining room, along with white rice and salad. Everyone pronounced the entree delicious.

It was a 4½-pound snakehead — a slimy, ugly freshwater fish native to Asia that has been the scourge of fisheries managers from Florida to New York to Arkansas for the past eight years.

Despite poisoning and draining ponds in northeastern states and making possession of the live exotics a criminal offense, snakehead populations are slowly spreading from water bodies, where it is believed they were deliberately released.

Paul Shafland, who heads the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s nonnative fish lab in Boca Raton, said the bullseye snakehead — the only one of 25 snakehead species detected in Florida — is found mostly in north Broward’s C-14 system.Shafland said. “If you catch them, eat them. Don’t release them.”

But so far, the pesky exotic hasn’t turned into the environmental disaster that some predicted.

Early results from the FWC’s most recent electrofishing study in the C-14 – (stunning fish with a mild electrical charge so they can be examined) — shows that although snakeheads are abundant, they are not destroying populations of largemouth and peacock bass — the two main gamefish species in South Florida lakes and canals.

Examining the stomach contents of 127 dead snakeheads, they found the remains of 13 of their own species plus one bluegill, 11 mosquitofish, seven warmouth, two peacock bass, several lizards, bufo toads, small turtles, a rat and a snake.

No remains of largemouth bass were found.

Till next time tight lines and good fishing….

From Staff and Wire Reports