Bullseye Snakehead

Bullseye Snakehead: Channa marulius


Air-breathing, torpedo-shaped fish with flattened head and toothed jaws; long anal and dorsal fins without spines; typically red eyes; body color darkens with age to deep brown with black blotches sometimes fringed with bright comma-shaped markings, and a red-orange eyespot (ocellus) near the base of the tail. It resembles a bowfin in behavior and appearance, but is distinguished by a long anal fin.


The Bullseye Snakehead remain centered in the Margate/Coral Springs/Pompano Beach area where it was first documented in October 2000. They will likely be limited to the southern half of Florida since temperatures below 50oF are lethal. To the south this population is bounded by the North New River Canal (G-15), L-36 Canal to the west, and the Hillsboro Canal (G-08) to the north. This is the only area from which Snakeheads have been documented, although FWC has received numerous reports of Bullseye Snakehead elsewhere these have all turned out to be similar-looking native fishes such as the Bowfin. Native range Pakistan, Malaysia, and southern China.


In canals, typically associated with overhanging shoreline vegetation, dense submersed vegetation, and debris; tolerant of stagnant waters due to air-breathing capabilities.


Spawning Habitats: Spawn primarily from March through May with a secondary peak in August; adults occasionally seen herding young in shallows until six inches long; a sample of ripe females contained an average of 4,700 ready to spawn eggs.

Feeding Habits: Bottom dwelling, ambush predator that feeds primarily on small fish and crayfish, but occasionally eats a wide variety of prey including turtles, toads, lizards, snakes, and insects.

Age and Growth:

Largest collected in Florida by FWC was 31.5 inches and weighed 9.2 pounds; reports of this species commonly growing to more than four feet and weights of 66 pounds erroneous; largest likely to get about 15 pounds.

Sporting Quality:

Good; have been caught on jerk baits and live baits; a popular sportfish in its native range; no bag or size limits.


Excellent; even said to have medicinal benefits in its native range by hastening the healing of wounds and internal injuries.

State Record:

14.3 lbs

Additional Information:

A massive, record-breaking fish has been pulled from a South Florida canal — but it’s not good news.

That’s because the 14 pounds, 3 ounce fish is a bullseye snakehead, an eel-shaped, freakish-looking invasive species that Florida Fish And Wildlife Commission officials certainly weren’t hoping to find growing quite so fat in Broward County’s C-14 canal.

FWC staffer Murray Stanford was electrofishing for snakehead — a technique used by biologists in which a weak electric current temporarily stuns fish to make collection possible — when he pulled up the whopper of an unwelcome guest.

“We knew right away,” Kelly Gestring, who works for FWC’s non-native fish research lab in Boca Raton, told CBS Miami. “It was definitely the largest one we have ever collected.”

In fact, Stanford’s bullseye snakehead would have shattered the previous record of 12 pounds, 8 ounces, but won’t count for the record books since he didn’t catch it fishing with a line.

The bullseye snakehead hasn’t proven to be as destructive an invader as pythons in the Everglades, but its unsightly looks and alarming legend have kept the South Asian native in the headlines — especially when the so-called “Frankenfish” was released in Maryland waterways, setting off a national hysteria.