Snakehead fish not in state, yet

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 6, 2002

With recent national attention on the discovery of snakehead fish in Maryland waters, a number of fishermen have called Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Inland fisheries biologists with reports of unusual fish. So far, none have been found to be this invasive species.

Two reports turned out to be bowfin (choupique), another was probably an American eel, and one was not even a fish; it was an amphiuma, an aquatic salamander with a snake-like shape.

Snakeheads include some 28 species of air-and-water-breathing fish native to Asia and Africa. Several species are popular with aquarists, and some are grown for food. The hardiness and predatory nature of these fish have caused concern for their probable impacts to native species if populations become established in the United States. They have been found in the natural waters of eight states, with some occurrences of reproducing populations.

Introduction of non-native species to our waters has been detrimental to existing fish populations, and is illegal. Even if invasive species do not actually devour existing fish, they can displace local species’ positions in the ecosystem. Such is undoubtedly the case with the European carp and the Asian (grass, silver, and bighead) carps that are now common in many Louisiana waters.

Louisianians are reminded to never release fish from aquaria into natural waters or to move fish between natural water systems. Pond stockings should be made with approved species from permitted producers (LDWF will supply a producer list on request). If an unusual fish is caught, please take it to the nearest LDWF office for identification by a fisheries biologist.

For more information contact Dr. Glenn Thomas at 225-765-2641.