Many anglers and biologists were concerned with the accidental introduction of the northern snakehead into the Potomac River. Many were concerned about its damage and impact on the ecosystem. After a 10 year period, studies are now showing that the snakehead population is becoming more stable, and decreasing in some parts of the river.
John Odenkirk, a well-known biologist that works for the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries helped write a paper about the snakehead in the Transactions of American Fisheries Society last week.
The paper discussed the last 12 years and how the snakehead population has changed in Virginia. The study focused on four tidal creeks: Little Hunting, Aquia, Pohick and Dogue. The department has been focusing on the use of electro-fishing in order to capture the ugly fish and help determine their population. Every creek, aside from the Aquia creek has found a growth in population that was followed by a stabilization in population as well. The Little Hunting Creek has had a drop in population from 2013 to 2015.
People that live in the area are now targeting snakehead for sport, as well as to eat, on a regular basis. It is believed that because of these actions, and natural cycles, the population is starting to stabilize. Also, bow fishing has taken off, people are aggressively hunting for the fish at night with bows in several sections of the river during summer months.
The northern snakehead is beginning to do what many other species of fish have done when introduced to a new environment; the population rises and then levels off.
The Virginia law states that you must kill a snakehead if you catch it and want to keep it. People have been catching the fish and taking them to new bodies of water, and releasing them. The penalty for moving the snakehead fish has been changed from a Class 3 misdemeanor to a Class 2 misdemeanor. VA Outdoors believes that this step is still not sufficient in deterring people from illegally releasing these fish into other bodies of water.