Fish, Cook, & Debate : South Florida Snakehead
Invasive Monster Or New Florida Resident?
What's up everybody.
I have been wanting to write this article for a very long time now, just to see others reactions and thoughts on this issue. This won't be so much a fishing report, as it is my justification for why I think the Bullseye Snakehead, should start to be viewed as Florida resident fish, rather than an invasive monster.
Snakehead History In South Florida
Here we go...
In my short fishing career of around a decade or so, I have spent most of my time in S. Florida, chasing after a variety of species, both Fresh and Salt. The Bullseye Snakehead is one that I have really taking a liking to, as they are IMO the best fighting freshwater fish we have and the most visually appealing to watch hit a topwater lure. These Air Breathing fish, were introduced illegally into Our S. Florida Canal System in the late 90's early 2,000's as far them actually being recorded by the FWC. Nobody knows the exact origin of their introduction.
Like many other "Non- Native" Species we have here in Florida, the Bullseye Snakehead is thriving in our warm tropical climate. This fish has managed to expand it's distribution from the C-14 canal in Broward county to as far South as North Miami and as far North as Wellington, in just under two decades. that is hundreds of miles of waterways this fish has expanded its territory, using our interconnected waterways as natural means of transportation. The Northern extent of their expansion will be limited by the cooler climate to the North which the Snakeheads cannot survive in.
Snakheads, Peacocks, Oscars, Cichlid's In The Same Boat?
Now that we have that out of the way, I want to propose this...
Out of the dozens of non-native and invasive species that we have here in S. Florida, including many oscars, cichilid varieties and other fish, none of the them gets the head bounty that the snakehead does. There are even tournaments held weekly and monthly to try and see who can kill the most of these Non- Native snakeheads.
The FWC strongly encourages the killing of these fish and discourages releasing them back into the wild. However you are allowed to release these fish, if so desired, so long as you release them into the body of water from which they came. As stated earlier, the stigma of releasing Snakeheads is huge in the Freshwater community with some people losing their minds over the fact an angler such as myself would release these species back into the water.
"The snakehead is going to destroy our largemouth bass population... yet the peacock bass... is not considered a threat?"
Although the same cannot be said for the "Legally" non-native Butterfly Peacock Bass, which the FWC prides itself on being a huge success project, to control other nonnative fish. Let's talk about this fish briefly. The butterfly Peacock has been hailed as this end all be all trophy freshwater fish in S. Florida, and it has expanded far beyond the limits of the Snakehead. Reports of peacock Bass reach as far North as Melbourne Beach area. I Wonder if the FWC had accounted for that fact, back when they introduced them into the wild...
The reason I bring up the peacock bass, is this. Many people argue that the Bullseye Snakehead is ravaging our natural ecosystem and waters, outcompeting and even Eating our Florida Largemouth bass, which is by far the most widely dispersed and favored gamefish in the Continental U.S. Let me get this straight... The Snakehead which does not resemble the Largemouth what so ever, and doesn't even have a mouth large enough biologically to even eat a bass larger than about a 1/2 pound is going to destroy our largemouth bass population. Yet the peacock Bass, which is almost identical in morphology and extremely similar is not considered a threat?
A New View On Snakeheads
I think it is time the Bullseye Snakehead stops being treated as an evil invasive killer and treated as not only a game fish for sport, but one that can be managed reasonably. Not one that should be killed as a first resort and treated as a catch and release species as a last. It's clear these fish have made this their home and they are here to stay. Eradication of any species in such an interconnected waterway system as our Urban canals, is simply foolish...
Hopefully this article helped to open up a few minds and get the gears turning. It still amazes me how the mass hysteria ensues when somebody hears the word "invasive". It makes you wonder at what point does an invasive species become reclassified as native, as seen fit by nature and not by the pen of FWC commissioners who spend more time reeling in votes than they do fish.
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