Asian alien strikes

July 08, 2002

SUMMER'S BUT a few weeks old and already we've got the fish story of the season: An Asian predator lurks in the depths of a Crofton pond, an exotic creature with the power to emerge from its watery berth and traverse the land.

Sounds like something out of Jules Verne.

And if an angler hadn't caught the sucker and packed it in his cooler for all the world to see (or at least the state biologists), it would be just another whale of a tale. But it's the real thing, and state and federal fishery experts are on the hunt for ... the Northern Snakehead.

How it arrived in Maryland, our Maryland, from its native habitat in the Yangtze River in China, nobody seems to know. But everybody seems to agree it's unwelcome.

Traps have been set. Baited lines cast. But to no avail. The experts want to catch the snakehead lest it waddle its way over to the nearby Little Patuxent River. The snakehead is no man-eater; the worry is that this voracious, randy fish will make quick work of native freshwater fish: white suckers and largemouth bass, sunfish, bluegills and crappies.

And there's more: The fish experts suspect there may be more than one snakehead in that Crofton pond, and if there are two, and they're of the opposite sex, well, you know what that means. The female snakehead can lay up to 100,000 eggs.

It's no wonder "WANTED" flyers are posted in Crofton, alerting anglers to hold onto that fish if they catch it. Local fishermen have descended on the pond, and well they should.

The last time an exotic invaded these parts, a piranha took up residence in a pond in Bowie. State biologists weren't as worried - if they didn't get it first, the winter cold would. Not so with the snakehead. So anglers, go to it.

And whoever reels in the Asian alien, state biologist Bob Lunsford is fixing to make it worth your efforts. How does fried snakehead with red curry sound?

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