The Blair Fish Project makes snakeheads stars

August 25, 2002|By Dave Barry | Dave Barry,Knight Ridder / Tribune

We are about to blow a golden opportunity, here.

I'm talking about the northern snakeheads, which sounds like the name of a rock band that eats live hamsters on stage, but is actually a type of fish.

But this is not just any fish. The northern snakehead is a very special fish -- what marine biologists refer to, technically, as "an X-Files type of fish." Here are some true northern snakehead facts that I am not making up:

Fact: It has a snakelike head filled with sharp teeth, is an extremely aggressive eater, and can grow to be 3 feet long.

Fact: It can use its fins to crawl on land.

Fact: It can breathe air, and survive out of water for three days -- nearly two days longer than Michael Jackson!

Fact: Its home stomping grounds are northern Thailand and Myanmar, where, according to an article from Reuters, people believe that "a snakehead fish is a reincarnated sinner."

Fact: A lot of us seriously question whether there is any such place as "Myanmar."

Fact: Likewise "Reuters."

But there is no question that the northern snakehead exists, because it has invaded the United States. You may have seen the news reports about the discovery of juvenile northern snakeheads (we know they are juveniles, because they wear their hats backward) in a pond in Maryland.

Discussion Question: What is the deal with Maryland? Wasn't Maryland also the location of The Blair Witch Project tragedy, in which a group of annoying young filmmakers got lost in the woods and filmed themselves wandering around getting whacked by an evil supernatural hag who soon had the complete support of the movie audience?

But be that as it may -- and, like you, I have no idea what that phrase actually means -- the fact remains that the northern snakehead is on the loose in this country. This has wildlife officials very concerned, because the northern snakehead is sometimes called "the male college student of the marine community" -- eating everything in its path and then moving on to the next food source, leaving only devastation behind. As The Washington Post put it, the northern snakehead "can make short work of a pondful of sunfish, crappies and pickerel -- and then shimmy on to other ponds on its belly and fins."

Discussion Question: "Crappies?"

So anyway, Maryland wildlife officials are desperately trying to kill off the northern snakeheads. The Bush administration has also gotten involved, issuing a ban that prohibits northern snakeheads from entering the country, or, if they are already here, from exercising stock options.

So it looks as though the wildlife authorities are taking steps to eradicate this dangerous pest. On behalf of all Americans, I say to these officials: Are you crazy?? You're blowing the perfect chance to inject some excitement into the "sport" of fishing, which has degenerated into a pathetically unfair competition:

On the one side, you have the most advanced species on earth (humans), equipped with graphite rods, alloy reels, computer-designed lures, chemically enhanced baits, copolymer line, sonar fish locators and vests with upward of 50 Velcro-flapped pockets.

On the other side, you have "crappies."

Is that fair? A guy with thousands of dollars worth of high-tech equipment against a worm-eating creature with the IQ of broccoli?

Listen, wildlife authorities: Instead of destroying the northern snakehead, we should improve it. We need a Snakehead Enhancement Project, in which these fish are genetically mutated via exposure to radiation, toxic waste and Mountain Dew. We need to develop a snakehead that is bigger, meaner, toothier, and -- above all -- faster.

Think what this would do for the sport of fishing! You know those TV fishing shows, the ones starring smug, chunky men who act as though it's a big exciting deal when they win a "fight" with a bass that weighs less than any given one of their tobacco wads?

Well, imagine tuning in to one of these shows and seeing one of these guys sprinting desperately away from the water, waders flapping, pursued by a hungry, ticked-off, amphibious eating machine with a mouth like a grand piano, the soul of a reincarnated sinner and a cruising speed, on land, of 45 miles per hour.

That's right: It's time to even the scales (har)! It's time these fishermen had to play some defense! If you agree with me, please gather up as much cash as you can humanly stuff into an envelope and send it to: Snakehead Enhancement Project, c / o me. I will personally see to it that all of the money, every single nickel of it, gets spent. Please act now, before somebody else has this idea. Do it for sportsmanship. Do it for conservation. And, above all, do it because if you don't, the witch will get you.

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