KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It’s an invasive species that’s been wreaking havoc in states like Maryland and Arkansas for years. Now the Northern Snakehead fish has been spotted in Missouri.
State wildlife officials are asking anglers to kill them if they reel one in.
“The snakehead is not a demon. It’s not ‘Frankenfish.’ Its just another fish,” said Jake Allman, a biologist with Missouri Fisheries Management. “However, it’s one we don’t want.”
The Northern Snakehead is native to Asia and able to spawn up to five times a year. The fish can grow to 3 feet in length and, incredibly, can breathe and move across dry lands for short stretches.
“They’re native to areas that frequently flood and then get stranded, but they can move for short distances, over dry land, just by wiggling,” Allman said.
The snakehead has been a problem in Arkansas for years. State officials said raging floodwaters overwhelmed a fish farm in Arkansas that was breeding snakeheads.
“They were escapees from a fish farm that was raising them during a flood event,” Allman said, “which, unfortunately, is how a lot of invasive fish end up in our waters.”
Last month, an angler along the St. Francis River in Missouri’s Dunklin County pulled a Northern Snakehead from the water.
“Unfortunately, the gentleman didn’t know what he had, didn’t know if he could keep it, and he did throw it back,” Allman said. “Our biologists have been down there looking for them. We haven’t found any more.”
On the off chance that you do happen to catch a Northern Snakehead, Allman has some advice.
“Eat it,” Allman said. “They are delicious, take it home and eat it. I’ve eaten them before, and they are as good as anything we have that swims.”