Missouri Conservation says invasive snakehead sightings rise


WAYNE COUNTY, Mo. — The Missouri Department of Conservation has confirmed the presence of a fourth northern snakehead in the state, an invasive species that the agency says should be killed if you reel it in.
A fisher in Wayne County reeled in a northern snakehead on May 25 in the Wappapello Lake Spillway.
The Missouri Department of Conservation says this is the fourth northern snakehead reeled in from Missouri waters on record. There have been three reported snakehead sightings since the 2023 calendar year.
Officials hope to eradicate the non-native fish, which was illegally released, from the pond. (AP Photo/ Steve Ruark)
Snakeheads are native to Asia, though they are considered aggressive predators in U.S. waters. MDC says they prey on native species and compete for resources. Snakeheads have a snake-like appearance with a longer anal fin than a similar-looking bowfin fish.
“The angler recognized they had something different and researched the fish’s characteristics, and realized it was indeed a snakehead,” said MDC Fisheries Biologist Dave Knuth via a news release. “The angler left it on the pavement for several hours thinking it would die, and it never did.”
Unlike most fish, the northern snakehead can breathe air. This allows it to survive in poorly oxygenated water or out of water for several days if their skin stays moist. They can also slither across land to return to water.
“Unfortunately, it was only a matter of time before we saw this species continue to spread in Missouri,” said Knuth via a previous news release last year.
According to MDC, if you find a northern snakehead in Missouri, you are advised to kill it by cutting off the head or gutting it. Also, make sure to follow these other procedures:
Make sure it’s a snakehead. Northern snakeheads can be confused with the native bowfin.
Do not release the fish or throw it on the bank, as it could migrate back to the water or to a new waterbody
Photograph the fish so the species can be positively identified.
Note the location of the catch.
Report any sightings of the fish to MDC’s Southeast Regional Office at 573-290-5858.



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