Potomac: Northern Snakehead Fish Found Above Great Falls

Potomac: Northern Snakehead Fish Found Above Great Falls

The C&O Canal National Historical Park, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service have recently discovered the non-native northern snakehead fish within the park’s canal system above Great Falls.

After visitor reports of the snakehead fish in 2014, biologists from the agencies discovered several snakehead fish in the canal waters between Great Falls and Violette’s Lock. The snakehead fish has become established in the Patuxent River and other fresh and low-salinity tidal waterways in Maryland and Virginia, but had not previously been found in the non-tidal Potomac River system above Great Falls. An aggressive and predatory fish, the snakehead poses a substantial risk to many of native and game fish species both within the canal and in the upper Potomac River.

The agencies are working together to develop programs to monitor and control the presence and abundance of snakehead fish both in the canal and the upper Potomac River. As fishing has proved effective in reducing snakehead populations in tidal areas, the park is requesting that anglers pursue, catch, and remove any snakehead fish caught within the Potomac River system. There is no seasonal, size, or creel limits for snakehead. If anyone observes or catches a snakehead fish within Maryland, notify fishingreports.dnr@maryland.gov.

It is a violation of state laws and the federal Lacey Act to possess, import, or transport live northern snakehead fish, punishable by fines up to $250,000 and five years in prison.