Fish typically don’t like to get out of the water due to their biology, but Georgia Department of Natural Resources officials said an invasive fish species that can breathe air and survive on land was found in a Gwinnett County pond earlier this month.
State wildlife officials said this marks the first sighting of the Northern Snakehead, which is native to China, in Georgia, although the fish has now been sighted in 14 U.S. states. They are urging anglers across the state to be on the lookout, and report any other Northern Snakeheads that they catch while fishing.
The fish found in Gwinnett were in a private pond.
“Our first line of defense in the fight against aquatic invasive species, such as the Northern Snakehead, are our anglers,” said Matt Thomas, chief of fisheries for the Wildlife Resources Division, in a statement. “Thanks to the quick report by an angler, our staff was able to investigate and confirm the presence of this species in this water body.
“We are now taking steps to determine if they have spread from this water body and, hopefully, keep it from spreading to other Georgia waters.”
The presence of the Northern Snakehead has caused alarm among state officials, who are concerned it could negatively impact fish species that are native to Georgia by providing increased competition for food and habitat. As a result, DNR is reminding Georgians that it is illegal to own, import, transport or sell invasive wildlife species, including the Northern Snakehead, without a valid wild animal license.
Officials said invasive wildlife are often introduced into the wild in Georgia through unauthorized releases.
One of the things the state is asking anglers to do is to learn how to identify the Northern Snakehead.
DNR officials said it is somewhat similar to a Bowfin, which is native to Georgia, in that both are long, thin fish. The Northern Snakehoead, however, can get up to 3 feet in length and has a long dorsal fin which runs the entire length of their backs. They also have a “dark brown blotchy appearance.”
Anyone who finds a Northern Snakehead is asked to kill it, freeze it and take pictures of it, including closeups of the mouth, tail and fins. They are also asked to note where it was caught and contact their regional Georgia DNR Wildlife Resources Division Fisheries Office. Regional office contact information can be found at georgiawildlife.com/about/contact#fish.