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Midwest Finesse

Snakehead fishing on the Potomac River and elsewhere

by Ned Kehde   |  February 16th, 2013 28
Captain Steve Chaconas with a Maryland snakehead.

Pok-Chi Lau of Lawrence, Kansas, and I have fished together for many hours across the past two decades on the flatland reservoir of northeastern Kansas. Although he loves to chase temperate bass and likes to tangle with largemouth and smallmouth bass, most of his piscatorial dreams are  focused upon catching snakeheads.  To placate those dreams, he has traveled as far as  Malaysia to fish for them. When he recently  returned to Lawrence from one of his snakehead forays in Asia, he was delighted  and amazed to discover that some of the waterways around Washington, D.C. abound with northern snakeheads. And once he returns from his wintertime forays with some tarpon, peacock bass, snook and other denizens in the Caribbean, it is likely that he will be making plans to chase the northern snakeheads that abide in the Potomac River and adjoining waterways once the spring and summer unfolds.

Pok-Chi Lau with a toman in Malaysia.

 

The northern snakehead population in the Potomac River and its tributaries has multiplied dramatically since they were first discovered in 2004.  In fact, a world-record northern snakehead, weighing 18.37-pounds, was caught in May of 2012 on the Occoquan River, which is a tributary to the Potomac.

Captain Steve Chaconas, who is the proprietor of the National Bass Guide Service in Alexandria,Virginia, and a snakehead enthusiast, says the Potomac’s snakehead fishing provides anglers with some of the most exhilarating topwater fishing that they will ever encounter.

According to Chaconas, April through September are the best months of the year for anglers to pursue the snakeheads that abide in the Potomac River.

For information about lodging and other accoutrements, Chaconas can be reached at 703-380-7119. His e-mail address is schaconas@nationalbass.com, and his Web site address is http://www.nationalbass.com

****************************************************************************

Photographs are courtesy of Steve Chaconas and Pok-Chi Lau

About Ned Kehde

Field Editor Ned Kehde has been writing for In-Fisherman since the 1980s. His recent finesse bass tactics and findings have been influential throughout the Midwest and beyond. He writes the online column Midwest Finesse for In-Fisherman.com

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  • Esox Lucius

    While snakehead may provide amazing topwater fishing, they should be eradicated! They are one of the many non native species that have unfortunately been introduced in a few of North America's waters. Unless we want more problems like those caused by Asian carp, zebra mussels, or lamprey eels snakeheads need be killed upon capture in North America.

  • esox_lucius

    While the snakehead may provide some unbelievable topwater action, these fish need to be eradicated! These are a non native specie in North America just like asian carp, zebra mussels, and lamprey eels to name a few. Unless we want more problems, these fish need to be killed upon capture. Come on In-fisherman, you have been at the forefront of outdoor education for years, don't let us down now!

    • nkehde

      Dear Esox:
      Thanks for taking time to post your comments about the snakehead.
      The regulations at most waterways in which snakehead inhabit require that anglers to remove every snakehead that they catch.
      Besides being noble and vigorous fighters, Pok Chi Lau of Lawrence, Kansas, tells us that they are considered to be a great delicacy at dinning tables across Asia.
      When you have time, please tell us how we can be at the forefront outdoor education. We are eager to read your ideas about what we can accomplish in the days, months and years to come.
      Best wishes,
      Ned

      • esox_lucius

        I think more education is the best place to start. I remember when VHS was first becoming a big issue. In-fisherman had a PSA concerning it during every episode. Lately, we have seen PSA's about keeping your boat well cleaned to stop the spread of zebra mussels. In each case the invasive species were NOT portrayed in any good light which is how they should be shown. The snakehead is no different and should be shown the same way rather than glorifying them with comments like "the Potomac’s snakehead fishing provides anglers with some of the most exhilarating topwater fishing that they will ever encounter." The fact that they are a delicacy in Asia doesn't mean much. Asia is where they belong. As for fighting the spread of these fish given that they are no where near as widespead as the asian carp so, perhaps, shocking bodies of water and removing them that way. On small enough to use rotenone to poison them. Then, restock the bodies of water with native species. I'm not entirely familiar with the laws out near DC but are there fines for releasing the fish? Extreme measures should likely be taken before we have another major issue like what is going on here in Illinois. There are lawsuits against the state to close the connection between the Illinois River and Lake Michigan in an attempt to keep the asian carp out of the Great Lakes. Action must be done before too much damage occurs. Let's stop the spread of these creatures!

        • Nathan

          Horses are also a non-native species to North America, as are most species of household dogs. Elk. Pheasant. Doves. Peacock bass. Brown trout, one of the most revered gamefish in N.A. is also a non-native species. Not all non-native species are bad from everyone's perspective. Great lakes smallmouth anglers are quite thankful for Zebra mussels for cleaning up the water, a fact well chronicled by In-Fisherman, actually. See http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/0802… and http://www.fieldandstream.com/blogs/flytalk/2009/…

          Though the snakehead is considered a nuisance fish, a well-known Florida biologist said this about Snakehead "neither man nor nature can get rid of them. We have to deal with that fact and develop management strategies" (csa.com). Given the size of that Potomac snakehead in the Chaconas picture, its seems we're a few years behind the times in terms of "eradicating" these fish, as that is clearly a breeding fish.

          Ned's job is to blog about trends in fishing, and catalog the exploits of fisherman that can be copied by recreational fisherman who are looking to enjoy the great outdoors. It would seem to me that more fishermen fishing in the Potomac for these fish and removing them, as the law dictates, would be a beneficial "management" practice, anyway.

          What if Snakeheads competing for resources with Potomac bass made the bass bigger? Would we be complaining then? Just a thought.

          • nkehde

            Nathan:
            Thanks for taking the time to post your insights about this controversy.
            Best wishes,
            Ned

  • Dan

    Where's the study that states that Snakehead are wiping out native and non native species in the Potomac? That remains to be seen. Snakehead are a invasive species for sure just as the smallmouth bass was when it introduced into the Potomac river in 1854. What about the LargemouthBass? What native suffered because of those two species of bass? I'm just speculating but I wonder if we would change their name(Snakehead)? Would the same outrage be there? Would the same outrage be there if we called the Snakehead "spotted perch". I'm not certain since DNR wants anglers to get rid of the Blue Catfish as well, that's an invasive species that can grow upwards of 90lb . Where's the outrage and the alarm? They eat other fish right?. No media outlet is talking about the blue cat . Truth be told I caught four Snakehead last year with a couple that got off. They are exhilarating and the most exciting fish in that river. When I fish the Potomac now I just go hoping that I get one. Also I doubt that I will keep many more, they taste great but DNR didn't tell me that they were hard to clean.

    • nkehde

      Dan:
      We appreciate you taking the time to write and post your opinions and experiences about the snakehead. My friend Pok Chi Lau of Lawrence, Kansas, is making plans to fish for snakeheads in the canals of southern Florida, and we will post a blog about his endeavors after they unfold. We also hope to pen a blog about Captain Shane Procell experiences with the snakeheads in Florida.
      Best wishes,
      Ned

    • esox_lucius

      I really don't think a name change would make a difference…Asian carp isn't exactly a "threatening" name.

  • Capt Steve Chaconas

    Hi guys! I work very closely with biologists with Virginia, Maryland and Feds. In-Fisherman is keeping the invasive Snakehead in the news, which helps efforts of these agencies to promote "overfishing" them while reminding others to catch and kill them. As they are difficult for commercial fishermen to target, bass anglers are the first line of offense against them. Promoting the sport of catching them and that they are VERY good to eat is one way to confront this issue on the Potomac before Snakeheads spread to a fishery near you! These fish were introduced and are spreading via human transport!

    • nkehde

      Captain Steve:
      Thanks for your stellar insights about this controversy. Please keep in touch as 2013 unfolds.
      Best wishes,
      Ned

    • esox_lucius

      I think you are spot on, my concern is that eventually people will want to protect them and eventually put limits on them. I'm not trying to say anything against you or anyone else that may guide for them. Might as well make a buck off of them if we have to deal with them.

      • nkehde

        Esox:
        Thanks again for taking the time to post your opinions about the snakehead.
        One of the manifold virtues of the blogging world is that we can readily and politely exchange our ideas with others, which has the possibility of making us well informed anglers.
        Keep in touch,
        Ned

        • esox_lucius

          Couldn't have said it better myself Ned! Take care.

  • Capt Steve Chaconas

    esox:
    As of now, the most reliable way to get Snakeheads is with a bow at night with spotlights. Rod & reel techniques involve going into dense cover with hollow frogs. Most Snakehead hunters come from across the country out of novelty or to fill a "bucket list". Many of my bass clients want to hook one during our outings. I am still a bass guide. Raising awareness about all invasive species with my guide trips wether we target Snakeheads or not is my goal. In smaller more finite fishery, Snakeheads are a danger to all native or more desirable species. Protecting them is not an option. Everyone we remove is out of the reproductive chain and can not be spread.

    • esox_lucius

      That's good to hear Captain. Being from Illinois, I may not know all the ins and outs surrounding the snakehead but have become pretty familiar with our "headline grabbing invasive species" the asian carp so I couldn't help but have my ears perk up so to speak when I saw this article. Hopefully we can all work together to help contain some of these problems.

  • Capt Steve Chaconas

    esox:

    Knowledge is power! When we first found Snakeheads in the Potomac, some of the "older" guides claimed, "Our bass will kick that Asian fish's butt!" This fish is a survivor and loves the Potomac's ecosystem. These fish are growing faster and bigger here than anywhere in the world. This is a man-made problem as are the Asian Carp! Good luck with your invasive!

  • Tommy

    I love fishing for Snakeheads in the Potomac but the drive is a bit far. Perhaps we can stock them in rivers and lakes near the Baltimore area. Or could someone illegally stock them? That would be pretty sweet!

  • Dan

    I love the Snakehead. Toughest fish that I’ve come across in freshwater. Catch a large mouth or a Snakehead? Apples and Oranges fellow anglers. Snakeheads put those largemouth to shame. Plus I’m fairly certain that DNR can not force me to kill anything by the way. Please. Spare us the dramatics. I’ll be releasing every Snakehead that I catch this year.

    • Ned Kehde

      Dan:
      Thanks for taking the time to post your comments on snakehead fishing.Please send us some snakehead tales as 2013 unfolds.
      Best wishes,
      Ned

  • Scott

    Love my snakeheads! Not killing a one this year unless I’m going to eat it. Very few people really understand what’s going on – everyone thinks that they do, though.

  • Chris

    Scott either rode the short bus to school or is probly chinese and does not think about cause and effect when it comes to the environment and the animals in it.

    • http://www.facebook.com/jfaha John Faha

      In the most recent issue of Virginia Wildlife Magazine the fish surveys for this year showed that snakeheads were at a record high but they also showed that largemouths are also at a near record high. Maybe it’s you who doesn’t know the effects?

      • Ned Kehde

        John:
        Thanks for posting your comments about the snakehead and largemouth bass populations in Virginia.
        Here’s a link to a story in this morning’s New York Times about snakeheads in the waterways of New York City http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/04/30/searching-for-the-snakehead-fish-fierce-and-entirely-unwelcome/
        By the way, Pok Chi Lau of Lawrence, Kansas, was disappointed with his endeavors to catch snakeheads in Florida waterways during the month of April.
        Please keep in touch,
        Ned

      • nkehde

        John:

        Thanks for posting your comments about the snakehead and largemouth bass populations in Virginia.

        Here’s a link to a story in this morning’s New York Times about snakeheads in the waterways of New York City http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/04/30/searching-for-the-snakehead-fish-fierce-and-entirely-unwelcome/

        By the way, Pok Chi Lau of Lawrence, Kansas, was disappointed with his endeavors to catch snakeheads in Florida waterways during the month of April.

        Please keep in touch,

        Ned

      • Dave

        You guys are incredible! You must know what and how many invasive species it takes to collapse an ecosystem. Lets bring over the giant snakehead and whatever else you want since you love them and are to lazy to go where they naturally occur. It also amazes me how people are so quick to justify their view by bringing up past mistakes (I.E. Bass, Carp, Catfish) north america had plenty for us to work with before we messed with it. There also about to destroy the last remaining large scale salmon run in alaska but whats another straw on the camels back.

        • nkehde

          Dave:
          Thanks for taking the time to express your opinions about the snakehead and the invasive-species issue.
          Best wishes,
          Ned Kehde

  • steve

    Wrong Chris. Why the personal attacks? There is no need for that. How do you know if Scott is LD or DD? You don’t and it’s rude to assume. Back to the Snakehead. Show us the study that states that bass populations are down since the introduction of Snakehead. Show us the cause and effect. DNR should have it right? Good luck and there is a growing number of anglers that catch and release Snakeheads.

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