If there’s slight consolation in Chesapeake Country’s invasion by snakeheads, it could be that more of them are hightailing it north up the Susquehanna.
That’s the report from Conowingo Dam, where 81 of the toothy Asian marauders were apprehended in the dam’s fish lift so far this spring, according to a partnership including the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, which oversees fish passage. That compares to just one apprehended in the prior two years at Conowingo.
How things have changed in 17 years, when the first snakeheads in Maryland were discovered living and reproducing in a Crofton pond.
They were assigned the status of “injurious wildlife” given their capacity to outcompete anything else swimming nearby. Insults from the government and recipes on eating them have done nothing to halt the snakeheads’ spread, enabled by predatory ways and females spawning several times a year and releasing some 40,000 eggs at a time.
The Conowingo fish lifts were installed in 1972 to enable passage of the American shad and other migratory fish. At first, desirable species were captured and trucked north to continue their journey. Now, they swim into a metal tank at the bottom of the dam and are hydraulically lifted 100 feet into a trough to swim on.
DNR reported that the snakeheads nabbed this year were in the western side of the dam. That’s where their journey ended.
DNR imposes no limits how many snakeheads anglers can catch and keep in hopes of reducing the population, a goal that now seems all but fantasy.