The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) has verified that two Northern Snakeheads and a ball of fry were observed in a video that was reportedly taken in Old River in Minorica (Concordia Parish).
Northern Snakeheads, which are native to Asia, are a highly predatory species that can outcompete and prey on our native species. They consume mostly fish, but will also eat other small aquatic animals such as frogs and crawfish.
Because the snakehead is considered to be an invasive species, LDWF will monitor the situation closely.
“Snakeheads could potentially get a foothold in our state, but we do not expect them to have major impacts to our native fish,” said LDWF’s Aquatic Nuisance Species Coordinator Robert Bourgeois. “In other states where snakeheads are already present, there has not been major impact on native fish. Unlike invasive carp, they are slower at reproducing.”
To date, Northern Snakeheads have been reported in 11 other states. They were originally released into the wild through fish markets and the aquarium trade; however, they have likely migrated to Louisiana from Mississippi or Arkansas.
It is illegal to possess, sell or transport live snakehead Louisiana.
Northern Snakeheads closely resemble Louisiana’s native Bowfin (Choupique) species. However, you can identify a snakehead by its long, extended anal fin, a lower jaw that protrudes past the upper jaw, and the lack of a black spot at the base of its tail. You can see an illustration of these fish on this brochure: Snakehead_Brochure.pdf (louisiana.gov)
The name “snakehead” comes from the enlarged scales that cover their heads. These fish can grow up to 3 feet in length.
If you have information, or if you think you have caught a Northern Snakehead, please do NOT return it to the water. Take a side view photo of the fish (if possible), kill it, double bag it and freeze it. Then contact Rob Bourgeois, LDWF Aquatic Nuisance Species Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org or 225-765-0765 or contact the LDWF aquatic invasive species hotline at 225-765-3977 email at AquaticInvasives@la.gov.
Make sure to note the exact location of the catch. This is helpful to determine species distribution and control/management strategies.
If you catch a snakehead fish, it is legal and safe to consume.