An invasive northern snakehead was caught in Lake Wylieby

An angler fishing the Paw Creek arm of Lake Wylie in Mecklenburg County, N.C., caught a 31-inch northern snakehead on April 19. Lake Wylie is located on the border of North and South Carolina.

The presence of a northern snakehead is potentially bad news for the Lake Wylie fishery. A native of eastern Asia the northern snakehead can adversely affect the native fishes in waters where they have been illegally introduced.  An established snakehead population could reduce the abundance of popular game fish by competing for food and habitat, and by direct predation. Reduced populations of largemouth bass, crappie, sunfish, and catfish, can ultimately affect angler catch rates.

The S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) stresses the importance of not releasing a suspected snakehead. Snakeheads can easily be confused with native bowfin (also known as "mudfish"). One distinguishing difference between a bowfin and a snakehead is length of the anal fin, which is the bottom-rear fin near the tail. The snakehead has a very long anal fin, which is more than half the length of the dorsal (back) fin, and the bowfin has a shorter anal fin, which is less than half the length of the dorsal fin.

Northern snakehead
Northern snakehead image
Note long anal fin
Northern Snakehead image courtesy of Duane Raver


Note short anal fin
Bowfin image courtesy of Duane Raver

A printer-friendly flyer illustrating the differences between a bowfin and a northern snakehead is available.

If you catch a fish you suspect is a snakehead, do not release it, instead, place it on ice or freeze it. Contact DNR Freshwater Fisheries Region 2 Coordinator Elizabeth Osier at (843) 661-4767 or Wildlife & Freshwater Fisheries Region 2 Biologist Robert Stroud at (803) 366-7024 for more information.

Staff from the DNR, Duke Energy and the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission will continue to sample the 13,400-acre lake over the next few weeks to identify the extent of the snakehead infestation, as well as develop an appropriate future northern snakehead management strategy.

DNR protects and manages South Carolina’s natural resources by making wise and balanced decisions for the benefit of the state’s natural resources and its people.