The Invasive Snakeheads
Snakeheads are air-breathing, sharp-toothed, mucus-covered freshwater fish that get their name because they have a long, cylindrical body. They also share the same scale patterns and eye positions of snakes.
Snakeheads are an invasive species, which means they’re not native to North America. Instead, they’re native to parts of Asia and Africa. But now they’re found in the US in Florida as well as several other states.
Of the two snakehead species found in Florida, northern snakeheads have rarely been reported in the state, while the nonnative bullseye snakehead fish in Florida is mainly found in northeastern Broward County, mostly between the freshwater waters in Pompano Beach west to Margate. This location provides an ideal home for bullseye snakehead fish as they cannot survive in water temperatures below 50F. In fact, as they have been centered in the region for two decades, some anglers are beginning to argue that the bullseye should be designated as just another Florida fish.
Snakehead Fishing Regulations
Unlike native fish, there are no regulations limiting anglers’ ability to catch snakeheads in Florida. That’s because these invasive species compete with native fish for food and habitat, and prey on other fish, small reptiles and sometimes birds and small mammals. In that way, they have the potential to disrupt ecosystems if they become permanent.
Because of the significant threat they pose to fish and wildlife, there are some restrictions, however, when Florida snakehead fishing. While anglers can fish for snakeheads, it’s unlawful to possess, transport, or otherwise bring into the state or release any freshwater fish that’s not native to the state without a permit from the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. And under federal regulations, snakeheads can’t be transported out of the state either since a permit is required to take them across state lines to prevent their spread. Permits can be obtained by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
Moreover, if you catch a snakehead, before tossing your catch on the grill, try to remember to contact your nearest fish and game agency or US Fish and Wildlife Service to share data about the size, number and location of the fish so they can use the information to help control this invasive fish in the state.
Where to Find Snakeheads in Florida
Snakeheads can be found in freshwater bodies of water like canals and ponds. They’re often found in shallow areas with overhanding shoreline vegetation, dense submerged vegetation and debris.
Another way to locate where you should head to target snakeheads is to refer to a Florida fishing report. These updates from fishing guides and captains will let you know about productive areas, how many snakeheads they’re catching, their size and weight, and what they’re using.
Like other Florida fishing, understanding their feeding habits is also important for the greatest chance of success. Florida’s bullseye snakefish tends to be a bottom dweller that feeds on small fish and crayfish. But they’ve also been known to go after other mammals like turtles, toads, lizards and snakes.
Best Bait for Snakeheads
Snakefish can be a fun sport fish to target. They’re strong, aggressive and voracious, making for an exciting outing for both seasoned anglers and those just learning how to fish because of the wide variety of options available when targeting this species. Anglers can take different approaches to bait to get them to come out from under their heavy cover. If you opt for lures, the most popular choice is the topwater frog. Other good choices are poppers and spinnerbaits. The best live bait for snakehead are frogs, minnows and crayfish.