Mississippi has its first confirmed capture of a live Northern Snakehead fish, a dreaded invasive non-native species that the state neither wants or needs.

Bow fishermen Brad Baugh and Bubba Steadman of Cleveland stuck the fish June 5 in Lake Whittington, an oxbow lake connected to the Mississippi River in Bolivar County.

While biologists hoped the snakeheads would never arrive, they were on watch and half expecting one to reach state waters.

“Snakeheads have been present in the White River Basin in Arkansas since 2008 and have been steadily expanding their range towards the Mississippi River,” says MDWFP Delta fisheries biologist Nathan Aycock. “The Mississippi River provides these fish with access to connected oxbows like Lake Whittington as well as the Yazoo and Big Black Rivers.”

Why expected: “They got loose from a private hatchery in Arkansas and had access to the Mississippi River through the White River,” another biologist said.

Why the concern: “That’s the same way the Asian and silver carp got into the Mississippi River, from an Arkansas hatchery, and look at the problems they have caused and how they have spread,” the biologist added.

According to the MDWFP, Northern Snakeheads are native to China, Russia, and Korea. Established populations have been found in Arkansas, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia where their impacts to native fish populations are unknown. Northern Snakeheads are typically found in shallow, backwater areas and can breathe air, which allows them to survive for extended periods of time out of the water.

Northern Snakeheads appear similar to Mississippi’s native Bowfin, also known as grinnel. MDWFP encourages anyone who thinks they catch a snakehead to keep the fish, photograph it, and call their office at 601-432-2200. 

It is illegal to transport, offer for sale, or possess live snakeheads in Mississippi.