LAKE COUNTY, Fla. - It’s part snake, part fish and all disgusting. The snakehead fish can breathe in the water and on land, and wildlife officials fear it could be headed to Florida. After they popped up in Georgie, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is watching closely.
Say hello to snakehead fish, the invasive species that this week turned up in Georgia. The fish are so aggressive that Georgia authorities are encouraging people to kill them if they see them. A different species of snakehead already exists in South Florida, but with the waterways that connect Florida to Georgia, these northern snakeheads are on FWC’s radar for Central Florida.
“They’ll come in and just wreck, wreak havoc on all the different species,” said fishing guide Capt. Tony Summers. “It would be a huge trickle effect for Florida.”
Summers spends most of his time fishing on Florida waterways. He has seen the blotchy-skinned fish, originally from China, that resemble snakes with their narrow pointed heads and long bodies.
“They actually breathe air, so you can catch one, throw them up onto the bank and the grass and they’ll slither their way back to the water, almost like a snake would,” said Summers.
The fish are especially harmful to the environment because when they’re hungry, they’ll eat small fish and crayfish but also turtles, toads, lizards, and snakes.
“I don’t know that you could limit it to any type. It would be anything that they could get a hold of that they could eat,” said Summers.
Summers support the push to kill them in Georgia and says the ones in South Florida are hunted too, with good reason. Because if they came our way, “it would be detrimental to the ecosystem and the reproduction of all our native fish and their reproduction,” he said.
The largest snakehead fish reported in Florida was 31.5 inches and weighed more than nine pounds, but FWC said they can get as big as 15 pounds.