Welcome to LoudounTimes.com
Loudoun Times-Mirror

Snakehead found off White’s Ferry

photoLester Thorton Jr. of Paeonian Springs shows the snakehead he caught while fishing Monday in the Potomac River near White’s Ferry in Maryland. State Law in both Maryland and Virginia prohibits the possession of any live snakehead species. Times Mirror Staff Photo/Andrew Sharbel

A ferocious invasive predator first made its appearance in the Metro area nine years ago, and it has taken that long to navigate its way into the northern sections of one of the largest river systems on the Atlantic Coast, the Potomac River.

Lester Thorton Jr., a local angler from Paeonian Springs, was fishing with friends April 25 near White’s Ferry when he hooked a Northern Snakehead on his line, the first catch of the species on the Potomac River north of Great Falls, according to fisheries officials in Virginia and Maryland.

Thorton’s catch was estimated at about 2-feet long.

Maryland Inland Fisheries Assistant Director Donald Cosden confirmed the species of the fish when the Times-Mirror sent him photos of the catch.

Thorton was intrigued by the fish and was looking forward to going home and tasting what is known as an Asian delicacy.

“I am going to go home and try it,” Thorton said.

“You are going to be trying it alone,” his friends said.

The Northern Snakehead fish first made an appearance in the D.C. area in 2002, when two were found in a Crofton, Md., pond.

All snakehead species are known for their sharp teeth, ferocious appetites and extensive reproduction.

“This would be the first collection we have seen above Great Falls,” Virginia Fisheries Biologist and snakehead expert John Odenkirk said. “We originally expected to find the growth of the species to be limited from the falls – due to its geographical landscape – all the way down to Colonial Beach, because of the salinity of the water there.

“However, we have found juveniles to be able to withstand that salinity and we have now seen the species down into the Chesapeake Bay,” Odenkirk said. “We were concerned about the C&O Canal system and if this is, in fact, a snakehead, that would be the odds-on favorite for its transport.”

Cosden noted the species really seems to move during high tides.

“They really seem to move during high water both upstream and downstream,” Cosden said. “We have found that these fish find their way over and through obstacles before, so this news, although disappointing, is not surprising.

“This catch opens a whole new territory for the fish,” Cosden said.

The Northern Snakehead fish, an invasive species native to Asia, has made its presence known in Northern Virginia and Maryland area since being discovered in a Crofton, Md. pond in 2002.

Their presence has also been felt in other states, particularly Florida.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the snakehead is a non-native air-breathing freshwater fish that is threatening to the native fish and wildlife resources and the economic sectors that depend on them.

Their impact on the ecosystems is a reflection of their presence as predators with extreme appetites.

At all life stages, the snakehead is a disruptive influence to an ecosystem.

According to the USFWS, as juveniles, snakeheads prey on zoo-plankton, insect larvae, small crustaceans and the eggs of other fish.

As adults, they become voracious predators, feeding upon other fish, crustaceans, frogs, small reptiles and sometimes birds and mammals.

Odenkirk noted the species are quick to grow and have an undetermined reproduction cycle.

“These fish grow rather rapidly and, based on the estimated length, it was probably about 3 years old,” Odenkirk said. “We are currently getting ready to enter their expected spawning season according to our research, and we are still trying to get an idea of how many times they reproduce in a cycle, because it could be more than once.”

Odenkirk said a research project is currently ongoing with three federal and state agencies in the D.C. area.

“We are catching them and killing them for research, as well as tagging and releasing some for other data on migration,” he said.

Odenkirk clarified what local anglers should do if they catch a snakehead.

“In the state of Virginia, it is unlawful to possess a snakehead,” Odenkirk said. “The only exception, is if it is dead.

“We ask that you report any captures to our snakehead hotline at (804) 367-2925,” Odenkirk said.

In Maryland, it is also against the law to possess a live snakehead, and Cosden said they urge anglers to kill the fish, if caught.

“An angler can possess the fish as long as they are dead, and there is a strict no-release policy with this fish,” Cosden said. “We ask anglers to take a photo of the fish and we have an anglers log online for them to post.

“They can also call and leave a message on my office phone at (410) 260-8287,” Cosden said.


The very idea that any law-biding citizen should be imprisoned because the cannibalistic serial murder Jeffrey Dahmer used his freedom to commit his crimes is offensive. So is the idea that a loyal citizen cannot own an automatic weapon to protect his United States Constitutional freedoms from the anti-Constitutional actions of an oppressive government because mob killer and boss Al Capone may have used a tommy gun to create mayhem strikes the very foundations of our nation on which our forefathers built. One only needs to look at Syria and Libya to see what it means for individuals not to own automatic weapons. Yet this is the reasoning on which Mr. Steve and Mr. Aet base their opinions. I am certain glad I am not an Amish dairyman in Pennsylvania selling unpasteurized milk to people that request it in Maryland. Those Pennsylvanian Amish dairymen are learning how oppressive the United States Food and Drug Administration is.

Should honest citizens suffer for the actions of criminals?
Every time a government or an organization wants to restrict freedom, people make the argument: It is a shame that honest citizens cannot own (fill in the blank) or do (fill in the blank) because (choose irresponsible people or criminals) abuse it to the point government is forced to ban it. It was the argument has been used against: swords, satellite dishes, automatic weapons, speech on the airways,

To Mr. Steve
Concerning your remark to Mr. Aet, the adage that

To Nancy:
I am not hiding but your argument is with Benjamin Franklin. He is one of the founders of the United States of America.  Mr. Franklin, as well as most of our founding fathers, was far more learned than in one in government today including our president. I did notice that you did not state where in The United States Constitution it says either the federal or state government can demand that: a) I surrender my pets or b) I kill any organism or c) the importation of any species can be banned without cause. I realize that many people want us to be the Union of Soviet Amerika. The founders of this country worried about government enslaving its citizens. They did not regulate the federal government so that state governments could enslave its citizens. So even though, the United States Constitution was written to restrict the intrusion of the federal government it also allowed that its citizens have unalienable rights. This means even though a state is not normally restricted in its laws it cannot arbitrarily write laws restricting individual rights. 
Ms. Nancy, you are a funny person. That remark about the steak knife would have 17th century people of the Ryukyu islands rolling in their graves, if they could hear it. Karate was developed by the Ryukyu people because the Shimazu clan of Japan had banned the people of the Ryukyu Islands from owning weapons even knives. In fact the colonists in the American colonies were subject to the British not just confiscating their weapons but anything the British wanted. The farmers of the Ukraine that forced from their homes and scattered by Stalin throughout the progressive Soviet Union were deprived of their property including knives. The Jewish-Germans in progressive Nazi Germany were deprived of property and lives. Cambodians in Kampuchea were forced into the countryside by the progressive Khmer Rouge being dispossessed of their belongings. On the North American Continent, the Cherokee lost their belongings when forced on the Trail of Tears. In the United States, German-Americans during the first World War were imprisoned and their processions confiscated by the progressive Woodrow Wilson administration. During World War II in the United States, the Japanese-American were imprisoned and their property confiscated by the progressive Franklin Roosevelt administration. The Roosevelt administration also had business men imprisoned for under-cutting prices the federal government was charging for products. Then there are the homeowners and business that watched wildlife agents from the progressive Bush administration confiscating their pets. Now you can include TSA agents for the progressive Obama administration doing genital pat-downs on minors. Add this to the killing of a pregnant woman at Ruby Ridge by federal agents as well as destroying the property and injuring of innocent people on drug raids to the wrong address, the list keeps growing. I

@ wtommyb:

Quote from his post:

“Congratulations to Mr. Andrew and Mr. Thornton on experiencing the sporting and culinary delights of the Northern Snakehead fish. They also make a fascinating pet but unfortunately you will not experience that because the state has unconstitutionally deemed owners to be criminals and will jail you while confiscating your pet. Your better watch out, your rifles, pistols and steak knives are next.”

OOOH-the gubmint is coming to take away my steak knives. The blackhawk helicopters are circling now. I’d better hide them.

I have no idea who this poster is, but I can tell you that the states’ ban on owning this fish constitutional. I am not sure it’s accurate to say that you can be jailed for simply owning this fish.

Remember how the first snakehead appeared in Crofton: Some Chinese guy got one of these things to make soup for his sister (supposedly fish has curative abilities-more Chinese superstition). He dumped one in MD and, as they say, the rest is history. It is perfectly legal for any state to outlaw the ownership of these invasive fish, just as it is legal for the state of FL to now outlaw the ownership of pythons (another non-native animal species)which are in the process of destroying the Everglades.

Catch them and kill them. They are probally tasty when grilled. Just dont release them back into the waterways to devour all other species. At least so far they arent like those carp flying out of the water causing injuries when you get smacked in the face with these over populated nuisances.

I caught one of these ******** when i was noodling for catfish. The snakehead bite is bad but when I deep fried it and washed it down with a pint of icecream it was worth it.

To Mr. Steve
To clarify I am not speaking about you nor other reasoning gentlemen when I referred to political class and their sycophants. Rather I refer to people who stamp their foot and make childish statements instead of reasoned arguments like the AGFC biologist of who I spoke as well as others. I do appreciate your civil discourse even if we disagree.

To Mr. Steve continuing with the last post, I need to make a correction:

Mr. Steve, I do appreciate your comments so I double checked what I had written. I did not say they could not live in oxygenated water. I said they could not compete with native American fish in freshwater. They also can

Re: Jack @ 4/27 1:52pm:

This fish probably made its way around the falls via the C&O Canal.

“Kill them…kill them all!”

Aet, boa’s and pythons are devastating the everglades from where people have released their pets once they got too big to keep anymore, much like how many an aquarium fish finds its way into a pond, lake, stream river and begin to cause problem.

“It is a shame that they had to be banned as pets and food because some people out there have no common sense. Much like the people who insist on having a Burmese python as a pet despite knowing that soon it will out grow the house.”

Physically dangerous pets are bad enough, but ecologically dangerous pets are a natural disaster in every sense.  A python or a pit bull that gets out might be dangerous, but it won’t devastate an ecosystem.  Snakeheads that get out will.

Ecological engineering is something that should be done by well-educated people in controlled environments.  Not by idiots who think something is pretty, or fishers that seed a river with fish that aren’t regulated so they can catch all they want.

wtommyb you a little off on some of your snakehead facts. While they can live in backwaters, whites ferry is far from it. The whole upper potomac is far from being a backwater. And while the jury may still be out on what harm they are doing to the ecosystem, that doesn’t mean that non-native foreign species should be introduced into the environment (aka letting the genie out of the bottle).  It is a shame that they had to be banned as pets and food because some people out there have no common sense. Much like the people who insist on having a Burmese python as a pet despite knowing that soon it will out grow the house.

awesome fish! much like an asain arawanna. personally, i would rush it home and put it in a large fish tank instead of killing it. feed it mice, goldfish etc.

Congratulations to Mr. Andrew and Mr. Thornton on experiencing the sporting and culinary delights of the Northern Snakehead fish. They also make a fascinating pet but unfortunately you will not experience that because the state has unconstitutionally deemed owners to be criminals and will jail you while confiscating your pet. Your better watch out, your rifles, pistols and steak knives are next. At least Mr. Odenkirk should know by now that Northern Snakehead fish do not constitute a threat to native fish. Northern Snakehead fish are a

Caught 4 in the last two days south of the Falls in DC waters. I must say they are delicious! I watched a group of Vietnamese catch 15-25 today with nets and even with a trident spear.

Let’s see…Walmart is the Chinese Embassy for all intents and purposes, Korea gives us stink bugs, Vietnam offers these Snakeheads, China gives us lead-paint toys….where does this end?

Snakeheads, stink bugs, cheap tools, lead-laden toys….All these things we have to thank countries like China for !

Nothing makes me more excited than a plate full of Tuna, served with a creampie for desert!

Catch’m, throw them on Ice, and export them to some poor country with hungry people.

I’m partial to blow fish!

I love perch!

It has eyes like a catfish.

It sort-of looks like a bass.

I heard it tastes like trout.

Ann is at it again!

I would flip out if I saw that in the river. Are they dangerous to human’s, will they bite people in the river? That thing looks scary. Wonder what it tastes like, not that I would try it.

I’m assuming there’s not length/weight requirement as long as they’re dead. Unlimited fishing! They probably taste like crap though.

Something is fishy here.  That snake had to either climb Great Falls or somebody put it in the river way upstream.

Start serving it at restaurants and it won’t be long before we over fish the Snakehead in America.

He should have took a switch to that fish and then took a picture!

Wow!! God’s creation!!!
Congratulations Mr. Thorton

Post a comment

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.

Comments express only the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of this website or any associated person or entity. Any user who believes a message is objectionable can contact us at ltmeditor@loudountimes.com.

More News

The Loudoun Times-Mirror

is an interactive, digital replica
of the printed newspaper.
Click here for all e-editions.