Air-Breathing Fish That Eats Animals Found in Hudson Valley, New York

Original Article: Sep 1, 2021


An invasive fish from Asia that can live on land for days and uses its sharp teeth to eat animals has been spotted in the Hudson Valley and other parts of New York State.

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Air-Breathing Fish That Eats Animals Found in Hudson Valley, Other Parts of New York

An invasive fish from Asia that can live on land for days and uses its sharp teeth to eat animals has been spotted in the Hudson Valley and other parts of New York State.  

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On Tuesday, the New York State DEC announced the agency is investigating the prevalence of the invasive northern snakehead fish in Bashakill Marsh in Wurtsboro, Sullivan County, after a recent angler report from the area.

On Aug. 16, DEC's Region 3 Fisheries Unit received a report of an angler catching a northern snakehead in the Bashakill Marsh. The angler submitted a photo and DEC confirmed the fish was a northern snakehead.

"Northern snakehead is an invasive fish from Asia that has the potential to reduce or even eliminate native fish populations and alter aquatic communities. Snakehead was introduced into New York State through aquarium dumping, fish market releases, and bait dumping," the DEC states.

Snakeheads will also spread to nearby water bodies on their own since they can breathe air and survive for days out of water, according to the DEC. The fish eats snakes, mice and small birds and reproduces rapidly, officials say.

Any northern snakehead caught should be immediately killed and reported to the DEC.

In September 2020, a northern snakehead was caught from the Delaware River near Callicoon, in Sullivan County.

In 2008, it was spotted in Orange County in Ridgebury Lake in the town of Waywayanda.

Elsewhere in New York State, snakeheads were identified in two connected ponds in Queens

"When introduced, they have the potential to negatively impact fish populations," the DEC states.

Northern snakeheads are long, thin fish with a single fin running the length of the back. These invasive fish are generally brown with large, dark blotches along their sides and can grow up to three feet in length. Northern snakeheads have a somewhat flattened head and a large mouth with many teeth. Juveniles feed on a wide variety of microscopic organisms, insect larvae, and crustaceans that native fish rely on for food. As adults, northern snakeheads feed mostly on other fish species, but also crustaceans, reptiles, mammals and small birds.

Anglers are advised to take the following actions if they catch a snakehead:
• Do not release it back to the water;
• Freeze it whole for DEC verification purposes or collect tissue samples. Carcasses missing filets can still be used by the DEC;
• If possible, take pictures of the fish, including close-ups of its mouth, fins, and tail;
• Note where it was caught (waterbody, landmarks, or GPS coordinates);
• Report the catch to the Region 4 DEC fisheries office by calling 607-652-7366 or email photos and the above information to fwfish4@dec.ny.gov. You can also submit a report through iMapinvasives

Snakeheads resemble our native bowfin, but the native bowfin has a shorter anal fin and a more rounded tail fin.

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