Wildlife officials in Maryland have put a bounty on the snakehead, the so-called "fish from hell" that can migrate on land and devastates the eco-systems of lakes, ponds and streams.
The state will give out $200 gift cards for Bass Pro Shops as well as other prizes for catching and killing the fish, which is native to Africa and Asia but is believed to have made its way to America through Asian seafood merchants.
“We do not want snakeheads in our waters," said Maryland Department of Natural Resources Inland Fisheries Director Don Cosden. "This initiative is a way to remind anglers that it is important to catch and remove this invasive species of fish.”
The first time a snakehead was seen in Maryland was when an angler caught an 18-inch specimen in 2002 in Crofton Pond, 20 miles north of Washington, D.C. Since then, the population has grown and they've been caught in dozens of bodies of water, including the Potomac River and tributaries.
The fish are hardy enough to survive up to four days on land, and can migrate up to a quarter mile between bodies of water by wriggling on their fins. National Geographic has dubbed the snakehead "fishzilla," and it is also frequently referred to as the "fish from hell." They can grow to more than 2 feet long and have been found in at least seven states.
“We don’t expect that anglers will eradicate the snakehead population,” said Joe Love, the state's Department of Natural Resources Tidal Bass program manager. “We do believe this promotion and inspiration of anglers can help control the snakehead population. The information we gain from the Angler’s Log reports are also helpful in assessing the abundance, spread and impact of these feisty fish.”
The ravenous appetites that can destroy native populations actually works against the fish when humans go after them. One fisherman told Outdoor Life blogger Gayne C. Young they bite at any type of bait.
“These fish clobber any type of moving bait you throw, Rodney Hose said. "When they smash into your lure, be prepared for a fight -- especially if they are around some sort of cover.”
To enter the contest, anglers must catch, kill and then post a picture of themselves with a dead snakehead fish caught in Maryland on the DNR’s Angler’s Log webpage. Winners will be drawn on November 30, 2012. Last year, 69 anglers entered the contest, killing 82 of the creatures.