Exotic fish native to China, Russia found in Virginia reservoir

A northern snakehead fish was found in a reservoir in Virginia, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) confirmed Friday.

The fish, which is native to countries such as China, Russia and Korea, was found in Lakeview Reservoir in Colonial Heights.

Northern snakeheads were first discovered in the state nearly 15 years ago and have since been found in “nine additional bodies of water including Lake Anna, the Rappahannock River, and Lake Burke,” according to the DGIF.

Snakeheads can harm aquatic systems, according to the DGIF, which added that species “may have significant impacts by feeding on and competing with native and/or naturalized fishes. In addition, they may transmit parasites and diseases to native wildlife in those systems.”

Because the fish is not capable of moving across land, “most new occurrences are caused by people intentionally introducing (stocking) them into new bodies of water,” according to the department.

Introducing the fish to a body of water constitutes as a Class 1 misdemeanor, the department said. Violators can face up to a year in prison and/or a $2,500 fine.

While anglers who catch snakeheads can keep the fish, it must be killed after capture and reported to the department.