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Outdoors notebook: Northern snakeheads and other news

August 22, 2018

Northern snakeheads have been documented in 14 states so far.

The northern snakehead exists in two worlds.

In one, they’re a villainous invasive species, a predator whose presence threatens smallmouth bass, walleyes and other native fish populations. In another, they’re a feisty game fish, one that bites eagerly, fights hard and tastes good.

Either way, it’s not supposed to be here.

Snakeheads, which have been called “Frankenfish” and “fishzilla” for their rugged reputation, look like bowfins with a single dorsal fin running their length of their upper body. They have a long anal fin that stretches from stomach to tail, too.

They’re brown with dark blotches, with males darker than females. They can reach 33 inches in length.

Native to China, Korea and Russia, snakeheads first showed up in the United States in 1997.

And they’re back in the news.

Snakeheads were recently confirmed in three states — Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia — again this year. Overall they’ve been found at one time or another in 14 states.

The U.S. Geological Survey considers snakeheads “established” in this country, meaning they’re here to stay.

It’s no wonder, given their ability to survive and even thrive in all kinds of conditions. They can tolerate extremes of temperature, low oxygen levels and even some levels of salt water. They will eat just about anything, and are fierce defenders of their nests, too.

All those things together, the Survey says, “give this species a suite of favorable attributes for establishment once introduced.”

That hasn’t kept wildlife officials from trying to eradicate them.

Snakeheads — federally listed as “injurious wildlife” — are “firmly established” in more than 60 miles of the Potomac River, according to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. But, working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, D.C. Fish and Wildlife and Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, it captured and tagged snakeheads for research purposes.

It also put together a video showing anglers how to handle snakeheads and suggesting they report data on catches.

Then, it said, kill them.

“If you catch a northern snakehead, kill it and DO NOT put it back in the water,” it said.

Other states are equally hostile to snakeheads.

The New York Department of Environmental Conservation poisoned some lakes to get rid of them. It also bans the sale, possession and transport of the fish within its borders.

That’s common.

In Michigan, snakeheads are on the state’s invasive species “watch list” and it’s illegal to have them, says the state’s Department of Natural Resources. The same is true in Texas and Pennsylvania, among other states.

Anglers, though, are split on whether to eradicate or embrace snakeheads.

Some guides actually offer snakehead trips on the Potomac, for example.

There are a number of snakehead groups on Facebook, too.

One, called Snakehead Fishing DC VA Maryland, appears to want them gone. The group describes itself by saying “we have a huge task to clean them out of our rivers.”

But another, Snakehead Fishing Throughout the World, “was set up for us anglers that love to fish for snakeheads … this is a catch and release group.”

Electronic licenses

Here’s a state embracing the digital age.

Oregon’s Department of Fish and Wildlife is offering electronic hunting and fishing licenses and tags starting in 2019.

Sportsmen and women can carry their license on a smart phone or tablet, and tag fish and game using a mobile app that works even offline.

Customers who want paper licenses can still get them, either by printing them at home or by buying them in a store.

But no special paper or computer equipment will be needed either way.

The move is expected to save the agency $2 million annually.

A frequently asked questions publication explains how everything will work.

License fees

Many fish and wildlife agencies around the country are struggling with tight budgets. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources is no different.

So it’s looking to raise license fees.

A proposal under consideration would set the cost of an annual resident hunting or fishing license at $20. That’s an increase of $3.

That doesn’t include the vendor and transaction fees.

This would be the first increase in the price of an annual resident hunting license since 2002 and of an annual fishing license since 2004. If approved, the new fee schedule would be effective when 2019 licenses go on sale on Dec. 15.

Boating’s benefits

All those times you said you needed to get on your boat to relax, for the good of everyone?

Science says you were on to something.

Discover Boating and Wallace Nichols, a marine biologist and researcher on the health benefits of water, recently released a report saying that boating is good for the brain.

They conclude that people experience emotional, behavioral and psychological benefits being near, in, on or under water, and while participating in activities like boating.

Nichols said boating is meditative and “awe-inspiring,” meaning it promotes compassion and self worth. It also promotes play and creativity while appealing to our senses.

Chronic wasting disease

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission adopted new regulations aimed at stopping the spread of chronic wasting disease.

Five counties were added to the state’s CWD management zone.

They’re being managed in two “tiers,” though. Hunters are prohibited from removing entire deer carcasses from tier 1 counties where the disease is most concentrated. Deer killed in tier 2 counties can be moved around in those counties, as well as in tier 1 counties, but nowhere else.

The Commission also removed antler restrictions from the entire management zone and banned deer feeding. Landowners can also get additional doe tags.

Lawsuit coming

A state wildlife agency responsible for clean water is charged with polluting it instead.

Conservation Law Foundation said it intends to sue the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department for Clean Water Act violations. The notice alleges that pollution from the agency’s Powder Mill State Fish Hatchery is causing cyanobacteria outbreaks in the Merrymeeting River that pose a serious public health risk.

The Powder Mill State Fish Hatchery is the state’s largest hatchery.

According to media reports, Fish and Game officials said the hatchery is not in violation of any state standards.

Bob Frye is the everybodyadventures.com editor. Reach him at 412-216-0193 or bfrye@535mediallc.com. See other stories, blogs, videos and more at everybodyadventures.com.

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