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MDC warns of invasive fish species spotted in Missouri

The department said northern snakeheads are aggressive predators that eat native species and compete for resources.
Credit: MDC

PUXICO, Mo. — An invasive fish species was captured last month, and the Missouri Department of Conservation wants you to be on the lookout for others.

According to a post on the MDC website, an angler caught a northern snakehead at Duck Creek Conservation Area in southwestern Missouri on May 19. It is the second northern snakehead ever recorded in Missouri, with the first coming in 2019.

The conservation department said the fish is of concern because of their aggressive nature. The department said they are aggressive predators that eat native species and compete for resources.

MDC Fisheries Management Biologist Dave Knuth said it was just a matter of time before the fish started appearing in Missouri. It was discovered in eastern Arkansas in 2008 and has been spreading north since then, the MDC said.

“This fish has a wide temperature tolerance, can spawn multiple times in one year, and can survive in low-oxygenated waters by breathing air,” said MDC Fisheries Management Biologist Dave Knuth. “The impacts of this species on native fish populations are still to be determined and it’s something we will have to follow over time.”

Conservation agents say if you think a fish you caught is a northern snakehead, they want you to take a few steps.

Make sure it’s a snakehead

Northern snakeheads can be confused with the native bowfin. The department said snakeheads have a snake-like appearance with a much longer anal fin than the bowfin.

Credit: Arkansas Game and Fish Commission

Don't release it

The conservation department said you should not release the fish or throw it on the bank, as it could migrate back to the water or to a new waterbody. Since the fish is an airbreather and can live a considerable amount of time out of the water, it could make its way back into the water.

Kill it

You can do this by severing the head or gutting it.

Take a picture

Photograph the fish so the species can be positively identified.

Call them

You can report any sightings of the fish to MDC’s Southeast Regional Office at 573-290-5858.

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