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Skip Navigation LinksDNREC : News : New signage alerts anglers to look for invasive snakeheads in Delaware waterways

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Contact: Joanna Wilson, Public Affairs, 302-739-9902

New signage alerts anglers to look out for
invasive snakeheads in Delaware waterways

DOVER (April 30, 2012) – New signs have been posted at several popular fishing locations in Sussex and New Castle counties to alert anglers to the possible presence of northern snakeheads, and asking them to remove and kill these highly invasive fish if caught, the DNREC Division of Fish and Wildlife announced today.

The snakehead is an invasive species that can impact fish, amphibian and invertebrate populations due to their predatory nature, competition for food resources and alteration of established food webs. A key example, according to research by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, is that northern snakeheads and largemouth bass have similar food and habitat patterns.

Snakeheads have been found the Nanticoke River and its major tributaries in Sussex County, and one popular New Castle County fishing pond to date:

·         Fall 2010 – 26-inch adult snakehead caught in Broad Creek, a tributary to the Nanticoke River, downstream from Laurel

·         July 2011 – 24-inch snakehead caught in Marshyhope Creek, a tributary to the Nanticoke River, near Woodenhawk

·         Aug. 9, 2011 – 25-inch snakehead, Nanticoke River, near Middleford, upstream of Seaford

·         Aug. 16, 2011 – 22-inch snakehead, two other adults observed, plus several hundred fry following report of bite, found in Becks Pond in Bear

·         March 2012 – Two snakeheads – measuring 26 inches and 25.75 inches – taken by bow angler in Deep Creek, a tributary to the Nanticoke River, near Seaford

Signs featuring a color photo of a snakehead for identification purposes have been posted at all locations where snakeheads have been reported and at popular access/fishing locations on the Nanticoke and Broad Creek. Permanent signs with text in English and Spanish will be posted soon.

Broad Creek, Marshyhope Creek and Deep Creek are tributaries of the Nanticoke River, a very popular largemouth bass fishery in Delaware. No snakeheads have been observed so far this month during sampling at Becks Pond in New Castle County and Broad Creek in Sussex.

“We are concerned about possible adverse impacts to largemouth bass in the Nanticoke and its tributaries if snakeheads become established in this important watershed,” said Fisheries Biologist Catherine Martin. “Because they are so aggressively predatory and competitive with native species, any snakeheads caught should not be released back into the water but should be killed and frozen.”

In addition, state Fisheries regulations prohibit transport, purchase, possession, or sale of live northern snakehead fish or blotched snakehead fish without written permission from the Director of the Division of Fish and Wildlife.

Northern snakeheads live in fresh and low salinity waters, generally preferring shallow, weedy locations. They are long, slender fish with long anal fins reaching from mid-body to the tail. The pelvic fins on the belly and pectoral fins behind the gills are very close together. The dorsal fin on the back runs from the back of the head to the tail. The mouth is large and has sharp teeth. Coloration is generally tan with dark brown blotchy bands. Federal law prohibits import and transport of live snakeheads. For photos and more information, visit  

The Fisheries Section asks that any possible snakehead catches in Delaware waters be reported by calling 302-739-9914. Photos may be sent to

Vol. 42, No. 160

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