Bullseye Snake fish of Southern Florida.
On my FL trip last year, the target was the peacock bass. I also was told from my friend that we might get into some exotics
as well. So I was pretty pumped up for the trip (see the Exotic Fish of Florida page and the Peacock Bass page for more info
and pics on this trip. The trip ended of being a blast and many fish were caught by all of us. The guys wanted to take a break
from the peacock bass, all together and shift gears for another species, the bullseye snakehead.
I agreed to it but I had my reservations about it and did not dare bring them up either. I didn't want to ruin or take
away from the other guys trip. I had heard about south Florida's abundant peacocks and other exotics but snakeheads? I knew
FL had them but thought what would be the chance of finding any and even if we found locations that had them. Who's to say
we would catch any. It felt weird leaving fish to go find other fish. The guys had a couple of ponds in mind where they had
heard reports of snakeheads from the internet. To me it seemed a bit of a wild goose chase but I was game and thought it would
be cool to hook up with one of those menacing fish on my rod. I just didn't figure there was a population big enough to target
them intentionally (boy I was wrong) but regardless I could still fish for whatever game fish that the ponds had to offer.
The next morning the quest for the dreaded snakehead was on with a road trip. We get to our first spot and we all start
casting but the fishing was slow to say the least. I decided to break away from the pack and walk the shoreline with my polarized
glasses and see if I could spot anything or work some cover. I had spotted some lily pads from short distance and decided
to work that area and when I approached the pads I saw this serpent like fish that looked and moved like a dragon under the
water, herding and protecting her young and staring at me. My heart started racing a bit with excitement and she was big.
No one in our group had seen one yet, never mind catch one. I really wanted to land her, I casted my rapala near her but she
would not leave her young. I casted again (carefully) and worked the lure toward her young and she quickly and ferociously
attacked my lure. I set the hook and yelled out loud snakehead!! The troops came running but I got worried I had only 8 pound
test line and she had dug herself into the lily pads. The guys were now all around me waiting to get a look at her. I didn't
think I was going to get her out of the slop. I removed all the tension of my line by opening up my bail and I let some line
out. The fish freed herself and once again started moving. I tried to bring her in again and this time she came through the
vegetation and got beached. After a high five we photographed this unique fish and measured her at 36 inches.
The strangest freshwater fish I ever caught. Reluctantly I threw her back in, I know the state wants them eradicated but
(wrong or right) I did not have the heart to kill it and leave it to rot. After the release I watched some of her young getting
attacked and eaten by a small largemouth bass. It was cool to see yet so wrong to see, what a messed up echo-system. Interesting
enough shortly after the release the snakehead came back to her young but this time when she looked up and saw me she took
off like a rocket (smart fish). That was the only snakehead caught out of that pond. We moved on and started working some
of the canals, where we found them to be abundant. I caught plenty of them including the largest of the trip (a 38 incher)
that hit a jointed shad-rap from a long distance from shore. An aggressive feeder that gave me one hell of a fight. The snakeheads
are an un-welcomed guest to FL waters and it's root introduction was more likely caused by the Asian fish market or aquarium
pet owners who's tanks could no longer support the fast growing snakeheads.
Below are some interesting facts, info and pics about this fish.
DESCRIPTION: Air-breathing fish; that resembles a bowfin in behavior and appearance.
RANGE: First documented in FL October 2000, likely be limited to the southern half of Florida since temperatures below
50 degrees F are lethal.
NATIVE RANGE: Pakistan, Malaysia, and southern China.
HABITAT: In canals, typically associated with overhanging shoreline vegetation, dense submersed vegetation, and debris;
tolerant of stagnant waters due to air-breathing capabilities.
SPAWNING HABITS: Spawn primarily from March through May with a secondary peak in August; adults occasionally seen herding
young in shallows until 6-8 inches long; a sample of ripe females contained an average of 4,700 ready to spawn eggs.
FEEDING HABITS: Bottom dwelling, ambush predator that feeds primarily on small fish and crayfish, but occasionally eats
a wide variety of prey including turtles, toads, lizards, snakes, and insects.
AGE AND GROWTH: Largest collected in Florida by FWC was 31.5 inches and weighed 9.2 pounds; reports of this species commonly
growing to more than four feet and weights of 66 pounds erroneous; largest likely to get about 15 pounds.
SPORTING QUALITY: Good; have been caught on jerk baits and live baits; a popular sportfish in its native range; no bag
or size limits.
EDIBILITY: Excellent; even said to have medicinal benefits in its native range by hastening the healing of wounds and