Invasive snakehead fish found in Lancaster County


If you need live bait, Gina Neary can hook you up.

For 20 years, Neary and her husband have been running Jim Neary’s Bait and Tackle near Kirkwood. The neighboring Octorara reservoir is a destination for sport fishermen.

The shop has fatheads, shiners and other baits for catching bass, catfish, walleye and crappie, but something else in the local waters.

Fisherman like Jordan Hastings say they’ve been catching an invasive species that’s menacing looking and could be a menace to native fish.

“Snakeheads,” Hastings said. “They’re here, and here to stay probably.”

The invasive species from Asia has not been detected in the reservoir itself, but below in the Octorara Creek downstream to the Conowingo Dam, snakeheads have established territory.

One of the hot spots is at the dam above the covered bridge on the Octorara Creek. 

“The first time I caught one was June 14th,” Hastings said.That was a 26-inch, six-pounder.”

The sharp-toothed predator has been found in several parts of Pennsylvania since 2004.

Hooking a snakehead may have started off as an incidental catch, but some anglers are now targeting them – and they’re not eager to give up their secrets.

“I’d rather not, but if you fish for bass, you’ll probably catch one,” Hastings said.

The Fish and Boat Commission asks those who catch a snakehead not to release it or transport it live. Hastings says he eats what he catches.

“Oh yeah, it’s delicious,” he said. “It’s like a lobster-like texture but walleye-like in flavor.”

And as long as snakehead is on the menu, Gina Neary doesn’t mind reeling in extra business.

“Absolutely,” she said. “Absolutely.”

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