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Tournament Targets Invasive Snakehead Fish

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Snakehead fish aren't terribly cute and cuddly, which makes it all the easier to help fish away the invasive species.
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Snakehead fish aren't terribly cute and cuddly, which makes it all the easier to help fish away the invasive species.

Anglers in the area are getting ready for the second annual Potomac Snakehead Tournament in Marbury, Md, near Indian Head. Hundreds of fishermen are competing for cash to see who can land the most snakeheads, as well as the biggest specimen of this invasive species.

John Odenkirk is with Virginia's Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, he's out on the Occoquan River catching a large snakehead fish. "They're kind of uncooperative," says Odenkirk.

And pretty crazy looking. Colored like a snake, covered in thick slime, the snakehead fish breathes air and have a lot of teeth, which Odenkirk shows off.

These fish were illegally introduced in Maryland ten years ago and Odenkirk's been studying them ever since. He says that they're spreading faster than initially thought, and they're still not sure how much of a threat they pose as an invasive species.

Though he says he hasn't seen any major environmental impact at this point, wildlife officials throughout the area are encouraging people to catch the fish. And they are.

Austin Murphy is the director of the Second Annual Snakehead Tournament. Fisherman will start casting their lines, or getting their bows and arrows ready, Saturday night. They'll fish over night, and through half past noon on Sunday.

"Our goal this year is to remove at least 800 pounds of snakeheads out of the Potomac watershed," says Murphy. "Last year, we removed over 400 pounds, so we're looking to double that."

The team with the heaviest total take of snakeheads wins $1500; the team with the biggest fish also gets a cash prize. A man in Virginia recently caught what may be the largest Snakehead on record, at 18 pounds, 4 ounces. Murphy says prepare for a new world record.

"We go out maybe 2-3 times a week, and we are seeing some giant fish out there, and I think it's only a matter of time before someone catches a fish over 20 pounds," says Murphy.

Sunday the public gets to sample the fish as local chefs are cooking up a free snakehead fish tasting and a beer tasting follow the tournament.

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