MS. REBECCA SHEIR
Our next story is about a subject that's pretty much a natural for a show about commitment, weddings. But this wedding is one for the books because of its connection with a rather terrifying looking fish and an invasive one at that. Environment reporter, Sabri Ben-Achour has the story.
MR. SABRI BEN-ACHOUR
So I don't know if you all remember this so let's go back 10 years, almost exactly to when the snakehead came to Maryland. It's an exotic fish from Asia that someone released here.
MR. SABRI BEN-ACHOUR
Then there was a documentary...
MR. SABRI BEN-ACHOUR
...and an unbelievably bad movie...
MR. SABRI BEN-ACHOUR
...now fast forward a decade and meet Carrie Kennedy.
MS. CARRIE KENNEDY
My name is Carrie Kennedy.
And she's getting married.
So we're going to have a light lunch buffet and that lunch buffet, like most weddings, is going to have chicken and fish. But the fish that we're going to have is going to be snakehead.
Kennedy is a fishery scientist from Maryland's Department of Natural Resources.
Snakehead's an invasive species here in Maryland and we want it to go away. So we're trying to create a market.
And their strategy is kind of working.
MR. JOHN RORAPAUGH
Our biggest load so far has been 560 pounds in one day.
John Rorapaugh is with PROfish, a wholesaler in Northeast D.C., he's standing over crates of iced giant snakehead.
We have a couple hundred pounds that we got in yesterday and all this fish will be gone this weekend.
Now, are they a monstrous looking fish? That is a yes.
They have a boa constrictor-python look to them from the neck down. If you open up the mouth, it has a full row of teeth in the front on the lips and then it has bigger teeth set back into the mouth.
It cannot walk on land, that was just a rumor, but they can breathe air by gulping and they can survive for long periods out of water. And are they ravenous? Yes. Check out what they found in these guys' bellies.
AA batteries, mice, birds' feet, we've found turtles, baby turtles, anything that swims past them that's living, they'll eat.
But guess what? They are delicious.
We're actually next door. Louie's Diner is right next to our warehouse. So earlier, I brought over some snakehead fillet for him and he put a light marinade on them. So we're going to throw them on the grill and let you taste them.
All right. Let's try. This is great. It's so -- it's dense, it's almost not like fish.
When you bite into it, it almost feels like it falls apart because it's so tender.
This fish is mostly just available in fancy restaurants right now and it's kind of pricey, plus it's called snakehead and looks like Jacques Cousteau's nightmares so it's not totally taking off yet, as delicious as it is, so it's very much still here and very much a part of the ecosystem now.
MR. JOHN ODENKIRK
The entire Potomac River system, including non tidal and tidal, from Great Falls all the way to Chesapeake Bay.
John Odenkirk is a biologist with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. And he's standing on a boat on the Occoquan River, basically he's tasering fish.
So what we'll do is we'll start shocking and the generator is going to be running the whole time.
He's actually surveying the fish population.
We're actually putting electricity current in the water, about a 1,000 volts DC. So don’t fall in.
Two sets of electrodes, they look like tire size aluminum spiders, are dangling into the water ahead of the boat. The generator goes on...
...and fish fly everywhere. Glimpse of silver flash over the surface as fish of all types start spasming toward the cables.
Actually, as the electricity goes through the fish, it forces the fish to sort of -- in a trance. It's like zombies in a trance.
And then one, two, three enormous snakeheads emerge from the depths. Odenkirk scoops them up in a 10 foot long pole net.
That's awesome. When you hit them like that. They're not the easiest fish to work with either. They're kind of uncooperative. He measures the fish...
It's got a unique number on it, it says remove tag, report location and kill fish.
...and throws them back. The idea is to figure out how fast they grow and where they travel to. In a half hour, they catch 35 snakeheads, up to three feet long. Odenkirk is also catching largemouth bass.
So we're trying to track both populations. The contention is that if the bass population was hurting, some people making that contention because of the snakeheads presence, but it's not what we're seeing at all. This year's been a phenomenal year for bass.
In fact, Odenkirk says, it looks like the snakeheads aren't turning out to be the monster people feared.
We still don't know. We don't have enough information to really make that call yet and we probably won't for several more years. But it does look like some of the initial hysteria was probably overstated. Not probably, it was almost surely overstated.
The real question is how much further the population will expand, geographically and in terms of numbers.
If it tops out where it is now, like it seems like it might be, based on last year's data, I think it'll assimilate and not really cause a lot of damage.
What could be a big deal, though, is if the fish gets into isolated streams or if it gets into an area where there's an endangered fish species. It has Virginia worried enough that the Common Wealth isn't ready to allow the sale of snakeheads for fear that that would encourage people to spread the fish themselves. But back in Maryland, Carrie Kennedy is trying a sample for her wedding.
It's really good. The best thing would be if it wasn't around at all, but you know what, if you have lemons, you might as well make lemonade.
I'm Sabri Ben-Achour.
For photos and videos as well as recipes for snakehead and a list of places where you can order the invasive fish, check out our website, metroconnection.org.
After the break, a veteran baseball player remembers his glory days in the game.
MR. ELOYD ROBINSON
They came to Danville in '48 for their spring training there at the park. And I went over there, you know, I thought I was pretty good. I went over there and then I made the team.
That and more, coming your way on "Metro Connection," here on WAMU 88.5.
Transcripts of WAMU programs are available for personal use. Transcripts are provided "As Is" without warranties of any kind, either express or implied. WAMU does not warrant that the transcript is error-free. For all WAMU programs, the broadcast audio should be considered the authoritative version. Transcripts are owned by WAMU 88.5 FM American University Radio and are protected by laws in both the United States and international law. You may not sell or modify transcripts or reproduce, display, distribute, or otherwise use the transcript, in whole or in part, in any way for any public or commercial purpose without the express written permission of WAMU. All requests for uses beyond personal and noncommercial use should be referred to (202) 885-1200.