U.S. Water News Online
CHICAGO -- A northern snakehead -- a type of fish known for
its voracious appetite and ability to wreak havoc on freshwater
ecosystems -- has been found in Chicago's Burnham Harbor.
An angler caught the 18-inch fish recently, and thought it looked
so peculiar that he packed it in ice and posted a picture of it on
State biologists confirmed the fish was a northern snakehead, and
immediately made plans to scour the harbor near Lake Michigan with
electric cables to try to discover if others were there.
"I'm hoping this is just a random fish dumped out of an aquarium
by somebody who didn't know what to do with it,'' said Tom Trudeau,
head of the Lake Michigan fisheries program at the Illinois
Department of Natural Resources. "The fear is seeing their young in
the lake. If that happens, we're in trouble.''
The northern snakehead is a native of China, Korea and Russia and
can grow to more than three feet in length. It has large teeth and a
voracious appetite for other fish. Biologists fear the northern
snakehead, usually imported for food or aquariums, could gobble up or
out-compete native fish.
"I hope that it is the only one they find in Lake Michigan,'' said
Walter R. Courtenay Jr., a snakehead expert at the U.S. Geological
Survey. "If there is a male and female out there, anything can
Scientists also describe the northern snakehead as a
"Frankenfish'' for its ability to survive in oxygen-depleted water,
move from pond to pond and eat other fish.
"I don't think any of our native fish can wipe out the
snakehead,'' Courtenay said.
Chicago imposed northern snakehead bans two years ago, after an
angler found the fish in Maryland. It has also been spotted in
Washington, California, Texas, Alabama, Florida, Hawaii, North
Carolina, Virginia, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Maine.
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