Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Snakehead Encounters of the Strange Kind

***Warning: graphic dead fish images attached ***

Wow, where to start. Fished the eddies around Chain Bridge today. Immediately getting to the water there was a huge snakehead just lazily hanging out in the shallow water. I was able to touch it with my net and it swam off. For the next several hours the snakeheads rose and gulped or sipped air in front of us. They came up from the murky depths and took in some air like an alligator and then slowly sank bakd. Some came up literally under our feet, inches from the rocks we were standing on. They showed no fear of humans or rocks.

I threw a rock at one to see what would happen and all of the herring around it darted off and the snakehead just sat there. I threw another rock near it and nothing. The third rock made the fish lazily turn to the right and glide into deeper water.

We threw everything at them from Closuers to poppers and nymphs and streamers. I had one come up next to a popper which looked like it wanted to eat but now think it was just breathing. I foul hooked one in the tail as I was stripping in my line (used both sink tip and float). They showed no interest.

Not long after a guy showed up with one of those cast nets and tossed it in / sight cast the thing. Sure enough he pulled out 2 snakeheads in the first try. The smallest was well over 24" and is pictured next to my bat. The next toss out he pulled one in that was the biggest I have ever seen. It was longer than my arm and made the one at the casting call look minute. He used my aluminum bat to kill the thing. It took half a dozen hits before the skull caved in. The sound would be similar to someone hitting a line drive with an aluminum bat, it was loud or imagine taking a baseball bat to a stop sign. Call it cruel but we put the thing out of misery reasonably fast compared to where most food comes from. Unreal. The fish was then gutted to make it lighter for him to haul out of the river. Everyone took turns posing with the fish.

The fish was a female and full of eggs. Tiny, smaller than a poppy seed, and bright yellow. The stomach was completely empty except for one tiny little bone. I don't eat fish and have not cut one open since bio lab in college so I"m not too familiar with their insides. This one was strange indeed. I didn't recognize any of its internal organ system.

The big snakehead was secreting so much mucous that the sand on its body was being washed off. That is nasty. 

So do females do not eat this time of year while spawning? That would answer why they would not take a fly after 3 hours of casting (I caught plenty of herring, A. shad, and gizzards-one of the biggest I have ever caught, and the white perch were thick).

So it was a great learning experience for me to be out and seeing all of those fish coming up for air, rather gingerly and sipping rather than gulping, and then going back down. Lets hope these fish start taking flies and stop being such a mystery to the fly angler.

Schooling herring. Max with Shad.
White perch are in.

Max with the BIGGEST gizzard shad I have ever seen.

Holt with the small snakehead. Thats right, this is the small one.
Max with the small one.
Snakehead bashing time.
Beautiful color patterns on them.
Holt with his dinner.

Check out the chompers on this one.

Egg sacks from the (gravid) female.

Egg sacs next to dollar bill for measurement.


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