Slamming Snakeheads: A Tutorial for Catching an Invasive Species

Slamming Snakeheads:   A Tutorial for Catching an Invasive Species

The Northern Snakehead is an invasive species from Asia that got its start in the United States as pets, sold in many aquarium stores. This fast-growing fish is shrouded in legend and myth, yet is extremely exciting to target and even more fun to catch. Catching it can be a challenge, even though many hook up with this toothy fish while targeting other species. However with an understanding of when to target Frankenfish, practicing effective lure presentation and knowing where they hide, maybe you too can connect with the best fighting freshwater fish in the state.

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Mike Schwander with a lil’ snakehead

I feel that it is important that I make one statement before sharing the extreme basics of targeting snakehead.  DNREC and all other similar agencies (which go by different call letters in different states) REQUEST that all Snakeheads be killed on site. Possession and or transportation of a living snakehead is illegal in all states, however, catch and release is perfectly legal in all states.

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Northern Snakehead

The best time to catch a Northern Snakehead is simple, it’s whenever you are fishing in waters that happen to have a population.  Several anglers will tell you that the best time to catch them is at night, while just as many will say early in the morning or just before the sun sets. Almost all successful Snakehead anglers will agree that the incoming tide is the best time to target the species, and in my experience, I have found that this to be true. The time of day in the aspect of the sun’s location has little to do with success unless the moon is full or within a few days of being full. If this is the lunar condition, finding a snakehead during mid-day can prove challenging to even the best of angler.

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Chad Betts with an northern snakehead … 11.3 lbs. Second one in as many days from the Nanticoke.

Lure presentation is as simple as it is important. While targeting snakeheads, be ready to do more casting per hookup than you generally would invest. I have casted into the same place as many as nine times before enticing our Asian friend to take a bite. In my experience, the Northern Snakehead spook easily, so please, make your lure splash minimal by putting less of an arch in your cast. Be aware that trolling motors do make noise and in my opinion, can spook the fish. Many successful Northern Snakehead anglers fish from the bank or from kayaks.  From my observations, snakeheads generally sit with their tails to the shoreline. Fishing parallel to the shore will increase your ability to put the lure in front of them. When the sun is high in the sky and the water is at its warmest, go deep. I have had much success with inline spinner baits of various sizes.

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Emory (Dutch) Baldwin III from Indian Head, Md with his 18.4 pound snakehead. Setting the new Maryland northern snakehead state record.

Northern Snakehead love to hide, especially in the morning and evening. During these times look for the conditions known as “The four S’s”. Shallow, Sketchy, Slow moving, and Stank. Northern Snakeheads will generally favor gradual sloping shallow areas in the morning and will come back to them close to sunset.  Every angler has a place on their favorite body of water that they refuse to throw their lure in fear of snagging it or worse yet, losing it. These sketchy places are among the favorite hiding spots of snakehead, especially grass, overhanging trees and hydrilla. This toothy beast is known as a lazy creature, they will often be found in the slowest moving water if one is fishing a river or creek.  My personal favorite of ‘The four S’s”, happens to be Stank. Stank areas are stinky, slimy, and nasty places that one would not think a fish would want to be in.  Since all species of Snakehead can gulp air from the surface, these areas are one of their favorite places to hide. I recommend fishing weedless frogs in stank water.

Northern Snakehead mouth, delaware, sussex county, newcastle county, kent county, becks pond
Northern Snakehead mouth

Hopefully this basic introduction into the world of catching Northern Snakeheads will help you to hook up with our beautiful invasive friend.  This strong fighting, elusive, invasive, misunderstood fish can be a wonderful experience to catch. If you would like more information on Northern Snakehead, please check out the Facebook Group Delaware Snakehead Fishing.

Tight Lines!!

Mike Schwander

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