State hopes to control snakehead population with contest

Snakeheads, which were illegally introduced into the Potomac River as far back as 2004, will continue to have a price on their nasty-looking heads.

For the second straight year, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources will be offering prize money as part of a yearlong contest to kill the predators.

The top prize is a $200 gift card from Bass Pro Shops. Other prizes include a Maryland State Passport that gives anglers and others free entry to state parks and boat launches as well as discounted boat rentals.

According to Don Cosden, Inland Fisheries director, 69 anglers submitted proof of catching 82 snakeheads last year. Cosden said snakeheads remain in "moderate abundance" in the Potomac. They also have been seen as far away as the Rhode and Nanticoke rivers.

Cosden said a small number of snakeheads were found in a few ponds throughout Maryland as far back as 2002, but the population continues to grow.

It is not known how the snakeheads found their way into the Potomac. One theory was that after Maryland and Virginia both outlawed having live snakeheads in fish tanks, those who owned them dumped the snakeheads into the river.

While not nearly as prevalent as carp and bass, snakeheads are plentiful enough "that those trying to catch other kinds of fish have a reasonable chance of catching snakeheads," Cosden said.

Snakeheads are known to harm the local fish population.

Anglers can enter the contest by submitting the details of their snakehead catches and submitting a photo of the dead fish on the DNR's Angler's log.

Three winners will be picked at random in November.

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