Tuesday, October 31, 2023

How to identify northern snakehead “Frankenfish,” an invasive, predatory fish

Northern snakehead fish

Almost as scary as Frankenstein’s Monster, northern snakehead are an invasive, predatory fish species native to Asia. Dubbed the “frankenfish,” northern snakehead can breathe air and survive for days out of water. Once established, these voracious predators have the potential to wreak havoc on an aquatic ecosystem – out-competing top predators, throwing off the balance of native fish communities and more.

When it comes to identifying northern snakehead, they’re commonly confused with bowfin and burbot, which are both native to New York. They are long, thin fish with a flattened head and a single dorsal (top) fin running the length of its back. They also tend to have a more pronounced blotchy pattern along their sides. Bowfin can most easily be distinguished from northern snakehead by a shorter anal fin and a rounded tail fin, while burbot have two dorsal fins and a single chin barbel.

Federal and state regulations strictly prohibit the possession, sale, and transport of snakeheads in the state.

Northern snakehead fish

Northern snakehead fish from the side. Photo courtesy of Joe Perillo.

How you can help:


For more information, visit the DEC northern snakehead webpage.

Photo at top: Northern snakehead fish. Photo courtesy of the NYS DEC.

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Information attributed to NYSDEC is taken from press releases and news announcements from New York State's Department of Environmental Conservation.

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