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Highly-Invasive Snakehead Fish Found In Upper Potomac Near Great Falls

POTOMAC, Md. (WJZ) -- You can't keep a bad fish down.

The highly-invasive Chinese snakehead fish has found a way past a natural barrier into the Upper Potomac River.

As WJZ's Alex DeMetrick reports, it moved with the help of some old-fashioned engineering.

With 20 waterfalls and a drop of 76 feet, Great Falls is a Potomac River barrier that is tough to beat.

But this fish has apparently done it.

Chinese snakehead fish have made it above the falls, using the 18th century engineering of the C & O Canal.

Maryland's DNR found one in a canal above the falls.

It's almost a dead on certainty other moved from here to the river.

"It's really just a hop, skip and a jump to the river. So we think they've actually escaped the locks," Joseph Love, with DNR inland fisheries, said.

Snakeheads first showed up in a Crofton pond in 2002.

A pair of the fish were released here.

By the time a fisherman caught this full-sized adult, hundreds of babies had hatched.

Efforts to contain the fish to the pond failed and snakeheads moved into Maryland waterways.

Now that snakeheads have managed to get above this natural obstacle, there's no getting rid of them in the Upper Potomac.

"They're absolutely not going anywhere," Love said. "If I've learned anything from working with snakeheads, once you've seen them in your waterway, they're likely going to be there for a long time, if not forever."

For native fish, that's not good news.

A top line predator, snakeheads are a highly competitive species that breeds in large numbers.

And they find a way to adapt even to waterfalls and rapids.

DNR biologists say the only way to keep the snakeheads numbers down is for people to catch them.

It won't eliminate them, but it could help slow their spread.






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