SOCIAL CIRCLE, Ga. — For the first time, Georgia Department of Natural Resources officials confirm that a northern snakehead, an aquatic invasive species, has been found in the state.

According to Georgia DNR, an angler reported catching two juvenile northern snakeheads in a pond on a private Gwinnett County property in early October. That's the first documented occurrence of snakeheads in the wild in Georgia, DNR said.

The fish are often introduced through unauthorized release, according to DNR. They can impact native species by competing for food and habitat.

"As adults, snakeheads can be voracious predators. Should snakeheads become established in North American ecosystems, their predatory behavior could also drastically disrupt food webs and ecological conditions, thus forever changing native aquatic systems by modifying the array of native species," the United States Geological Survey writes on its website.

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Fourteen other states have reported sightings of the snakehead.

The snakehead is a long, thin fish, similar in appearance to the native bowfin, according to DNR. They can get up to three feet in length. They have a long dorsal fin that runs along their whole back, and have a dark brown blotchy appearance. They can breathe air, and can survive in low oxygenated systems.

DNR said this is how anglers can help the spread of snakehead:

  • Learn how to identify northern snakehead.
  • Dispose of aquarium animals and plants in the garbage, not in water bodies.
  • Dispose of all bait in trash cans, at disposal stations, or above the waterline on dry land.
  • Dump water from boat compartments, bait buckets, and live wells on dry land.

If you believe you have caught a northern snakehead:

DO NOT RELEASE IT.

  • Kill it immediately (remember, it can survive on land) and freeze it.
  • If possible, take pictures of the fish, including close ups of its mouth, fins and tail.
  • Note where it was caught (waterbody, landmarks or GPS coordinates).
  • Report it to your regional Georgia DNR Wildlife Resources Division Fisheries Office (https://georgiawildlife.com/about/contact#fish)

In Georgia, it is unlawful to import, transport, sell, transfer, or possess any species of snakehead fish without a valid wild animal license. 

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