In just the past few years snakehead fishing has taken off in popularity and for good reason. Pound for pound the snakehead ranks up there with the northern pike as the most voracious feeding fish you can catch.
I have spent a lot of time catching them in the tributaries of the Potomac and Rapphannock rivers in Virginia, but the invasive species (they originated in Asia) are spreading so fast that you can now catch them in 14 states. Want to get in on the action? Here are a few tips to get you going.
Big sticks. Heavy line. Solid reels.
This is not a sport for the weak. Much more than just a flimsy old crappie rig is needed here. Spool up some heavy braid line on a heavy rod. You are going to need to lay into these fish on the bite and a stout composite rod will help you set the hook.
Snakeheads have tough, thick bony heads so sharp hooks are required. Keep a set of pliers handy for taking out the hook. I’ve had a few 10+ plus snakeheads completely destroy the treble hooks on a lure. Bring a few extra lures as they will get munched hard. And watch your digits. They have razor sharp teeth and will shred your fingers trying to remove a hook or your toes at the bottom of the boat.
Throw the right lure…which is almost anything
Snakeheads will lie close to the shore waiting in ambush and attack anything that swims by it if it thinks it can get a meal. They have incredible appetites. But they are easy to spook so your best approach is a quiet one.
For the most fun you can have on these fish throw a topwater lure. Something like a Whopper Plopper or a Booyah Pad Crasher Frog will bring big strikes. The intensity of the snakehead’s crash on a lure is hard to match.
My sons also like to throw chatterbaits, buzzbaits, spinners and soft plastics to these fish. They find success with almost everything.
Fish the right spots
Do some research to find out where the nearest hotspot for snakeheads is around you. Most state wildlife divisions are keeping a close eye on this species and are encouraging people to fish (and kill) them. In a lot of places it is illegal to transport them alive.
Snakeheads will lie in ambush along the banks of the river or lake and blend in with heavy cover and deep vegetation. Some preferring a muddy bottom. Like most fish they prefer structure to hide under. On tidal rivers I prefer to fish an incoming tide and find the grassy holes where large groups of minnows are swimming around schooled up. Snakeheads love to attack minnows and you’ll see them jumping sometimes to avoid them passing through. However, they do not move in schools and once you have caught one keep moving to the next spot.
Snakeheads are delicious to eat grilled, fried or even smoked. The fish has received a lot of press over the years as an out-of-control invasive species that may one day spread across the country and decimate native fish populations. Others think the hype is over-blown and appreciate the fish’s success at becoming an overnight success as a sought after gamefish.