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An invasive snakehead fish species has been removed from a Manatee County pond

Photos of two long fish, top one is darker, bottom one is lighter and longer.
Zachary S. Randall
Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida
Two of the juvenile goldline snakehead fish removed from a Manatee County pond in the summer of 2020. About 400 of the invasive fish were eventually removed from the pond by Florida wildlife officials.

The Florida Wildlife Conservation Committee has worked with a Manatee County community to remove the goldline snakehead fish from a local pond.

Fish come in all shapes and sizes. Some can breath air, some can walk on land, and a few even prey on amphibians.

The goldline snakehead fish does all three.

The invasive species was first spotted in Manatee County by a local fish enthusiast in 2020. Shortly after the discovery, the United States Geological Survey began to research the species' impact on the environment.

In addition to a very wide diet of anything from small fish to plants and amphibians, the fish shows impressive resilience by breathing oxygen and hunting on land. One USGS biologist even reported seeing the snakehead slither on to land to catch a tree frog.

When the research concluded, USGS officials saw that the possibility of ecological harm from the fish was too high and elected to wipe out the population.

The Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission reports that they removed and disposed of over 400 snakeheads from the Manatee County pond in spring 2021 after chemically treating the water.

two buckets with a variety of fish from a chemically treated pond
Leo G. Nico
U.S. Geological Survey
The goldline snakehead fish and a number of other non-native species were taken from a pond in Manatee County in May 2021.

The appearance of the goldline snakehead on Florida's west coast is believed to be due to humans introducing the fish to the area.

The fish has also been an invasive species in Broward County for over 20 years — but it's not like the snakehead is going to take over Florida.

“Here we are, 23 odd years later, and there are snakeheads in Broward, Miami-Dade, in West Palm Beach County, they didn't spread throughout the entire state,” said Robert Robins, the ichthyology manager at the Florida Museum of Natural History.

“At least based upon that population in southeast Florida, they don't seem to be champion dispersers and colonizers of vast areas of Florida like some of these other fish have done.”

Robins emphasized that there are more invasive species in Florida than people might realize, pointing to 37 species of non-native fish from other countries as an example.

"I'm sitting here in my office, and I'm looking at a poster of some of Florida's exotic freshwater fishes. And there's at least three or four others on there that I would consider more invasive than snakehead, but snakehead, the name is exciting, right?"

Thomas Ouellette is is the WUSF Rush Family / USF Zimmerman Radio News intern for spring of 2023.
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