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Does a snakehead by another name taste as sweet?

Freshwater snakeheads are top-level predators with an impressive knack for adaptability. The species also has a bad reputation for being an invasive species and in the opinions of many, are ugly to boot. As a consequence, the fish rarely makes it onto the dinner plate, but the Charles County Commissioners in Maryland want to change that by giving the fish a more appealing name.

“Snakeheads are considered a good eating fish but who wants to order snakehead for dinner?” asked the county government’s Facebook page.

Filet 'o snakehead, anyone?

Filet ‘o snakehead, anyone?

The first established population of northern snakehead was discovered in Maryland in 2002, and soon biologists began to fear a destructive breakout equaling that of Asian carp would occur along the East Coast. While snakeheads did begin to populate waterways in Pennsylvania, Virginia, New York, and other states in the region, many experts now say the introduction of snakeheads may not be as bad as it was once feared. However, the fish remains a concern because of the fact that it has few predators in North America and can mate up to five times a year.

Biologists say one of the most effective ways to control the population is to simply eat it. Unlike some other invasive species, many anglers who are acquainted with snakehead say the fish makes for a versatile and tasty meal.

“It tastes very good. I like them deep fried or grilled with onions and butter,” Maryland angler Brett Miron told the AFP.

In its native Asia, snakeheads are considered a delicacy. In North America however, its off-putting name and eel-like shape has kept it out of many seafood lovers’ diets. Charles County officials are planning to change that impression with a new moniker. For this purpose the county will be holding a contest running from January 7 to February 6 in the search of an appropriate name. According to the Chesapeake Current, some popular suggestions include the “Potomac Trout” and “Najemoy Sea Bass.” The winning name will be decided by a panel of judges and prizes will be awarded.

The winning name will then be submitted to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for consideration. While county officials have not said what the chances are of the DNR—or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for that matter—choosing the new designation over the previous one, the contest will draw more attention to snakeheads in the state.

“The contest is a great way to draw attention to the more than 200 miles of shoreline we are blessed with in Charles County. We often deal with very important issues. This contest is a way for our citizens to have some fun,” said Commissioner Ken Robinson.


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