Bowfishing for Snakeheads

Snakehead fish are big, plentiful and delicious; and you can bowfish for them all you want.

Want to learn more? Keep reading.

About Snakeheads

Northern Snakeheads are the heavier of the two subspecies. Photo Credit: Chesapeake Bay Program

Snakeheads get their name from their snake-like copper and black head. Large snakeheads lose that coloration and get almost entirely black.

The world has over 50 subspecies of snakehead fish, but only two subspecies — the bullseye and northern snakehead — have reached the United States. The northern snakehead is found mostly in Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and New Jersey; but its population is growing in Arkansas and Mississippi. They typically measure 12 to 36 inches, and the world record weighs 20 pounds.

The bullseye snakehead gets its name from the bull’s-eye on their tail. Photo Credit: nas.er.usgs.gov

The bullseye snakehead lives in southern Florida. It’s similar in length to the northern snakehead, but usually skinnier and lighter. It varies from black and copper to black and orange, with a characteristic orange “bull’s-eye” on its tail.

The meat from both snakehead species is white, firm and mildly flavored, which makes it excellent for many recipes.

Habitat

Creeks feeding into known snakehead river systems are excellent places to begin your hunt. Canals are also good bets. Look for ambush points near mud flats, deep channels and aquatic cover. Snakeheads prefer shallow warm-water areas with fallen or submerged brush and trees, or grass, lily pads, spatterdock and similar vegetation.

Strategy

These fish like to try to stay camouflaged. Hunting at night can help you illuminate them in the water. Photo Credit: Deer and Deer Hunting

The challenge in bowfishing snakeheads is spotting these well-camouflaged fish before they spook. Most experts prefer bowfishing at night when fish are less skittish. However, bowfishing during the day can be effective, especially when wearing polarized sunglasses.

When bowfishing tidal areas, you’ll find it easier to spot snakeheads when outgoing tides create low water that draws fish out of the weeds. Snakeheads look like long, dark shadows beneath the surface, but they’ll often make themselves vulnerable when surfacing to gulp air.

Regulations

No state has bag or size limits on snakeheads. Bowfishing offers no catch-and-release opportunities, so kill every snakehead you arrow as soon as soon as you lift it into your boat or onto shore.

Snakeheads are strong and slimy, which is another reason to dispatch them quickly. They’re much easier to handle for pictures and drop into your cooler when they’re not writhing and flopping.

Some states have specific regulations for killing fish, but severing the gills or head, or thumping their head with a fish bat are common methods.

If you’re ready to hunt a fun, delicious fish, grab your bowfishing gear and visit nearby snakehead waters.


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