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After contest, fewer snakehead in Potomac

Monday - 7/1/2013, 12:33pm  ET

snakehead.JPG
Cliff Garner, captain of the Rod and Reel team, holds up two of the snakeheads his team caught. Their biggest fish weighed 10.72 pounds, and their total catch weighed 59.20 pounds. (WTOP/Thomas Warren)

MARBURY, Md. - After a big fishing competition over the weekend, the Potomac River has fewer snakeheads. Dozens of them went home with fishermen after the two-day Potomac Snakehead Tournament.

The event was held in Maryland's Smallwood State Park.

And while the winners went home with prize money, organizers of the event say it was a win for the region's marine life.

"This year I don't have the total count, but we should be taking lots of (snakeheads) out of the ecosystem, and we think that's a good thing," says Austin Murphy, the tournament director.

James Berry is not so sure. Although Berry's team -- Team Overkill -- caught the most snakeheads (14 for a combined 107.4 pounds), he said he feels that events like the tournament actually hurt the species of fish.

"I think there's more people pursuing them, so obviously it's not a catch-and-release thing," Berry says. "Everyone that's caught is killed, so it's taken a toll on them."

Murphy concedes that it's still too early to tell how harmful snakeheads are to the Potomac River, Rappahannock River and the Chesapeake Bay, where the fish have seemingly made their home.

"In time we'll really know the impact these fish have on the ecosystem, but now the jury's still out," he says.

Snakeheads have the ability to live on land for days, and because of that trait the Maryland Department of Natural Resources urges people to kill them if they come across them.

Aside from ridding the river of the invasive species, Murphy, who is an avid fisher and hunter, wants people to acquire a taste for snakeheads.

"Now that people really understand the flavor profile of a snakehead we hope that they will value the fish, so that more people will eat them commercially, in restaurants, in their homes," Murphy says.

The photo caption in this story has been corrected.

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