‘Frankenfish’ found in Potomac tributary may break world record

Michelle Basch, wtop.com

WASHINGTON – A stunning new world record may have been set in the D.C. area.

A northern snakehead fish, which some people call “Frankenfish,” was pulled out of a tributary of the Potomac River by a Woodbridge man. The fish, which isn’t supposed to live in the D.C. area, weighed in at more than 18 pounds.

“We have an unofficial world record that was caught here on the Potomac River, over 18 pounds. And that’s pretty big,” says Potomac River bass fishing guide Steve Chaconas.

The current world record, set in Japan in 2004, is 17 pounds, 4 ounces.

The certification process is underway to determine if it really is an official International Game Fish Association all-tackle record.

“I caught a 14-pounder just a few weeks ago,” Chaconas says. “And I thought that was big.”

The fish is an invasive species that has only been seen in the area within the past 10 years.

However, Chaconas says fears that the snakehead will harm native species in the Potomac haven’t panned out.

“They’re getting bigger and bigger, while at the same time we’re not really noticing a significant change in other fish populations,” says Chaconas. “Whether it’s bass or crappie or any of the yellow perch. So they seem to be coexisting pretty well.”

Although he’s a bass fishing expert, Chaconas also regularly fishes for snakehead with biologist John Odenkirk of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries so both can keep tabs on what the snakeheads in the Potomac are up to.

Odenkirk says it’s clear the Potomac is now home to many, many snakeheads.

“The numbers of fish out there seems to be increasing, although it was flat last year for the first time since I’ve been doing surveys and since 2004. So we’re not sure if that was an anomaly,” Odenkirk says.

“Maybe it’s a variability of the data, or in fact maybe they’ve topped out in some of the initial creeks where they were colonized. What that might mean is there’s an equilibrium that’s been established, but so far it’s too early to say for sure.”

Both men are encouraging people to catch snakeheads and eat them. Odenkirk says there shouldn’t be concerns with catching the fish from the Potomac River.

“Snakeheads are a fast growing fish. They’re not going to bioaccumulate the toxins (like) some other fish (do), so I think it’s definitely a good, nutritious way to deal with this issue,” says Odenkirk.

Anglers in Maryland and Virginia are asked to report their snakehead catches. In Maryland, anglers can report what they catch and send in photos to the Maryland Angler’s Log. In Virginia, contact the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

Maryland has a video on how to identify snakeheads and how to kill them.

In 2004, the Sci-Fi Channel released the movie “Snakehead Terror.” You can watch the trailer below, but don’t worry, the Frankenfish found in the Potomac aren’t dangerous to humans.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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