Snakehead Fishing In South Florida
Snakehead Fishing In South Florida
Snakeheads...an exotic fish that has all of us running for our lives. This invasive "Lake Monster" can live up to four hours out of water and can consume small children left unattended while playing outdoors. These fish should be killed as soon as they are caught! The Snakeheads are taking over our waters, I say we should NUKE 'EM!... or let's just fish for them, less messy that way.
Now, let's get serious for a moment. Years back, it was believed that Snakeheads should be destroyed once caught as there was a fear that they would kill off any species that shared the water with these predatory beasts. Over the years, the Snakehead has in fact become a targeted game fish and big fish are being reported in the Potomac River in Washington, as well as my home area in South Florida. Now, while I can't speak for how to target them up in Washington, I know how to catch them down here and let me tell you, they are fun to catch and fight like crazy when hooked. Now I am going to get into a few ways I love to get them to strike.
Here in South Florida, from Wellington down through Coral Springs, I have found Snakeheads to frequent tight canals, and normally where there are thick weed lines, "Matted Muck", docks, or timber, there is a Snakehead lying in wait for prey to swim past. They will often stay in shallow water, so working deeper water won't necessarily be the best way to get them. A Spinnerbait or Chatterbait can be a great way to get them to come out from under-cover if the water is deep enough to work these baits. I run the bait parallel to where I think they will be. I normally use a Medium Heavy Baitcasting outfit with 12-pound test and a 20-pound fluorocarbon leader (similar to my bass fishing setups). The leader helps with preventing break-offs, especially when fishing near submerged timber. My absolute favorite way to catch them is by casting a weedless rigged frog "parallel" to this cover, just like I do with the skirted baits. For this technique, the frogs I use are dark in color and my favorite one is the Bruiser Baits Kickin' Frog in Houdini color. I rig it up with a 5/0 VMC Swimbait Hook. I use a Medium Heavy Spinning Combo with 15-pound braid tied directly to the hook. I find it easier to cast soft plastics with spinning gear. I cast the frog about a foot away from the cover/structure and I reel it just fast enough to keep the bait along the surface and let the paddle feet do their job, which produces a wake similar to that of a Buzzbait. When the moment comes, you will see the wake come from under the cover and "strike" the frog. I wait for a second or two to ensure the fish has the bait, then I set the hook and the fight has begun. Now, this is no ordinary fight. One of the Snakeheads favorite moves is the alligator "death roll". They fight very similar to a Redfish, as they charge downward as much as possible! Their death roll can make things interesting and has been known to claim the life of a spinnerbait from time to time. They will continue to fight even once you get them into your net and get the gripper in their mouth. Make sure you always have your gripper leashed to your kayak!! I have had a Snakehead "death roll" with my Fish Grip Lock and it pulled right out of my hand! These fish fight you with everything they have, and their size and strength is what makes them a sought-after game fish. Catching Snakeheads in the 25" range is somewhat of a letdown when they are reaching lengths close to 40". However, the few 35"+ ones that I have caught were fights I won’t soon forget.
Now like I mentioned earlier, there was a belief a few years ago that you should kill these fish because they were invasive. However, in speaking with the FWC, I was informed that there was a common misconception that the FWC rules prohibit traditional catch and release of exotic fish species. In their current interpretation of the rules, as confirmed by FWC council’s office, there is no prohibition against catching and immediately releasing an exotic fish. It is critical to note that you may not possess Bullseye Snakehead alive. If you’re going to retain the fish, it must be dead -- no putting the fish in the live well for pictures later or anything like that. FWC encourages anglers to harvest exotic fish, including Bullseye Snakehead. Many exotic fish taste delicious, and Snakeheads lead the way on that front. Anglers not wanting to eat the fish could simply give them to friends or neighbors. However, the FWC does not support just throwing Snakeheads, or other exotic fish, on the bank to die. The FWC has not documented any impacts on native sportfish populations from the presence or introduction of Bullseye Snakeheads. However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a recognition that they aren’t consuming energy in the systems where they occur or playing a role in the aquatic communities they inhabit. The potential for impacts always remains. This is a key reason that they constantly reinforce the message that new exotic species should not be released into the wild and existing species should not be moved outside current ranges.
Now, if you like to eat your day's catch, from what I have been told, the Bullseye Snakehead makes good table fare and catching these fish is not difficult. Keep the bait moving, keep it moving quickly, work it near cover and hold on...because once you hook one, you are in for a fight!
- FishOn ProStaff