Posted: Thursday June 30, 2005 4:06PM; Updated: Friday July 1, 2005 3:50PM
Anglers, I feel your pain.
Despite the ever-expanding number of SI.com columnists (we're multiplying at the rate of Starbucks, it seems, as well as subsisting on it), nobody gives you fishing news. The only gill you'll read about here is Kendall (Boxing? Really?), while the flounder reports are mostly confined to Yankees columns (Has Tony Womack hung himself yet?)
You're reeling. Tide reports are confined to Crimson, and Marlin-baiting to Mike Lowell. Nowhere will you see a weekly Fish Power Rankings (No. 1, for the 3,039th consecutive week, Shark...) The paucity of piscines in print is perplexing.
I should confess that I'm as likely to play Go Fish with my nieces as I am to go fish. Sometimes I go for runs along the Hudson River and see the diehards in the Fairway parking lot near 125 Street with their lines in the water and wonder what they are after. Hepatitis?
Still, I came across an article recently that lured me back to fishing. Our story begins three years ago, the summer of 2002. Do you remember the marine monster that was terrorizing, if not the entire country, than at least the mid-Atlantic states?
That's right: The northern snakehead.
The beast, an Asian import, seemed mythical. It was slimy and eel-like in appearance -- "a mottled brown torpedo" -- and could grow to more than three feet in length and weigh 15 pounds. The snakehead, later named Frankenfish, terrorized Maryland ponds. It had razor-sharp teeth and, the capability to survive out of water for up to three days. Just like Amanda Beard.
Suddenly, with the advent of the northern snakehead, being a fish out of water was nothing at all like being a fish out of water.
I kept waiting for Hollywood to throw in an industrial accident or nuclear reactor mishap and create the summer blockbuster of 2003: Snakehead!
Then, as if from a Spielbergian-horror flick, the authorities moved in with heavy-handed methods. A Maryland pond was poisoned, yielding six dead adult snakeheads, 1,000 dead immature snakeheads.
And then, as soon as they'd arrived, the snakeheads vanished. Snakeheads, also known as Frankenfish, became just another casualty of 2002 pop culture, along with The Hives and Shakira.
Guess what? They're baaaaaack.
The freshwater foodchain champs have gone beyond the pond. Last summer 20 snakeheads were caught in the Potomac -- an estuary, for goodness' sake. This summer some 13 have already been hooked. That led local officials, with the full support of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, to hold a Snakehead Fish Roundup in early June. You know you're bad when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wants to whack your entire species. Bass Pro Shops in Hampton, Va., even placed a bounty of between $10 and $50 per fish on every snakehead caught and killed.
Said Anna Cherry of the National Invasive Species Council, "You don't want it [a snakehead] to stay alive. It doesn't belong here."
Upon reading that I was shocked: There's a National Invasive Species Council?
The good -- or is it bad -- news is that not a single snakehead was caught at the recent roundup. Either the snakehead has disappeared or, as I suspect, these fish also have a highly evolved intelligence (see Day of the Dolphin and Deep Blue Sea) and are plotting something much more sinister.