Can You Eat Snakehead Fish in Florida?

Snakeheads are exotic fish species that scare most of us. This invasive “Lake Monster” can live up to four hours out of the water and eat up small kids left unattended outdoors. In Florida and many other parts of the US, you should kill these fish as soon as you catch one. Unfortunately, the Snakeheads are taking over most water bodies in Florida. The Snakehead has actually become a targeted game fish in the Potomac River in Washington and South Florida. They are fun to catch and fight crazy when hooked, which makes the entire expedition exciting. But can you catch and eat snakehead fish in Florida? Read on to learn this and much more about this lake monster!

A Brief History of Snakehead Fish

Snakeheads are endemic fish that have invaded many water bodies in the United States. Snakehead fish get their name from the large scales on their heads and the circular shape of their bodies. Because of their shape, they look more like a snake than fish.

There are four types of snakehead fish in the United States:

  • Channa argus or northern Snakehead
  • Channa marulius or bullseye snakehead
  • Chamma maculate or blotched snakehead
  • Channa micropeltes or giant Snakehead

Snakeheads from Canada are most dangerous in aquatic ecosystems because they can easily infest aquatic plants. They have been present in Florida since 1997 and are a predator that has become a strong influence on many coastal areas, including: 

  • Florida
  • Illinois
  • Delaware
  • Massachusetts
  • North Carolina
  • New York

Snakehead fish are considered to be very dangerous and invasive in many states. The EPA advises people to kill and freeze the fish, protected by a plastic bag. You should also report what kind of fish you caught to the nearest fisheries agency. 

Is the Florida Snakehead Good to Eat?

Snakehead is a great choice for chefs because it is firm but also flaky and white. Most people say that cooking snakehead fish is very easy, and it can be done in a variety of ways, such as grilling it or frying it in a pan, or putting it on a grill that is already seasoned. Snakehead fish is delicious when eaten with chips.

Generally speaking, snakehead fish are delicious, but people have discovered they are not particularly attractive. This invasive fish species has been a mainstay of many Asian people for many years and is even regarded as a delicacy in Singapore. Some people in Singapore believe that cooking snakehead with green apples can cause the fish to have a nice flavor. At some Asian restaurants, “Fresh Fish w/ Flaming Chili Oil” is one of the most popular dishes, and it features no other fish but the Snakehead! In fact, Snakehead fish is as popular as the famous “Ponda Chicken” or any of our other mainstay dishes.

Customers absolutely love how sweet the salty fish tastes, combined with the incredibly tender and flavorful meat that comes with the fish! Ask diners who have dined at some Asian restaurants in Florida and tried this dish. They will likely say yes, snakehead fish is actually delicious.

Northern Snakehead Fish

How to Catch Snakehead Fish in Florida

Snakeheads are found in tight canals across south Florida, often hiding under weed lines, under docks, or in other areas where boats are docked or where timber is placed. If there is no one swimming past, they will lie and wait to catch their prey. Snakeheads will stay in shallow water a good deal of the time, but fishing deeper water with baits like Spinnerbaits or Chatterbaits can be great ways to lure them out. 

Spinnerbaits or Chatterbaits will work great to get them to come out of the water if the water is deep. Just work your bait close to the area where you think they will be. You can cast a frog bait deep enough to catch them. Many anglers use a medium-heavy baitcasting setup with a 12-pound test and 20-pound fluorocarbon leaders (similar to what you use for bass fishing). Leaders help prevent fish from breaking off, particularly when fishing around submerged timber. 

Cast a frog rigged to be completely weed-free into deep water to “strike” the fish. You can also do this by casting shallow water bait completely underwater like you would when fishing for skirted baits. For good action, use dark frogs, such as Bruiser’s baits in Houdini color. It’s best to rig it with a 3/8″ diameter VMC hook and a 5/32″ long red spinner bait. You can also use a 2-inch wire tied to a medium-heavy spinning combo that contains 15 pounds of braid, similar to what redfish do. 

Some anglers use spinning gear to cast soft plastic baits to get snakehead fish to move out of the water. You can fish about ten feet from the spawning area and reel in the flies as fast as possible to keep the bait up in the water and let them do their job. This leaves a lot of water behind, as a Buzzbait does. 

Snakeheads are very strong fish. When they wake up, you will see them come out of the bushes to attack the bait. Do a quick check to see if the fish has taken the bait, and if it has, set the hook to hook them. When that happens, they start the fight! It is extremely exciting to watch a large fish fight.

One of their most popular moves is the “death roll.” Snakeheads fight like redfish because they try to move toward the bottom as quickly as possible. Snakeheads love to roll down the beach and fight, and sometimes they will even kill a spinnerbait. They are extremely fierce, even when you get them into your net and get a great hold of their jaws. 

Fish Grip Locks (or other like-bodied fishing lures that help hold a rod in place) are quite handy because they allow you to lock the rod to the boat with great force. If you manage to catch a Snakehead “death roll” when you hook up with a Fish Grip Lock, you’ll experience a very satisfying fight! Snakeheads are extremely strong and will fight with any of your bait. That is why they are a very popular species of fish. Catching Snakehead in the 25″ range is disappointing when they are averaging 40″, but the fights are really fulfilling.

How to Prepare and Serve Snakehead Fish

Snakehead meat is very versatile since it is firm, flaky, and white. Most people have cooked snakehead fish in a pan by baking it in the oven or grilling it on a special grill. Snakehead fish are very tasty when eaten with potatoes, which is why people love eating this combination. 

People enjoy catching, frying, and eating snakehead fish because they want to protect the fish that this species eats. But you should be very cautious when eating snakehead fish, just as you would be cautious when eating any other fish. Some research findings suggest that some of the fish’s fat contains chemicals that may cause cancer.

People who consume too much oily fish like this can exhibit health problems. It is beneficial to remove all the skin from cooked fish and to thoroughly clean it before consuming it. Chefs also meticulously remove as much fat as they can from their cooked snakehead fish. It is important to remove as much fat as possible from the belly and around the lateral lines of the fish.

One great way to get rid of as much fat as possible from a snakehead fish is to cook it in an oven on a hot rack or on a hot grill. These methods will cause the excess fat from the fish to drip down onto the rack or barbecue used for cooking it. Overall, snakefish with blackened skin is very popular and very tasty.

Fried snakehead fish

Should You Kill Snakehead in Florida?

A couple of years ago, there was a belief that you should kill snakehead fish because they were threatening our ecosystem. However, FWC officials maintain that people were mistaken when they thought that the rules of the FWC prohibited harvesting this common fish species. There is no prohibition against catching and then letting go of any exotic fish you encounter in the wild. But it’s important to note that you cannot keep a Bullseye Snakehead alive. If you want to keep that fish, it must be dead. You cannot keep it alive in the living room to take photos later. 

Some people find that eating exotic species of fish is very tasty — and Snakeheads are no exception. Anglers who don’t want to eat the fish themselves could give them to relatives or friends. FWC does not support just putting dead fish on a riverbank to cause it to die naturally.

Fish and wildlife officials have not witnessed any impacts on native fish that are being threatened by the introduction of Bullseye Snakeheads into the ecosystems of our coasts. However, even though snakeheads aren’t very large, they are a large energy consumer in the watersheds that they live in, and they play an important role in the ecosystems that they live in. 

There are always potential impacts on other species, and the FWC continually stresses the importance of limiting the introduction of new species into the wild. This helps the conservation groups to be persistent, saying that new species should not be released into the wild and that existing species should not be moved to areas that are not their current ranges.

Wrapping Up

Snakehead fish makes good food. If that is what you are looking for, Bullseye Snakehead is a great option. It is also not hard to catch these fish. Simply keep moving the hook bait fast, work it close to the cover, and hold on for a big catch. Once you hook a fish, you are in for a great fight!

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