Features and behaviors of Northern Snakehead

Northern Snakehead Invasive Species

Northern Snakehead Invasive Species are fishes of the family Channidae are commonly referred to as snakeheads and consist of two genera (Channa and Parachanna) and approximately 21 species. Eighteen species from the genera Channa are native to Asia while three species from the genera Parachanna are found in tropical Africa. Snakeheads are freshwater fish, but a few may tolerate low salinity waters. Snakeheads can resemble native bowfin, have well toothed jaws and palates, and breathe atmospheric air through the use of a simple labyrinth organ. The ability to breathe air allows snakeheads to survive in habitats with low dissolved oxygen. They can also survive out of the water for several days if their skin remains moist.

Snakehead Fish

The northern snakehead is a predatory fish that can live in a wide variety of water conditions. They have the ability to “walk” short distances on land and their lung-like organ allows them to survive out of water for up to four days. Northern snakeheads can reach up to 85 cm and have a dark and light brown mottled, thin elongated body. They have a large mouth filled with teeth and a single long dorsal fin.

Northern Snakehead Invasive Species are long, thin fish

Northern Snakehead Invasive Species are long, thin fish with a single dorsal fin running the length of the fish. The overall color is brown with dark blotches. It has a somewhat flattened head with its eyes located on the top (dorsal) side of its body. It has tubular nostrils and elongated dorsal and anal fins. Males are darker in color, and have a broader head, as compared to females. Juveniles have a similar color and pattern as adults.


The northern snakehead has been described as a voracious predator of fishes, freshwater crustaceans, and amphibians. This fish can consume a wide variety of food including fish, amphibians, insects, invertebrates, small reptiles, birds, and mammals.


This fish prefers stagnant shallow ponds, swamps, or slow moving streams and rivers with mud substrate and aquatic vegetation. Female snakeheads average about 40,000 eggs but can release up to 100,000 eggs and can spawn multiple times per year. Newly hatched larvae are protected by one or both parents until they reach the juvenile stage. Sexual maturity is reached in two years when the total body length is about 12 inches.


Snakeheads are big, ugly, and vicious, and often are hooked near heavy cover, so heavy line on a heavy rod with a stiff tip is in order. Think of fishing for them like fishing for bass, but bigger, meaner, and more likely to swim into snags when hooked up. Snakeheads can be caught on both lures and live bait.

As a general rule of thumb lures tend to be more effective during the warmer months of the year and bait works best during the cooler months of the year. But this can vary quite a bit with weather patterns, and a sudden warm-up in the spring or fall can create great conditions for lure fishing when live bait worked best just days before. Conversely, a cold snap can weaken the bite on lures while live bait anglers suddenly do better.

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