Gwinnett County

Officials say 'snakehead' fish that can live on land may be invading Georgia

GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. — It sounds like something out of a horror movie: An invasive, predatory fish that eats everything in sight, can breathe air and live on land.

Officials say the fish, called the northern snakehead -- or "fishzilla" -- has been found in Georgia -- and it's bad news for native species.

Channel 2's Berndt Petersen was in Gwinnett County, where the invasive fish were caught in a private pond. The Department of Natural Resources won't reveal exactly where but said four have been caught since last Friday in the county.

Petersen talked to officials about why the fish could potentially destroy delicate ecosystems where it is found. The Georgia DNR said it is on a search-and-destroy mission to get rid of the fish, which are found in marshy habitats.

"We have boots on the ground here, and we're trying to understand the magnitude of the problem," Hunter Roop, with the DNR, said. "They have the potential to prey directly on bass. Especially younger bass."


The snakehead is native to Asia, but for the first time, it has showed up in Georgia.

"They're gonna come in and take over.  Most of the places they're in, they take over that particular habitat," said Tim Hawkins, manager at Hammond's Fishing Center.

Hawkins runs one of the biggest bait and tackle shops in the metro area and he said most of the anglers who come in have heard the disturbing news.

The snakehead is at the top of the food chain and has no natural predators in Georgia.

"They would be competing among all the stripe, spotted bass, all of the catfish," Hawkins said. "It wouldn't be a very good thing."

The snakehead can reach 3 feet in length and can survive on land for up to four days.

The DNR said they possibly originated in someone's aquarium and people dumped them.

Roop said if you happen to catch one, do not throw it back.

"We would ask say anglers that do catch a snakehead to kill it immediately," Roop said. "Then call the DNR so we can document when and where."

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