Invasive fish that can breathe air, travel on land found in Gwinnett

State wildlife officials: If you come across northern snakehead, kill it immediately

An invasive fish species capable of breathing air and traveling short distances over land has been found in a Gwinnett County pond.

A northern snakehead was caught in a pond on private property last week. The pond is in the Yellow River Watershed between Interstate 85 and Lilburn, according to Melissa Cummings, a spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. The fish, native to Asia, does not have any natural predators in American waters, which can allow it to cause significant ecological damage.

This is the first confirmed sighting of a snakehead in Georgia, according to the DNR. It’s illegal to possess snakehead in Georgia without a wild animal license.

The snakehead is long and thin, similar to a bowfin, which is native to Georgia. Snakeheads can grow up to three feet long, and have a long dorsal fin running along their back. The fish can breathe air and survive on land for up to four days out of water if they remain wet, according to National Geographic. The snakehead has been known to travel up to a quarter-mile across wet land.

If found, the snakehead should be killed immediately and frozen, according to DNR. Anglers should note where they found the fish; take photos of the fish, including close-ups of the mouth, fins and tail; and report it to DNR.

“Our first line of defense in the fight against aquatic invasive species, such as the northern snakehead, are our anglers,” said Matt Thomas, chief of fisheries for the DNR Wildlife Resources Division, in a press release. “Thanks to the quick report by an angler, our staff was able to investigate and confirm the presence of this species in this water body. We are now taking steps to determine if they have spread from this water body and, hopefully, keep it from spreading to other Georgia waters.”

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