On the hunt for invasive, predatory Snakehead fish in Swift Creek Reservoir

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- The discovery of the non-native invasive Snakehead fish in Colonial Heights in April and then in Chesterfield County on Saturday is being taken seriously by Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) officials.

Wednesday morning, DGIF crews launched three boats onto Swift Creek to find out how established the Snakehead is in the reservoir.

Swift Creek Reservoir

Swift Creek Reservoir

The three boats searched shallow areas and the shoreline of Swift Creek Reservoir, Woolridge Basin and Otterdale Creek.

Both of the areas searched Wednesday and Lakeview Reservoir in Colonial Heights last week are part of the James River Drainage, which mark the first documented occurrence of a Snakehead in this area.

The Chesterfield Snakehead was reeled in by a fisherman.

"We're following up to see the kind of status of Snakehead in Swift Creek Reservoir," Bob Greenlee,  DGIF Fisheries Regional Manager, said. "Are they abundant, not very abundant?"

To find Snakehead fish, the three boats are equipped with small  generators which produce an electrical current.

"The electricity is relayed up to our booms on the front of the bow, pretty much 11 o'clock ad 1 o'clock, coming off the corner of the bow," Scott Herrmann, DGIF Regional Fisheries Biologist w said. "It allows us to temporarily stun the fish, allows whoever is on the bow to dip the fish with the wire nets and put them into the live well."

 Snakehead

Snakehead

The three boats made their way through lily pads, along the shoreline, and shallow areas where the Snakehead could be hiding.

On Wednesday the effort netted them Bowfin and Pickerel but no Snakehead.

"In the amount of time that we shocked, we've not seen a single Snakehead, so they're not well established in the reservoir at this point. Assuming they are established, they occur in relatively low abundances," Greenlee said.

Last week a much different result occurred at Lakeview Reservoir in Colonial Heights, where in less than 30 minutes, three Snakeheads were captured.

"Those fish we got in Lakeview are documentation that Snakeheads have been in this system, either in Lakeview itself or in some location, Swift Creek, for at least one spawning season, 2017 or most likely 2018," Greenlee said.