MDC confirms second northern snakehead captured in Missouri

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Fisheries management biologists with the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) confirm a second northern snakehead has been recorded in the state. The fish was captured by an angler May 19 while seining for bait at Duck Creek Conservation Area in Wayne County. The first northern snakehead recorded in Missouri was caught in a borrow ditch within the St. Francis River levees in Dunklin County in 2019.

MDC staff spent two days looking for additional specimens on Duck Creek Conservation Area and Mingo National Wildlife Refuge. This effort found no additional fish, likely indicating they’re in the area, but at low numbers.

The northern snakehead was discovered in eastern Arkansas waterways in 2008. Since then, its distribution has been expanding, spreading north through the waters of the St. Francis River watershed.

“Unfortunately, it was only a matter of time before we saw this species continue to spread in Missouri,” said MDC Fisheries Management Biologist Dave Knuth.

Snakeheads are an invasive species native to Asia. They’re aggressive predators, preying on native species and competing for resources.

“This fish has a wide temperature tolerance, can spawn multiple times in one year, and can survive in low-oxygenated waters by breathing air,” said Knuth. “The impacts of this species on native fish populations are still to be determined and it’s something we will have to follow over time.”

If you find a northern snakehead, MDC recommends the following:

  • Make sure it’s a snakehead. Northern snakeheads can be confused with the native bowfin. Snakeheads have a snake-like appearance with a much longer anal fin than the bowfin.
  • Do not release the fish or throw it on the bank, as it could migrate back to the water or to a new waterbody. Remember this fish is an airbreather and can live a considerable amount of time out of the water.
  • Kill the fish by severing the head or gutting it.
  • Photograph the fish so the species can be positively identified.
  • Report any sightings of the fish to MDC’s Southeast Regional Office at 573-290-5858.

MDC reminds the public it is illegal to import, export, sell, purchase, or possess a live northern snakehead in Missouri. MDC will continue to monitor its spread in the state.

Learn more about the northern snakehead fish and its negative impact on aquatic habitats at