2018-05-16 / Front Page

Snakehead found at Swift Creek reservoir


Officials from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries conducted an impromptu fish survey on the Swift Creek Reservoir last week after being notified that somebody caught a northern snakehead fish – a species invasive to this area – at the reservoir on May 5.

Crews launched three boats equipped with special devices capable of stunning fish so they float to the surface and can be plucked out of the water with a net. The fish are stored temporarily in a live well for identification, then returned to the water.

They searched the area near the Woodlake side of the reservoir, where the fisherman reportedly reeled in the snakehead, and other aquatic habitats that could be attractive to the species, but found no additional snakeheads.

Still, the first reported sighting of a snakehead in Chesterfield is cause for concern because the non-native fish is an aggressive predator that tends to reduce biodiversity by dominating other species. According to the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, most new occurrences of snakeheads are due to people deliberately – and illegally – attempting to stock waters with them.

“Obviously, my concern was making sure it wouldn’t affect our hydrilla control program,” said George Hayes, director of the county’s Utilities Department, who is responsible for preserving the reservoir as a drinking water source.

The Swift Creek Reservoir already is home to hydrilla, an invasive aquatic plant that has made life miserable for boaters while increasing the county’s water treatment costs.

Unrelated to the snakehead discovery, Hayes’ staff stocked the reservoir with another 500 sterile triploid grass carp last Thursday. The young carp, which average 12-14 inches in length, help control hydrilla growth by eating their weight in the plant on a daily basis.

The county has purchased and deployed 15,000 carp since April 2010. Hayes said he spoke to officials from Game and Inland Fisheries, who informed him that snakeheads prey only on fish that are shorter than 12 inches in length. ¦

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