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Snakeheads undetected in Pool 2 of Arkansas River

BY Randy Zellers

ON 06-20-2018


June 20, 2018

Randy Zellers

Assistant Chief of Communications

DUMAS – Recent electrofishing surveys for northern snakeheads, which have been found downstream of Wilbur D. Mills Dam in Desha County, have not been able to locate any of the invasive species in the river or backwaters upstream of that dam.

Mike Sundberg, fisheries biologist specialist at the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Monticello office says an angler reported a snakehead in Old Merrisach Lake last year, and biologists were able to electrofish and eliminate eight more of the fish from that body of water, which is nearby but isolated from the river. This year, biologists sampled Coal Pile Lake, Moore Bayou, Post Lake, Merrisach Lake and Post Canal as well as Old Merrisach Lake.

“No snakeheads were found in the river or canal and only one was caught in Old Merrisach Lake during our electrofishing samples,” Sundberg said. “We will continue to monitor for the species upstream of the dam and keep an eye on any population growth in Old Merrisach as well.”

Biologists first documented northern snakeheads, an invasive species from Asia, in Arkansas in April 2008 when a farmer near Brinkley reported one wriggling along a gravel farm road near a shallow ditch. The species is similar to bowfin, and has a primitive lung that allows it to gulp air for oxygen and survive for a short time out of the water. Despite a massive effort by fisheries biologists to eradicate the species in the area where it was discovered, some persisted and have been able to spread through portions of the White River and even as far as Mississippi. While it’s unclear what impact the snakeheads will have on shallow-water fisheries in Arkansas, biologists ask anyone who catches a snakehead to kill it and report it to their local AGFC office as soon as possible.

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