Monday, November 6, 2023
HomeOutdoorThe right way to Catch Snakeheads | Outside Life

The right way to Catch Snakeheads | Outside Life

Snakeheads are the perfect heat water sport fish: They reliably eat topwater baits with explosive bites. You don’t want a ton of specialised gear or electronics to catch them. They’re glorious desk fare. 

Plus, their house vary is increasing. In 2002 there was a comparatively remoted inhabitants of northern snakehead (that are non-native in U.S. waters) in Crofton, Maryland, and that vary has since expanded so extensively that they’re now repeatedly caught in eight states. Most notably, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey. These states are additionally stuffed with anglers who’ve adopted snakeheads as their new favourite sport fish. 

If these fish now swim in your house waters and also you need to expertise their topwater blowups, right here’s how one can catch snakeheads. 

What Anglers Have to Know About Snakeheads

There are a lot of misconceptions about snakeheads but the science says they aren't fish-eating monsters
Snakeheads reside in shallow backwaters and largely eat small baitfish Scott Einsmann

Snakeheads are a species native to east-Asia, however have been launched to international locations world wide by the pet commerce and unlawful aquaculture. Introducing a non-native species isn’t factor for a pure ecosystem, and wildlife companies have robust penalties for anybody caught spreading snakeheads to new water. Bucket biologists can face a $2,500 wonderful and as much as one yr in jail for illegally stocking snakeheads in Virginia. However, folks proceed to maneuver these fish into new waters regardless of the urging of biologists. And no, they aren’t strolling on land to new our bodies of water. Whereas snakeheads can survive out of water for brief durations of time, they can’t stroll on land. 

The Potomac River has had a snakehead inhabitants for over 20 years, and in response to, Virginia DWR biologist, John Odenkirk, snakeheads haven’t negatively affected sport fish populations. However, that’s the Potomac River. It’s a big and numerous waterway, which is a far cry from the small lakes and streams the place snakeheads have just lately been discovered. The long-term affect they might have on a smaller physique of water is unknown, which is why biologists urge all of us to not introduce them to new water.

What we do know is that we aren’t eliminating snakeheads in our bodies of water which have a longtime inhabitants. We’d as effectively embrace them in these fisheries and luxuriate in the brand new useful resource. There’s no have to kill each snakehead or throw them up on the banks within the identify of saving bass. Harvest them if you wish to eat the meat or launch them in case you don’t. 

Regardless of what you may hear on Fb, you possibly can legally launch snakeheads. Learn your state legal guidelines rigorously, however in my house state of Virginia, the regulation states you have to kill a snakehead in case you transfer it from one location to a different. So, in case you’re conserving a fish for the desk you possibly can’t hold it alive. That is to forestall spreading the fish into new our bodies of water. However in case you catch a fish and don’t need to eat it, you possibly can snap a photograph and launch it in the identical spot you caught it. 

The place to Discover Snakeheads

State sport companies have info on our bodies of water that maintain snakeheads. Beginning your snakehead hunt is as simple as discovering that information on-line and selecting a physique of water you need to goal. 

As soon as you choose a water, you’ll have to slender your search to snakehead habitat. In a tidal river, just like the Potomac, you received’t discover many snakeheads in the primary river stem. As a substitute, focus your efforts on the creeks that feed into the primary river. Snakeheads are sometimes present in shallow water that doesn’t have quick present, however does have loads of cowl. In lakes, get your hands on shallow bays with pad fields or grass. The backs of creeks that feed into the lake are additionally nice locations to prospect for snakes. Whereas snakeheads are sometimes present in vegetation like pads, hydrilla, and grass, in addition they use wooden cowl and docks when there isn’t a lot vegetation. 

Techniques for Catching Snakeheads

Choosing Aside Cowl

While you take a look at an enormous pad subject or grass mattress it might probably really feel overwhelming. You received’t have the ability to cowl all of it, however you don’t should. Snakeheads are ambush feeders, just like largemouth bass. So search for possible spots a snakehead would set as much as ambush its prey. Edges, factors, potholes, and something that’s just a bit completely different than the encircling cowl will draw fish. 

Sight Casting 

Whereas quite a lot of snakehead fishing includes blind casting and masking water effectively, you may also sight forged them. In shallow water, their dorsal fin will likely be above the water, and their tell-tale S-shaped wake is simple to identify. Additionally they breathe air and can come to the floor to breathe. Once they suck in air, they make a definite popping noise. 

One other occasion when it’s simple to sight fish is when snakeheads are guarding their fry ball. Fry are orange, and the fry ball seems like tiny raindrops hitting the floor. You’ll typically see them in very shallow water. The dad and mom will likely be close by and can readily assault something they assume are attempting to eat their fry. 

Tidal Water

In tidal waters, the tides play a giant function in fish location and feeding patterns. A falling tide is normally your finest guess for locating fish which can be actively feeding, however the most effective tide for catching snakeheads can fluctuate from one creek to the subsequent. In case you go to a creek on a tide and strikeout, don’t be afraid to strive it once more on a special tide cycle. 

Climate and Time of 12 months

Snakeheads don’t hibernate, however they do change into a lot much less lively within the winter and feed sometimes. The prime time to catch them is as quickly because the water warms up within the spring, normally when the bass begin spawning, till the water temps drop within the fall. 

Identical to different predatory fish, snakeheads will feed forward of a giant climate occasion. The night earlier than a storm hits will be extraordinarily productive, so it’s value it to sneak out of labor early on nowadays in case you can. Snakeheads are like bass in that they’re extra prepared to hit topwater baits throughout low mild circumstances and when it’s overcast. 

Snakehead Fishing Ideas

Shimano Nasci snakehead fishng
A skiff makes for a superb snakehead fishing vessel. Grant Alvis

Folks assume snakeheads are aggressive, ravenous fish that can eat something that swims, however in actuality they are often extraordinarily finicky and arduous to catch. Listed here are some strategies for flipping the percentages in your favor. 

Cowl Water Effectively

When you’re in a fishy space, the purpose is to effectively cowl water to discover a fish that’s able to eat. I’ll normally begin by working the sides of the duvet with a search bait like a Teckel Sprinker or a chatterbait. Then I’ll use a strolling or popping frog to hit particular spots that seem like they’ll maintain fish. If I’m fishing clear water and spot a fish, I’ll toss a fluke to it. A fluke can also be a really perfect follow-up bait (after a missed strike) and an important bait for pressured fish. 

Sticking a Snake

A blow up, swing, and a miss is a standard expertise for snakehead anglers. That’s as a result of these fish have arduous, small mouths and anglers typically set the hook too quickly. As a substitute of swinging for the fence as quickly because the fish grabs the frog, let it eat the frog, crank down, after which hit it arduous with a hookset. 

Catch Snakeheads on a Observe-up Bait

In case you miss a fish or the fish misses the bait, throw again into that very same space with a special lure. A fluke is right for following up on a missed fish, however something that has a special profile or motion can work too. 

Keep away from Spawning Snakeheads

When snakeheads are spawning, you possibly can throw each lure you may have at them, and so they received’t eat it. They’ve one factor on their thoughts, and it isn’t meals. The perfect factor to do in case you discover a bunch of snakes spawning is to strive a special creek or a part of the lake the place a brand new physique of fish is perhaps in pre or post-spawn.

Goal Unpressured Water

Snakeheads are one of the delicate fish on the subject of stress, so if you wish to catch them constantly, it pays to seek out water that different folks aren’t fishing. However, that doesn’t imply you want personal entry or an excellent secret spot. I typically fish Aquia Creek, one of the well-known and closely fished snakehead creeks, and catch fish by hitting areas which can be neglected or arduous to succeed in. 

Touchdown a Snake

In case you’ve hooked a fish and obtained it to the boat, the battle isn’t over. You’re about to land one of many slipperiest and most difficult-to-handle fish. Even once they’re within the web, they’ve been identified to leap out and disappear again into the hydrilla. The important thing to touchdown a snakehead is to get them within the web and fasten lip grippers. After you have the lip grippers safe, you’ll have the ability to grasp onto the fish by the headshakes and spirals it’ll throw at you. 

In case you assume taking a photograph with lip grippers is a googan transfer, I might usually agree with you, aside from with snakeheads. A gripper is the easiest way to ensure you don’t have a fish flop as a substitute of an important grip and grin. 

Snakehead Fishing Gear

Kayaks and Skiffs

You don’t want a dozen rods and Plano containers stuffed with lures to catch snakeheads. You additionally don’t want a decked-out bass boat with 1000’s of {dollars} in electronics. You simply want a vessel that may stealthy fish skinny water and might glide by a jungle of pads and hydrilla. That’s why a kayak is likely one of the finest methods to focus on snakeheads. One other nice choice is a small skiff that may be poled fairly than utilizing the trolling motor, which might spook snakeheads in shallow water and can get slowed down by vegetation. 

Rods, Reel, Line

You may get by with only one rod for snakehead fishing, however a three-rod system will mean you can effectively fish the three foremost classes of lures. Listed here are the three varieties of rods I convey on each journey.

Any of the most effective frog rods will work for snakeheads, however my go-to frogging rod is a Shimano Expride 7-foot, 6-inch additional heavy. It has the spine wanted to drive a frog hook right into a snakehead’s boney mouth after which haul them out of canopy. I pair that with a Shimano Curado DC XG as a result of it casts frogs a mile and the 8:5:1 retrieve ratio rapidly picks up slack that snakeheads typically knock within the line. I spool my frogging reel with 80-pound PowerPro Maxcuatro

For chatterbaits, I take advantage of a Dobyns Fury 7-foot, 3-inch heavy, quick rod, which is heavier than most anglers would use when throwing chatterbaits for bass, however I discover the additional energy is required for hooking snakes. I take advantage of a Daiwa Tatula reel with a 7:3:1 gear ratio spooled with 50-pound J-Braid

When snakeheads observe a frog or miss a frog, I hearth again into the identical spot with a fluke, and it normally ends in a landed fish. That’s why it’s so vital to have a rod rigged with a fluke that’s able to forged. A 7- to 7-foot, 3-inch medium heavy casting rod with a quick motion is right for throwing a fluke. Pair it with a high quality baitcasting reel and 20-pound braid and also you’ll be able to go. You may also use a spinning rod with related specs to throw a fluke. 


There are quite a lot of lures that can catch snakeheads, however these baits have been dependable producers for me (my favourite method is concentrating on snakeheads with the finest frog lures). Relating to deciding on colours for these baits, I recommend conserving it easy with white or black. If that’s too boring for you, you possibly can go together with a bluegill or perch coloration—each are frequent forage for snakeheads. 


Swim Jigs

  • Beast Coast Workingman’s Compact Swim Jig
  • Soiled Jigs Finesse Swim Jig
  • Soiled Jigs California Swim Jig


Delicate Plastic Jerkbaits

Inline Spinners

  • Picasso All-Terrain Weedless Inline Spinner Jig

Bait Fishing for Snakeheads

One of the crucial efficient strategies for catching snakeheads is to fish a reside minnow underneath a bobber. A heavier wire hook is the one obligatory modification to a customary minnow rig

Internet, Pliers, and Lip Grippers

Snakeheads are well-known for preventing for a couple of seconds, going limp, after which the second you get them to the boat, they go ballistic. That’s the place web can stop a boat-side escape. You’ll want a big web as a result of snakeheads are larger than bass—20- to 24-inch fish are frequent, and enormous fish over 28 inches aren’t uncommon.

Snakeheads are toothy fish, so that you received’t be lipping them. You’ll want pair of pliers for eradicating hooks. Additionally they have quite a lot of battle in them as soon as landed and are troublesome fish to carry onto. So one other key piece of drugs are the finest lip grippers.


In case you plan on conserving a snakehead, most states require that you just kill the fish instantly—no placing it on a stringer or in a reside effectively. The easiest way to try this is to chop the gills, which bleeds the fish, after which put it instantly right into a cooler with ice. 

The Upshot

While you’re studying how one can catch snakeheads, there’s no substitute for time on the water. However in case you put your time into studying your water and discovering neglected areas, you’ll be rewarded when abruptly the water underneath your frog explodes. That eat will get underneath your pores and skin, and it’s why snakehead anglers hold coming again to the swamps looking for extra. 

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