All the 28 different known Snakehead species are found in South East Asian waters. They are popular among local residents as well as by fishing tourists and are also considered a delicates by many. As of 2005, Thailand is one of the most popular destinations for Snakehead fishers from the rest of the world. The country has a well developed tourism sector and fishing trips are arranged to suit most travellers’ needs and preferences. It is also one of the regions of the world where you can catch several Snakehead species. At least three of the Snakehead species are commonly caught in Thailand: the Striped Snakehead, the Great Snakehead and the Giant Snakehead.
Striped Snakehead – Channa striata
Phuket, a larger island off the Thai coast, is renowned for being one of the most suitable places for Striped Snakehead enthusiasts. The Striped Snakehead thrives in Phuket's densely vegetated swampy areas. The best place to fish for Striped Snakehead is an overgrown channel with plenty of hiding places for the predatory Striped Snakehead, or a lake with lots of weeds. It can survive in waters extremely low in oxygen since the labyrinth organ makes it possible for the fish to absorb oxygen from the air.
Live fish or frogs are the most suitable bate when you want to catch a Striped Snakehead. When caught, the Striped Snakehead will typically perform a quick strike followed by a strong pull. It will promptly head for any nearby underwater obstacle.
The Striped Snakehead is also known as the Common Snakehead or simply Snakehead. The body of the fish is cylindrical, with a depressed head. The belly is white and features a tiny pattern of dark spots, while the sides of the fish are brown and the upper body dark green or olive coloured.
Great Snakehead – Channa marulius
Phuket and Bangkok are two popular places for Great Snakehead fishing trips in Thailand. The Great Snakehead is typically found in still or slowly flowing waters. It prefers to stay near snags and weed in lakes, swamps and channels where it can attack unsuspecting prey. Just like the other Snakeheads it will survive in weedy waters with very low oxygen content, since they breathe oxygen from the air using their labyrinth organ.
The preferred bate for Great Snakeheads are live frogs or live fish. The fighting pattern of the Great Snakehead is characterised by one quick strike followed by a tough pull. It will try to escape into submerged weed congregations or similar.
The Great Snakehead is also known as Gozar, Gajar and Ara fish. The body is shaped like a cylinder, the head is depressed and the caudal fin gently rounded. The upper body of the Great Snakehead shows olive to brownish colours, while they sides and the underbelly have a pale brown colouration.
Giant Snakehead – Channa micropeltes
A lot of fishing trips for Giant Snakehead enthusiasts goes to Phuket, Kanchanaburi or Sangklaburi in Thailand. Swamps, weedy channels and lakes with densely growing vegetation are preferred areas for the Giant Snakehead. It likes to stay behind snags from where it can ambush its prey. The Giant Snakehead is highly territorial. It can live in heavily vegetated waters where oxygen is scarce, since they breathe oxygen from the air using their labyrinth organ.
Chicken liver is the most common bait when fishing Giant Snakehead, but live fish and live frogs will also work out well. Minnows, spinners and fly are also used. The fighting pattern of the Giant Snakehead is characterised by a rapid strike and a subsequent hard pull. The Giant Snakehead is very strong. It will try to escape to the closest snag or weed congregation.
The Giant Snakehead is also called Toman. The body of a Giant Snakehead is cylindrical with a flattened head. You can see a dark green or brownish colouration on the upper body of the fish, while the belly is silvery white.
What should I do if I catch a snakehead in the United States?
If you catch a Snakehead or a suspected Snakehead in the U.S. it is imperative that you report it to the local authorities. Snakeheads are not a natural part of the American fauna and can potentially cause severe harm by disrupting the delicate balance in an ecosystem. The Snakehead is also a large treat to those American fish species already considered endangered. Snakeheads are sometimes caught in American waters, probably because irresponsible aquarists grew tired of caring for this large and hungry fish that requires an expensive diet of live fish. Instead of finding a new home for their Snakehead or euthanize it, they release the fish into the wild. Breeding populations of Snakehead has been found in several U.S. states. The Snakehead is not only a popular aquarium fish; it is also sold as food in Asian food markets and used in popular folk remedies. Today, there is a ban on importing live Snakehead to the United States.
If you catch a possible Snakehead you should never re-release it into the water again. Kill the Snakehead, one forceful blow to the head is usually enough, and leave the fish as untouched as possible. It should ideally be placed on ice if possible. Contact the local authorities and tell them that you have caught a suspected Snakehead. In many states, the responsible authority will be the Department of Game and Fisheries in that particular state. In states where Snakeheads have already been found in the wild, there are usually signs found in popular fishing areas, advising anyone who have caught a suspected Snakehead to call a special Snakehead or Invasive Species hot-line. The hotlines are toll-free numbers and you can report your catch 24 hours a day.