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Posted at 07:23 AM ET, 07/19/2011

Snakehead found in river near Annapolis

Lester Thorton Jr. of Paeonian Springs shows the snakehead he caught while fishing in the Potomac River near White’s Ferry in Maryland. (Andrew Sharbel - Loudoun Times-Mirror)
A mature, egg-bearing northern snakehead has been discovered by scientists in a river just south of Annapolis, raising the possibility that low salinity in the Chesapeake Bay this year may have allowed the invasive fish to escape from the Potomac River.

The 23-inch snakehead was found in the Rhode River last Thursday by biologists from the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center taking annual fish samples by net.

"The water was very murky with a lot of sediment. When a fish is that large, you assume it's a carp," said Stacey Havard, a Smithsonian biologist. "An intern saw the pattern and almost instantly identified it."

The center tested the fish and reported the catch to the Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The toothy alien, a native of Asia, is an aggressive, rapidly breeding predator that can overwhelm habitat and push out local fish. It was first discovered in a Crofton pond in 2002 and eradicated, only to be found in Potomac River tributaries in Maryland and Virginia two years later.

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