A close-up of a snakehead caught Tuesday on the Tidal Potomac River south of Washington, D.C. (Kevin Ambrose)

A sunrise storm Tuesday morning threatened to spoil the fishing trip, but the clouds moved quickly southeast and the weather cleared. A cool breeze followed, and the snakeheads began to bite.

On Tuesday, I teamed up with Terry Sheppard, a fisherman who focuses on catching snakeheads, to try to harvest a few from the Potomac River. Fishermen are encouraged to keep the snakeheads and not throw them back because they are an invasive species, illegally introduced 13 years ago. They are ugly fish, but if you can get over the snakelike appearance, they’re fun to catch and excellent to eat.

During the trip, we caught six snakeheads in a section of the tidal Potomac River about 30 miles south of D.C. We also caught bass and catfish using the same snakehead lure, a chartreuse ChatterBait with a curly tail. It was a good fishing day.


A sunrise storm sweeps across the Potomac River on Tuesday morning as we launch the boat. (Kevin Ambrose)

Two weeks ago, I interviewed John Odenkirk, a Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries biologist, about the current health of the Potomac River after the snakehead invasion. John said the river’s ecosystem is doing well and the snakehead is coexisting with the other game fish in the river. He also acknowledged that it helps to have anglers and bow fishermen harvest thousands of snakeheads out of the river every year.

In addition to the snakeheads, we caught bass and catfish, and witnessed ospreys catching fish. Blue herons and bald eagles frequently flew over the river. The river does appear quite healthy, at least from what we saw Tuesday.

Below are a few photos from the fishing trip. The weather was beautiful, and a cool breeze made it feel more like mid-May than late June. It was a perfect day to catch snakeheads. And I did have snakehead for dinner after the trip.


The author caught this six-pound snakehead using a topwater lure in the narrow channel visible behind the boat. (Terry Sheppard)

Small, isolated showers developed during the afternoon but did not put a damper on the fishing. (Kevin Ambrose)

Terry Sheppard and Mike Sielicki weigh a large snakehead caught by Mike.  The fish weighed 10 pounds. (Kevin Ambrose)

Terry Sheppard holds up one of the several largemouth bass that were caught. It weighed close to two pounds. (Kevin Ambrose)

We were greeted by a friendly visitor during our fishing trip. (Kevin Ambrose)

The author displays a five-pound channel catfish caught Tuesday morning. (Terry Sheppard)

Snakeheads in the grass. This was Tuesday’s catch. The bass and catfish were released. (Kevin Ambrose)

The author grilled a snakehead filet for dinner Tuesday night. The fillet was marinated with a balsamic vinaigrette dressing.  Snakehead doesn’t sound appetizing, but it’s surprisingly tasty. (Kevin Ambrose)