Image via Maryland DNR

State wildlife experts are once again inviting fishers from far and wide to an unusual fishing competition next month targeting the infamous snakehead in Maryland.

June 3 will mark the second annual Stop the Snakehead Fishing Derby at Pennyfield Lock in the C&O Canal, located at milepost 19 of the historic Maryland-D.C. waterway. Conveniently falling on one of Maryland’s license-free fishing days, the event calls for anyone with an affinity for fishing to capture an unlimited number of the invasive species.

Dubbed the “Frankenfish” early on, the northern snakehead rose to mid-Atlantic infamy after more than 100 baby ones were found in a Crofton pond in 2002. The Asian fish multiply rapidly, can grow up to nearly three feet long and are kind of creepy-looking with their elongated bodies, long dorsal fins and large mouths holding many teeth. To give you an idea, here’s a shot of a particularly huge one caught in Maryland in summer of 2015.

Photo via Maryland DNR

Even stranger than their appearance, though, is where they can survive. The fish can employ a so-called labyrinth organ that lets them survive out of water for days at a time. They’re also more capable of tolerating both fresh- and saltwater environments than many of their fish counterparts.

These abilities have let them spread across the state since the early 2000s. Two years ago, authorities found them multiplying in the C&O Canal running from Cumberland, Md., into Washington D.C.

Last year’s inaugural snakehead fishing derby was the first one sponsored by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, though they’ve been going on for years through other agencies, including the U.S. Marine Corps. The 2016 state-sponsored derby was “fabulous” and a “memorable and educational family experience,” said Montgomery County state Sen. Susan Lee in a statement.

This year’s hunt is sponsored by the Maryland DNR, Lee’s office, the National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Bass Pro Shops. It’ll run from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., with prizes awarded to the fishers who catch the biggest ones.

The rules state staff will help dispose of any Frankenfish, though they note “the angler is welcome to take the fish home with them to eat.”

It sounds gross, but it’s not uncommon to see them in a kitchen, even for high-end restaurants nowadays.

Click here for more info or to register.

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Ethan McLeod

Ethan McLeod is a freelance reporter in Baltimore. He previously worked as an editor for the Baltimore Business Journal and Baltimore Fishbowl. His work has appeared in Bloomberg CityLab, Next City and...