Snakehead Fish — How to Catch Channidae

Photo of author
Last Updated:

The snakehead fish has been causing a bunch of problems in Georgia and other states. It’s an invasive species and wreaks havoc on the native populations.

There are many species of this fish. The two that are causing the most problems in the US are the Northern Snakehead fish Channa argus and the bullseye snakehead Channa maurlius.

How to catch bullseye snakehead
This Bullseye Snakehead is good eating. Source: Florida Fish and Wildlife

What’s even crazier is that this snake fish can walk on land.

Thankfully, if you catch one of these snakehead fish, you’ll be eating well. These invasive species shouldn’t be released back into the wild, so they might as well make a meal out of them.

Recommended Fishing Gear:

  • Rod: KastKing Perigee
  • Reel: Penn Battle III
  • Tackle: Lunkerhunt Pocket Frog

Listen to more fishing tips on the Cast & Spear Podcast


The snakehead fish is predatory and native to parts of Asia and Africa. It has an elongated body, long dorsal fins, large mouths, shiny teeth, and basically looks like a snake at first sight. Considered a non-native or invasive species, this unique animal is tolerant to extremely low oxygen levels because of its ability to breathe air. In other words, it can drown if it doesn’t come up to the surface to breathe once in a while.

They feed on zooplankton before they get big enough to eat small insects and crustaceans. Juvenile northern snakehead may feed on smaller fish such as loach and goldfish, and adults are voracious eaters that can hunt prey that is about 33% of its body lengths such as bream, carp, perch, catfish, and even frogs and beetles.

They can breathe air with their gills which allows them to survive on land. It’s not uncommon for them to waddle out of the water and move short distances to a new body of water.

Types of Snakehead

There are many species of snakeheads that have been released into the wild and have been causing problems in states such as California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Virginia, and Rhode Island.

Two of the most commonly actively targeted by anglers are the Northern snakehead fish and the Bullseye snakehead.

Northern Snakehead

Head of a northern snakehead fish
The head of a Northern Snakehead Source: NYS DEC

The northern snakehead has been introduced to states such as Florida, Philadelphia, and Maryland.

Bullseye Snakehead

The bullseye snakehead has become a big problem in southern Florida.

There are many more that we’ll cover in the future. These two are just the most common ones that are causing headaches for local wildlife officials.

Snakehead Facts

Scientific NameChannidae
Common Name(s)Snakehead, Northern Snakehead, Bullseye Snakehead
Identifying CharacteristicsIt has an elongated body, long dorsal fins, large mouths, shiny teeth, and basically looks like a snake at first sight
Depth Range2.5 m
HabitatIt’s native to parts of Asia and Africa but has invaded North American waters.
LimitsCheck your local regulations
Largest RecordedN/A

Where to Find Snakeheads

Snakeheads live in freshwater and can be found in lakes, ponds, slow-moving streams, rivers, swamps, and marshes.

They prefer shallow moving or still water with muddy bottoms and plenty of aquatic vegetation that it can hide for prey. It can withstand extreme cold and 15 – 18 ppt salinity. Most remain in shallow waters that are about 2.5 m deep only but can swim to deeper waters to spawn.

How to Catch Snakehead

YouTube video

Since their introduction in US waters, snakeheads have been on the list as a target sports species for all anglers. The fish hits hard and fights hard, so you have some competition on your hands when you target it.

Light tackle won’t cut it since you won’t be able to set the hook if the rod is too flexible. Snakehead has a large and bony head, so you need to set the hook forcefully. A basic bass outfit will work, such as a 7 ft medium to medium-heavy rod that has a spinning or casting reel and is spooled with a 15 to 40 lb line.

The best snakehead lures are the topwater variety that is made of tough but soft plastic. This will work if you want to get your bait deeper in the strike zone. Use lures that can rattle in the water and produce vibrations that the snakehead cannot resist. If you prefer to use bait, use the largest bull minnow you can find to lure the fish out.

Plus, make sure that you have a landing net so you can wrestle a struggling snakehead in your boat without getting injured or going overboard.

Fishing Tactics

  • To get a bite from a large and aggressive snakehead, cast lures as close as possible to the exact location and try to hit it on the head with it.
  • Since snakeheads prefer to remain in the shallows in submerged foliage, use frogs or surface lures with weedless hooks to ensure your line doesn’t get stuck.

Fishing Tips

  1. Snakeheads come to the surface every five minutes or so to breathe fresh air or risk drowning, so you can spot them easily if you find the right spot.
  2. If you give even the smallest inch, the snakehead you hook will try to escape aggressively, and the odds will not be in your favor. Make sure that you maintain a steady tension on the line till you reel it in successfully.
  3. Cast a frog lure near the bank and reel it in quickly. They are aggressive in nature and will tend to strike as the lure is passing by.


Snakehead fish are abundant when the water warms up in mid-March and all the way through April. This is considered to be the best time of year to catch snakehead, especially if you can find the perfect temperature. During this time, the fish is foraging actively in the middle of water columns. As spring progresses, the fish start to spawn, which is the worst time to fish for it.

How to Clean

  1. Place the snakehead on a clean surface on its belly.
  2. Use an electric fillet knife (the fish is quite bony, so a simple fillet knife won’t work) to cut behind the pectoral fin near the head and keep cutting till you are near the spine.
  3. Turn the blade sideways and cut through the body till you reach the tail, and the blade comes out at the end.
  4. Remove the fillet that comes off and put it to the side.
  5. Flip the fish and repeat on the other side to get the second fillet.


  • Rinse the fillets and place them on a steaming plate.
  • Mix 1 teaspoon of oyster sauce and 1 tablespoon of soy sauce in a bowl and spread on the fillets.
  • Place some sliced ginger and some cut-up spring onions on the fillets.
  • Steam over medium-high heat for 6 minutes.
  • Remove the ginger and spring onions.
  • Mix some chopped garlic and oil in a bowl and heat the mixture in a pan for 2 minutes till the garlic turns crispy.
  • Sprinkle the mixture on the cooked fillets and serve.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are snakehead good to eat?

Yes, the meat of this fish is firm, white, and flaky.

How big do snakeheads get?

Adult snakeheads can grow as large as 33”.

Why is the snakehead fish a problem?

Snakeheads were introduced to the US from Asia and Africa, but they threaten native species of fish.

Can snakeheads walk on land?

Accounts of ‘walking snakeheads’ have been greatly exaggerated, but some species of this fish can wriggle overland to get to another body of water. It survives during this journey by breathing air through its gills.

Insider Advice

If you have a chance to visit Asia, then you should try going after the toman fish, also known as the giant snakehead Channa micropeltes. This fish can get to almost 44 pounds and is five feet long!

If you’re in Florida, Georgia, or other states and have a pet northern fish, never release it into the wild. If you can’t keep it and don’t know what to do with it, contact your local department of natural resources and get their advice. The northern snakeheads have been ravaging local ecosystems, and we need to do our part to protect native species.

The same should be said about those living in California for the bullseye snakehead. Please don’t release them into the wild. Contact your wildlife officials so they can dispose of them correctly. It makes me wonder if their ability to survive on land makes it that much more difficult to control this population.

Jon Stenstrom
Founder & Angler
Jon Stenstrom is a fishing enthusiast. He has over 25 years of fishing experience, and 6 years of spearfishing experience, and is currently learning how to boat. Jon has his Open Water PADI Certification and FII Freediver Level 1 Certification. Jon has traveled the world to fish and dive, most notably in the Great Barrier Reef, Baja Mexico, Thailand, and Malaysia. More Articles
× How can we improve it?
× Thanks for your feedback!

We're always looking to improve our articles to help you become an even better fisherman.

While you're here, why not follow us on Facebook and YouTube? Facebook YouTube

rainbow trout size

How Big Do Rainbow Trout Get?

Are you curious how big do rainbow trout get? Rainbow trout are one of the most popular game fish in the entire world. Trout guide and fly fishing instructor Daniel O’Neill, discusses how big rainbow trout get and how to catch these larger fish.  As a child, one of my earliest fishing memories involved catching
bass jumping out of water

Bass Jumping Out Of Water: What Does it Mean?

Have you ever wondered why bass sometimes jump out of the water? The first time I saw it, I was shocked and made it a point to research why it happened when I got home. In this article, we’ll explore why they jump out of the water and how this knowledge can transform your fishing
how long can you keep fish on ice

How Long Can You Keep Fish on Ice

Are you wondering if the fish you left in your cooler overnight is still safe to eat? I used to think fresh fish was always best, but after talking with chefs, fishmongers, and die-hard fishermen, I changed my perspective on fish storage. This guide examines how long you can store fish before it goes bad.
do bass sleep

Do Bass Sleep? Unraveling the Mystery of Bass Resting Behavior

Curious minds wonder about the secrets hidden beneath the water’s surface. This article will dive deep into the world of bass and uncover the truth about their resting behavior. Along the way, we’ll explore the factors that influence how these popular fish recharge their energy. Whether you’re an angler looking to refine your fishing strategies
northern pike teeth

Northern Pike Teeth: Everything You Need to Know

Northern pikes are natural predators whose teeth are razor-sharp, designed to slice and dice their prey. The teeth multiply as the pike grows. How many teeth a pike has depends on the age and size, but generally, a fully grown pike can have up to 700 teeth. Additionally, the length of their teeth depends on
muskie teeth

Muskie Teeth: All You Need to Know

Muskies are freshwater predators with hundreds of razor-sharp teeth to help them tear their prey. They have dozens of bigger canines and other small teeth arranged in rows. For example, grown-up muskies can have about 500 to 700 teeth in their mouth, and their biggest canine can range up to one inch in length. Muskie’s