With the looming threat of terrorism, you'd think inhabitants of the Washington, D.C., area would take a minor alien invasion in stride. Not so. The hysteria surrounding the discovery of the northern snakehead—a voracious predator fish native to Asia that can use its fins to crawl on land—in the bass-rich Potomac River and its tributaries reached a fever pitch in June when the Washington Times reported that a 6-year-old specimen had been caught. That discovery suggested that the snakeheads had established a breeding population. Biologists are concerned that the exotic "will disrupt the ecosystem in the Potomac River by displacing native fish and competing for habitat," says Julia Dixon of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.
Fishermen report that the snaggle-toothed intruder is one pugnacious gamefish. One angler said he thought he had a record bass on the line, but the snakehead he caught weighed only a few pounds.
However, bass fishermen are so worried about the invasive species taking over the Potomac that Bass Pro Shops in Hanover, Maryland, has offered gift certificates ranging from $10 to $50—depending on the size of the catch—for every snakehead taken with tackle in Maryland. With a bounty on its head, and with fish and game officials asking that any specimens caught be killed and reported to the authorities, it may be high noon for the snakeheads. —GERALD ALMY