Caleb Newton of Spotsylvania, Virginia caught this 36-inch long, 17-pound, 6-ounce snakehead from a Potomac River tributary near Stafford, Virginia on June 1. The fish could best the current world record fish, caught in 2004 in Japan, by two ounces.
The catch came as a surprise while Newton was fishing from a boat with his friend Phil Wilcox as part of a tournament honoring Wilcox’s upcoming wedding, and according to the Free-Lance Star, the fish nearly made it to the dinner table before another angler mentioned it might be a record. Newton put the fish on ice and searched for the nearest certified scale, eventually finding one at a sporting goods store.
Once he realized he could potentially have a record catch, Newton took it to a Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries’ office where biologist and snakehead expert John Odenkirk officially identified it and said it’s the largest he’s seen to date, but added he wouldn’t be surprised if a fish weighing 20 pounds appears soon.
Currently, Virginia doesn’t have a record category for snakeheads, but the fish is recognized by the International Game Fish Association (IGFA) and Newton says he’s already planning to submit the necessary documentation and samples for world-record consideration.
While Newton’s fish is smaller than Juan Duran’s 18 pound, 3 ounce fish caught in May 2012 from Virginia’s Occoquan River, a tributary to the Potomac, Duran didn’t weigh his fish on a certified scale per IGFA rules. Oddly enough, he made the same mistake Newton almost made and turned the fillets into a meal before realizing his mistake.
Snakeheads, an invasive species to the U.S., mysteriously made their way into Virginian waters where they have flourished despite the best efforts of biologists and anglers to control populations.