Damien Cook set a new state record for northern snakehead when he hooked a 21-pounder while kayak fishing in the Dorchester County’s tidal river system on July 5. Not only did the catch top the Maryland record set in 2018, but it also outweighs the International Game and Fish Association all-tackle world record by more than 1.5 pounds.
Cook, a full-time fishing guide from Rhodesdale, Delaware, was wielding a custom baitcasting rod rigged with 30-pound braided line and a custom chatterbait he calls the “cooker,” according to a press release from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (MDNR). “Honestly, I thought it was just your average 30-inch snakehead when I first hooked the fish,” Cook said. “It pulled hard, but I had the advantage of it being close and I got it in the net pretty quickly.”
The fish actually measured more than 36 inches long and weighed an even 21 pounds on a certified scale at Kool Ice Seafood in Cambridge. An MDNR biologist confirmed the species.
Northern snakeheads are native to eastern Asia but are considered an invasive species in the eastern United States. The fish were discovered in the Potomac River in 2004 and have since spread to most of the major river systems of the Chesapeake Bay. The MDNR encourages anglers to kill all snakeheads they catch, and Maryland fishing regulations prohibit the transport of live snakeheads.
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The previous state record was a 19.9-pound snakehead taken by bowfisherman Andrew Fox on May 24, 2018, on Mattawoman Creek in Charles County. That fish measured 35 inches long. The IGFA all-tackle world record is a 19-pound, 5-ounce snakehead caught by Emanuel Tankersley on May 15, 2018, out of Potomac Creek in Virginia. Cook told Field & Stream that he has submitted the required paperwork to the IGFA and is awaiting certification of the new world record.