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Post Tue May 02, 2017 1:28 pm
willie Level 8 Member
Level 8 Member

Posts: 1361
Location: Minneapolis
Washington Post, May 1, 2017
COLUMBIA, Md.—The state of Maryland has had a take-no-prisoners approach to the northern snakehead, a slimy, toothy invasive fish native to Asia.

When hundreds of mostly juvenile snakeheads turned up in a pond in Crofton, Md., in 2002, the progeny of discarded pets dumped by one owner, the government poisoned the pond. Two years later, when an angler caught a snakehead in a lake 25 miles west, Maryland drained the lake.

But soon snakeheads were spotted in the Potomac River, which divides Maryland and Virginia as it flows to the Chesapeake Bay. Poisoning and draining weren’t an option. Since then, Maryland has adopted a different tack: If you want to beat it, eat it.

The state sponsored snakehead-fishing tournaments and now sells $15 commercial licenses aimed at those who snag the hard-to-catch fish with a bow and arrow. The Potomac’s commercial harvest, sold to restaurants and wholesalers, has risen from almost zero in 2011 to 4,320 pounds in 2016.

“What better way to try to wipe something out than to get humans involved with it and create demand?” said Chad Wells, corporate chef for the group that owns Victoria Gastro Pub in Columbia.

He said he likes working with snakehead because the firm-fleshed white fish has a mild taste that holds up well to a range of flavors and seasonings.

For a $90-a-head tasting dinner in March, Chef Wells bought a whole 10-pound snakehead at $5 a pound. Because the fish is coated in thick slime, he first toweled it down so he could safely butcher it. He then marinated the meat in citrus for a ceviche that he served up to about 45 diners.

Diner Chris Czyryca gave it three stars out of five. “I don’t think it’s going to knock any high-end fish off the menu anytime soon,” he said, “but it’s certainly not something I would turn my nose up at.”

Sherry Eltermann, a 46-year-old nurse, passed. “It doesn’t sound really appetizing,” she said, wrinkling her nose.

Scientists say the state isn’t anywhere close to eating its way out of the problem. The torpedo-shaped fish scares many people. It has a lot of teeth. It can survive for a few days out of water and some types can wriggle short distances on land. It gets big, too, topping 18 pounds. Breathless media coverage powered visions of a beast devouring anything in its path, wet or dry.

“People were worried they were vipers or something [and] had venom in their teeth,” said Joseph Love, a biologist with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, who said there is no sign snakeheads have hurt biodiversity even as they have spread throughout the bay.

Virginia state biologist John Odenkirk said fears elevated so fast that people balked at letting their dogs swim in the water. He admits getting caught up in the initial madness, fearful that the “apex predator” would upend the ecosystem: “I was like, holy crap, the sky is going to fall, this is really, really bad.”

Josh Newhard, a fish biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said there are populations of northern snakehead in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware, but that they haven’t expanded as far or as fast as the Potomac population has. He also said Arkansas has worked to eradicate snakeheads from a Mississippi River tributary.

Hollywood took note and spun tales of mutant monsters terrorizing swimmers and boaters in TV movies like “Snakehead Terror” and “Frankenfish,” in which one character intones: “We are fish food.”

Bow fisherman Emory “Dutch” Baldwin took it as a challenge. He started hunting the fish for sport eight years ago, never imagining anyone might eat it. He fed his catch to coyotes, foxes and buzzards.

Then a nail-salon owner of Asian descent, who heard about Mr. Baldwin’s snakehead hunting from an employee, asked if Mr. Baldwin could get him the fish.

“Lightbulb went off in my head,” he said. Mr. Baldwin, a crane operator in Washington, now supplies shops and chefs in Washington and Maryland, and eats what he doesn’t sell. “Absolutely delicious,” he said, though he isn’t ready to try the fish’s cheek meat, which he hears is scallop-like.

Converting the invader into a main course became all the rage in certain restaurant circles, said Victor Albisu, chef and owner of Del Campo, a South American grill in Washington. The fish’s reputation as a piscine menace added to the allure for adventurous diners, he said.

“It’s got the Bigfoot kind of aura about it,” he said.

The push to market snakehead has a few hurdles. Mr. Albisu said the fish can be hard to get. Not a lot of people catch it, and the price is high. Mr. Wells said he has seen fillets go for $17 a pound, and one Washington seafood stall sells them for $22 a pound.

Tim Sughrue, vice president of Congressional Seafood, a wholesaler in Jessup, Md., that sells to 500 restaurants from Richmond, Va., to Philadelphia, has struggled to interest his customers. “I’ve tried and tried and tried. I can’t get anybody to bite,” he said, adding he thinks the reason is the way the fish has been portrayed in the media.

The name isn’t helpful, said Spike Gjerde, co-owner of Baltimore’s farm-to-table restaurant Woodberry Kitchen, who has served the fish smoked, beer-battered and blackened as the headliner of a $30 entree.

Scott Drewno, a snakehead fan ending a stint as chef at The Source, an Asian-themed restaurant in Washington, said it could use help from “the people that branded kale.”

It wouldn’t be the first fish to reach the seafood counter under an assumed name. Orange roughy started as slimehead. Patagonian toothfish is better known as Chilean sea bass.

“Snakehead seems so like a bad word,” said charter captain Mike Starrett. He said he coined the name “Potomac pike” eight years ago and still hears fellow anglers use it.

In 2014, Charles County, Md., held a naming contest and chose “spotted channa,” a nod to the species’ scientific name, Channa argus. County Commissioner Ken Robinson is the self-described “wacko” who dreamed up the competition. “No question, it has not caught on,” he said.

The name isn’t helpful, said Spike Gjerde, co-owner of Baltimore’s farm-to-table restaurant Woodberry Kitchen, who has served the fish smoked, beer-battered and blackened as the headliner of a $30 entree.

Scott Drewno, a snakehead fan ending a stint as chef at The Source, an Asian-themed restaurant in Washington, said it could use help from “the people that branded kale.”

It wouldn’t be the first fish to reach the seafood counter under an assumed name. Orange roughy started as slimehead. Patagonian toothfish is better known as Chilean sea bass.

“Snakehead seems so like a bad word,” said charter captain Mike Starrett. He said he coined the name “Potomac pike” eight years ago and still hears fellow anglers use it.

In 2014, Charles County, Md., held a naming contest and chose “spotted channa,” a nod to the species’ scientific name, Channa argus. County Commissioner Ken Robinson is the self-described “wacko” who dreamed up the competition. “No question, it has not caught on,” he said.

Post Tue May 02, 2017 3:42 pm
Passionfish Level 20 Member
Level 20 Member

Posts: 11942
Location: apple valley, mn
For those that are hungry, teach them to fish.
Like a complete unknown

Post Tue Oct 24, 2017 3:29 pm
Bob1 Level 6 Member
Level 6 Member

Posts: 541
Location: Farmington
Use it as fertilizer!


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