Musky Hall of Fame Hayward, WI
Toby James 20 lbs: Musky 68 lbs
The Roanoke Times Monday, September 20, 2004
Just when you thought it was
safe to go
So far we don't have to fear the snakehead fish, but what could be lurking in a local lake...
by Beth Jones
|Does "Open Water" have you thinking
you'll never, ever vacation at Myrtle Beach again?
some news: Sharks aren't the only fish with a taste for human sushi.
In the end it was feathers, not fins, that kept Elliott out of the water. A flock of geese had caused the amount of fecal coliform bacteria in the water to exceed state recreation standards, meaning no swimming allowed.
If Elliott does get to swim in Smith Mountain Lake one day, though, he should be prepared to have his man-nipples nibbled by the smaller, gentler sunfish, who aren't as reclusive as the muskies.
Lake veterans Andrew Nulrich and his dad, Doug, often get nipped by those fish.
"It hurts but it's not that scary," said 14-year-old Andrew.
"I get scared," Andrew's dad disagreed. "They leave little bite marks."
Still, Doug Nulrich figured he has it coming to him. "I love to fish."
One thing we don't have to worry about at Smith Mountain Lake (knock on wood) are northern snakehead fish.
Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton called this fish "something from a bad horror movie." And indeed, a low-budget flick called "Night of the Snakehead Fish" was released in 2003.
Sometimes referred to as "Frankenfish," the snakehead caused a commotion in the media and around water coolers when it was found in Crofton, Md., in 2002 and in the Potomac River this spring. The unusual fish can live out of water for three days and even move short distances on land. Native to parts of Asia and Africa, the snakehead has no known predators in this country, a fact that causes scientists to worry whether it could hurt the ecosystem with its voracious appetite for other fish and even frogs (it hasn't gobbled any humans, thus far).
The folks at the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries were so worried they formed a committee that sounds like something out of a science-fiction novel: the Snakehead Fish Incident Management Team.
If an angler were to find a snakehead fish in Smith Mountain Lake, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries advises killing the sucker with "a blow to the head" - a technique that seems a little more dramatic than the usual method of leaving the fish to flip and flop on the lake's bank.
Dixon said snakeheads are actually quite difficult to kill, and that it could take several whacks with, say, a pair of pliers, to cause the little buggers to conk out.
While no one has found a snakehead at Smith Mountain Lake, there are non-native species in the water.
First of all, there's all the fishermen from New Jersey. There might also be the occasional piranha.
You heard right, piranha, the razor-toothed carnivorous fish of South America.
Though the fish are prohibited in Virginia without a permit from the game department, Ney said folks still occasionally manage to obtain one for their fish tanks. The owner later moves or simply tires of cleaning the tank and dumps the piranha into a river or, say, Smith Mountain Lake, because he's unwilling to flush the former pet down the toilet.
But, Ney said, there's no cause for alarm even if there is a piranha somewhere in Smith Mountain Lake.
Experts say the fish's reputation for gobbling up humans is highly exaggerated. Besides, Ney added, the piranha would never be able to withstand Virginia's cool winters.
Ney did say, tongue planted firmly in cheek, that some version of the Loch Ness monster could be hiding within the depths of the lake.
"Undoubtedly," he said, "there's something lurking out there.