Proceedings of the First International Snakehead Symposium

A History and Distribution of Northern Snakehead in Arkansas

Jimmy Barnett

doi: https://doi.org/10.47886/9781934874585.ch3

Abstract.—Northern Snakeheads Channa argus were imported by fish farmers in Arkansas for use and sale in live food markets before being banned by the state in July 2002. Farmers were advised to destroy their stock in 2002 when importation and interstate trade were federally banned under the Lacey Act (18 U.S.C § 42(a) (1)). These farmers reportedly attempted this action, but on April 14, 2008; a wild Northern Snakehead, confirmed by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, was captured by a local row crop farmer. An eradication plan was formulated for Fall 2008 involving several government agencies and universities. Arkansas experienced several late summer storms resulting in flood conditions during that time. The eradication effort, named Operation Mongoose, was rescheduled for March, 2009. Operation Mongoose involved the application of the fish toxicant rotenone using helicopters, Marsh Masters, boats, and ground teams to cover approximately 700 km of creeks, ditches, and backwater areas within the 20,250 ha Piney Creek watershed. The effort reduced the Northern Snakehead population in the drainage but did not eradicate them. Because this area is prone to annual flooding, range expansion of Northern Snakehead occurred. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission tracks Northern Snakehead dispersal through reporting from the angling public. During 2017, the first confirmed range expansion outside of Arkansas occurred in Mississippi.