- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 10, 2002

CROFTON, Md. Maryland Department of Natural Resources officials said yesterday that eight small fish found by a Crofton man appear to be baby "Frankenfish" the nickname people in the area have given the invading northern snakehead fish a non-native, sharp-toothed predator that can live outside water and travel short distances over land on its fins.

"It heightens our level of concern," said Heather Lynch, a department spokeswoman. "It could wreak havoc on this fishery."

The eight baby fish and one 26-inch-long adult snakehead have all been caught by Joe Gillespie, a Crofton engineer.

Department of Natural Resources (DNR) officials visited Mr. Gillespie's home yesterday morning and took one of the small fish. They said the fish appear to be smaller versions of the native Chinese fish. The fish will be frozen and either kept locally or sent to Florida for further testing.

Officials are considering several strategies for dealing with the influx of snakeheads, including draining, poisoning or shocking the pond, which is located just west of Route 3 near Crofton. The DNR closed the nine-acre pond to the public yesterday.

Wildlife officials already have tried shocking the pond running electrical currents through the water to stun the fish, which float to the surface. Officials had hoped to scoop up the dangerous species, but the heavy plant growth in the water hindered the efforts.

According to Miss Lynch, DNR Secretary J. Charles Fox plans to form a panel of biologists and fishery experts to advise the state on its effort to stem any further spread of the fish, which is native to the Yangtze River region of China.

The committee will deliver recommendations in the next few weeks, Miss Lynch said.

DNR officials said they don't know how or when the predatory species, which is legally imported into most states as a seafood delicacy, was introduced into the pond.

"We believe that they are reproducing at this time, but we don't know," Miss Lynch said.

The Chinese species, with its powerful teeth and an ability to survive for up to three days out of water, could have a dramatic effect on the local fishery, Miss Lynch said. The fish have no known predators and eat almost everything in sight.

Les Glick, a 53-year-old semi-retired Crofton resident who was fishing for snakeheads yesterday, said he didn't even know the pond existed until all the media coverage began about three weeks ago.

"I didn't even know this place was here until I read about it in the newspaper," Mr. Glick said. "I'm not a real avid fisherman."

Mr. Gillespie, who has become a local celebrity for his role in the "Frankenfish" story, said he is relieved the pond is closed, and he hopes the media attention wanes.

Yesterday "was a tough day," he said. "It just gets a little creepy when people come to the house."

Should the DNR seek his help in catching more snakeheads, Mr. Gillespie said he'd be happy to assist.

"I'll go out and catch one," he said.

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