- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 11, 2002

So, does the fish have an agent yet?

Crofton, Maryland's notorious northern snakehead fish has created a global splash, a veritable media feeding frenzy of camera crews, reporters, biologists, gawkers and yes anglers, who have besieged the four-acre Maryland pond, now home to a rogue family of Channa argus.

T-shirts, a Vanity Fair profile, a movie deal perhaps?

The interest from both press and public is so great that the Maryland Department of Natural Resources alerted local police yesterday to patrol the shores and possibly dole out $500 trespassing fines.

According to spokeswoman Heather Lynch, the department is taking at least 30 calls a day from news organizations angling to get up close and personal with northern snakeheads any northern snakeheads: living or dead, fresh or frozen.

"It has been a zoo," Ms. Lynch observed. "This is a top-of-the-line predator fish. It's not like covering, say, the invasion of the mute swan or nutria, which are water rats."


In recent days, the fish have been profiled like the Osbourne family on the syndicated morning show "Live with Regis and Kelly." Needless to say, ABC News also featured the finned ones, beginning their story, "They're here. "

On Tuesday, The Washington Times netted an exclusive with Joe Gillespie, a Crofton engineer who was the first to pull a snakehead from the pond on June 30. This time, he said, he had caught some babies.

Babies. Yes, lurking in the murk and dining on the ooze, a sure sign to local officials that an invasion of the fish was under way. With crews camped on the lawn and reporters peering through windows, Mr. Gillespie and his family have become celebrities in their own right.

"It's like winning the lottery and hooking 'Jaws' all at once," he told The Times. "It's like a dream."

Meanwhile, CNN, CBS, the Canadian Broadcasting Co., WTOP Radio, National Public Radio, the London Daily Mail, the New York Times, National Geographic and the South China Morning Post are among many who've sought a moment with the thing.

Among other things, the errant snakehead has been called Frankenfish, freaky fish, killer fish, alarming invader, loathsome creature, the baddest bunny in the bush, companion to the creature from the Black Lagoon, Asian alien and Chinese native the last two the most accurate, as the fish does have Far Eastern origins as both fancy pet and even fancier menu item.

"We were the very first to use the term 'Frankenfish,'" said Jim Farley, WTOP vice president for news programming. "In our story, we played the music from 'Jaws,' we had clips out of 'Young Frankenstein.' Everyone is fascinated with this story. It is a real life 'Jaws,' but on a small scale."

The "Frankenfish" moniker has already been floating around, however, coined by environmentalists about two years ago to protest experiments that genetically engineer fast-growing Atlantic salmon.

"Everybody used 'Frankenfish' after us," Mr. Farley said. "They called the Crofton site Frankenfish Pond. But this is very much a legitimate news story about an alien species which could very well threaten native wildlife. But this is also journalism which isn't harmed by a little showbiz."

Of course, this is not the first time a fish story has swum through the news cycle.

There's ongoing "Pfisteria Hysteria," along with was the famous "Yard-long Neon Koi of Jackson Pond" back in 1998, and a whole string of "Chessie" sightings a catchy name used for both a Chesapeake Bay sea monster and a more cuddly manatee that wandered into local waters from its usual home in Florida.

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