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Event Article

 

On a Monster Mission: Fishing for Great Snakehead (continued)
 

Snake Charmer: When we arrived at the first location I quickly realized that this was going to be quite unlike any other shore fishing that I have done in the past. Rather than fish on the edge of a large or pond we were going to be making pinpoint casts down long narrow canals or working steep pond edges where casting through structure just to reach the pond would require accurate pitches or underhand launches. As we walked down the first canal Corey pointed out some snakehead activity, and most of it was just inches from shore but 30-40 feet ahead of us. I walked up to the shore and as I prepared to make a cast the snakehead disappeared into the cover. Corey explained that in these narrow canals the fish are very perceptive and can detect not only motion but sound as we approached. I made a few more blind casts which yielded no strikes so we kept moving. Lesson one, be stealthy.

 


A closer look at the snakehead's flat head and large fins


In our hiking party were two other anglers, Brad Uhl of Bassin Magazine and Chris Brown of Yozuri. All three of us were hoping to catch our very first snakes. At the next opportunity Corey pointed out more activity, also ahead and just inches from shore. I was once again given the honor of making the first cast and I did my very best ninja act, sneaking up to the edge of the water and right as I was about to make a cast my shadow hit the fish and it darted away. These snakeheads were not the fish I thought they were. My preconceived notions visualized fish that were so aggressive that they would strike anything that crossed their paths. These fish were proving to be much more wily and spooky than I had assumed. Lesson two, be very stealthy.

 


Corey gives us a closer look at the Snakehead


On the third sign of activity Brad showed us how it was done. He stayed higher up on the bank and made a beautiful sidearm cast launching the Fruck directly under the overhanging tree branches. Before I could even compliment the cast I saw a wake surge in the water four feet in front of the bait, and make a bee-line straight for the Fruck. The explosion was ferocious and I watched as Brad winched it back towards the shore. That fish broke the surface two more times as it tried to shake the Fruck’s hook but with so little water there was nowhere for it to go. A minute later Corey scrambled to land the fish and we got our very first look at a snakehead.

 


The snakehead does have sharp teeth, which is exactly why Corey always has a boga grip in his guide bag


I could instantly see why they are called snakeheads as their flat rounded heads definitely resembled the reptiles that they are named after but what I saw in front of me wasn’t the slimy monster than I expected. The snakehead did look much like a Bowfin, just with a much longer fin across the entire length of the fish's back. I could also tell how powerful the fish was as it squirmed to escape, like one big muscle. Corey explained that when the fish are spawning their bellies will turn a bright orange color, making them look even more exotic. The fish will also stay and guard their young and one of the signs for these fish are tight balls of young snakehead that will stay close to their much larger parents.

 


Chris hooks up and reels in a snakehead in the narrow canal


It was just a few minutes later when I spotted one of these tightly bunched up snakehead schools through my Maui Jim Kanaio Coast polarized glasses that I would get my third shot. I made a cast behind the ball and began to twitch and walk the Fruck. Sure enough as the Fruck neared the ball of young snakes I saw a big fish emerge from the shadows, swimming in an S-Pattern quickly and exploding on my bait. I immediately set and just got a tiny piece of the fish before the Fruck was ejected, losing a leg in the process. I turned to Corey arms up. “What did I do wrong this time?” I asked. Corey explained that unlike when bass fishing he likes to give the snakeheads a split second to really engulf the bait before driving the hook, and by doing so drastically improving the strike to catch ratio. Lesson three, be stealthy and patient.

 


Chris and his first snakehead


Over the next thirty minutes we walked the shore and both Brad and Chris caught their first snakeheads. The pattern was the same, make a pinpoint cast down the canal, keeping the bait tight to structure and even better under overhanging branches or bushes. The snakeheads seemed to really gravitate towards structure and liked to sit underneath shadows in the water. They also seemed like opportunistic feeders, darting out and striking topwater lures as they moved within three or four feet of where they were resting.


During the first part of our expedition we were hiking these narrow canals in between parks and homes. It is unlikely that most people living in these areas are even aware that these waters are inhabited by these great snakeheads. Most anglers in the area most likely catch snakeheads by accident when targeting the resident largemouth bass and peacock bass.

 


The snakeheads slammed the Savage Gear Fruck baits. We had no idea that topwater baits were so effective for these fish and in some of the shallow parts of the canal they were really the best option

 

Next Section: Checking the Snakehead off the list?

 

 

   

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