Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Snakefish of the James River

Sounds like the title of a book.

I was in Richmond for my birthday last weekend, visiting my best friend Amber (who incidentally, owns and runs Artemis Designs in Richmond, a landscape architecture and design firm). As my best friend of 20 years, she STILL LISTENS TO ME!

We took a long hike one day and crept along the border of the James River. I had to get a little bit closer (of course), which lead to a conversation about the types of fish in the river (i.e., catfish, small mouth bass, and snakefish).

The Snakefish

Ugly little critter!

The scariest fact about these "fish" is that they can move on land using their pectoral fins. They can live out of water for as many as three days. Jurassic River?

On a more serious note, the Snakefish can potentially be detrimental for the James River as well as the tributaries downstream. A snakefish is a combination of a snake and a fish. These “fish” have been noted to destroy families of other types of fish, causing extinction and other environmental issues. The primary issue is that these fish do not have a natural predator. For example, where a striper might eat an eel, the snakefish is too strong, adept, and camouflages itself so well that it virtually cannot be preyed upon.

If a snakefish is found or caught, it must be gutted or decapitated. In Virginia, it is illegal to own a snakefish. The DEP has information on their site; that is, if you are interested in learning more about these seriously ugly fish. And let me tell you that if these fish have teeth as sharp as a pickerel, I wouldn't want to be dangling my toes in the water near these puppies!

These fish have been documented as far up as Washington, DC. Similar in appearance to the bowfin and eel, these detrimental fish present with the following qualities (which will help you determine the future of your catch):

  • As a family, snakeheads are native to parts of Asia and Africa. The northern snakehead is native to China, and possibly Korea and Russia.

  • Typically found in a wide variety of habitats

  • Northern snakeheads grow to a maximum length of about 33 inches

  • Generally tan in appearance, with dark brown mottling; body somewhat elongated; long dorsal fin; jaws contain numerous canine-like teeth (similar to pike or pickerel)

  • Capable of breathing air using an air bladder that works as a primitive lung (not found in most fish)

  • Able to hibernate in cracks and crevices during cold temperatures and to go dormant in the mud during droughts

  • Voracious top-level predator, eating mostly fish, but also eats other aquatic wildlife and frogs

  • Capable of moving short distances on land using its pectoral fins; can live out of water for as many as three days

  • Favored as a food fish throughout southeast Asia; also believed to have curative powers. Also sold in the aquarium trade.

  • Four species have been found in the U.S., in eight states, probably the result of releases from personal aquariums or to develop local food sources

  • No natural predators in the U.S.

If you ever catch a snakefish, kill it.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Florida Fishin'

A friend of mine recently approached me to assist her in planning a fishing trip for her to take with her nephew. Alas, a fishing guide travel agent I just might be…how fun!

My recommendations included a few options for a great fishing excursion: red fishing in Tampa Bay, butterfly peacock bass fishing in the Everglades, and possibly a charter out of Ponte Vedra. I recommended against Cabo since it is too far and for obvious reasons, probably over the top for a 14 year old.

Red fishing in Tampa Bay
Last May, my parents chartered a boat to go red fishing in Tampa Bay for the day. We caught tons of redfish with this guide and even hooked into some snook, which are awesome fish to fight. He cleaned the fish and we ate it for dinner - fresh, yummy - did sesame soy I think. Anyway, the guide's name is Greg McCullough - southern gentleman and explains everything. Click the link above - and tell him I sent you! Phone 813-478-5310

Tampa also has lots of other stuff to enjoy - beaches, great restaurants, golf, etc. You have to hit Frenchy's Cafe in Clearwater for a grouper burger (or two). And Crabby Bills...and Island Grille...

Butterfly Peacock Bass
While I have never gone on a charter with these guys, I follow their site (it is a link on this blog – see left). They seem to know their stuff. Butterfly peacock bass fishing is fun - I did it as a kid in Orange Park, FL at my grandparent's house on Doctor's Lake.

Here is their website if you want to check it out!

Overall, there are lots of options for Florida fishing. Considering it is a state that is surrounded by water, you shouldn’t find that hard to believe!

Ponte Vedra Charter
Another option is Ponte Vedra – Atlantic side – near Jacksonville. This resort offers tennis, golf, and guided fishing trips.

Florida is surrounded by water. In addition, there are lots of inlets, lakes, rivers, and streams, not to mention intercoastal waterways which provide lots of fishing opportunities. Canals can offer a nice afternoon of feet-in-the-water fishing off of somebody’s dock.

Roll up those pants and get your feet wet!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Mid-Winter's Night Daydream

It is possible to daydream at night? I think it is! The winter is a perfect time to conjur up ideas for travel, adventure, and future goals. I daydream at night a lot - it gives me a chance to take a pulse on the accomplishment of my goals.

For example - surf casting. Last year, I bought surf casting rod holders for my Jeep. I envision myself driving up to the surf on the Cape in Massachusetts or Rehoboth or Dewey Beach in Delaware, lights on at night, casting live or fake eels for stripers. I have ALWAYS wanted to do this - I have this feeling that 2008 is the year for this very event. I will be in Provincetown in February - not really striper season, but definitely a chance to enjoy the coastal fishing village in the off season!

My problem is that I am obsessed with adventure. Learning new things, seeing new places, and exploring. I would love to surf cast a few beaches from the Cape to Delaware - just for fun. I don't know from where my obsession derives. I am just very interested in seeing new places, doing new things, and trying to learn better, more efficient ways, of functioning as a fisher-woman!

My nephew received the gift of a fishing trip from my brother for Christmas, complete with waders and fishing poles. I never saw the eyes of a child so wide with anticipation and excitement. My father shall accompany them, wherever they decide to go. I love planning fishing outings - especially when a child is involved.

So, the rule is to daydream this winter. Daydream a mid-winter's night daydream. You never know what adventuresome ideas you might develop and act upon. The winter is a time of contemplation, yes, but it is truly a time for dreaming, planning, and preparing for spring adventure!