WDFW LogoWashington Department of Fish & Wildlife
WDFW LogoConservation

To report an AIS
sighting or to find out
more information call

Questions or comments regarding the state's Aquatic Invasive Species and Ballast Water Management Programs may be directed to:

Allen Pleus
AIS Coordinator
(360) 902-2724

View WAC 220-12-090
Classification - Nonnative aquatic
animal species with photos

Channa argus (Northern snakehead)

Animal Fish
Family: Channidae
Classification: Prohibited

Giant Snakehead

The freshwater fish has an ugly wide mouth and heavy scales, making it look like a snake's head and letting it swallow prey as large as it is. With sharp teeth and powerful jaws, big snakeheads can bite other fish in half.

Adults eat fish, frogs, aquatic birds and small mammals, while juvenile snakehead fish prey on earthworms, water bugs, tadpoles, dragonfly larvae and other organisms. The fish have a rudimentary lung that allows them to live out of the water for up to three days. They have been known to ‘walk' from one water body to another.

There are 28 species of snakehead. Some are popular with aquarium enthusiasts – at least until they outgrow their tanks. More often the fish are imported live because they are a popular Asian cuisine item. The fish has been found in seven states, not counting the fish that WDFW confiscated at the Canadian border a few years ago.