Memorial Weekend Snakehead Trek
By David Graham: 6.3.2022
It's been nearly 3 years since I first encountered the notorious Northern Snakehead in the tidal marshes of Virginia. On Friday June 27th I made my first trek back for a solid weekend of fishing and filming for this unique predator species.
One of my snakeheads from 2019
Off the cuff I ran into some travel problems - as flight delays out of Fort Myers essentially 'stranded' me in Washington and missing my connector to Virginia. We had planned to get an early morning start to the day Saturday - and other flight options just weren't viable. I ended up renting a car in Washington and driving the rest of the way.
Trying to find comfort sleeping in a small compact rental car!
At about 01:00 am I found a church parking lot in a small town relatively close to our launch point and decided to bed down in the backseat for the night. I may have been lucky if I got more than 3 hours of sleep total! I met up with Virginia natives, Josh Dolin and Grant Alvis at roughly 5:30am where we launched onto a remote stretch of tidal river (which will remain nameless).
There is a real stark beauty to the Virginia landscape we fished... where towering bluffs and cliffs cascade into a river system unaltered since the time America's founders first landed there - navigating what would become the greatest country on Earth... and it was there early settlers probably caught their first glimpse of one of the many bald eagles we observed throughout our time on the water.
The fishing was not the most productive... we were encountering fish, but there are any number of reasons why they just didn't seem to want to commit for the most part. It could've been the heavy rainfall in days leading up to my arrival - it could have been the disturbance of what seemed like hundreds of thousands of spawning longnose gar in every bay, channel, and grassline we crossed... and it could've also been that I am just not good enough!
A largemouth bass caught incidentally while snakehead fishing
Much like my last trip for snakeheads - the fish we encountered seemed to dispel the narrative that they track mindlessly around killing whatever gets in their path... that they are a highly efficient predator that will quickly rid an ecosystem of all resources and prey items. The fish scarcely wanted to commit to a bite and consistently missed when they did strike. On top of that - the river we fished was absolutely teeming with life.
It seemed everywhere we would look there were shad popping the surface, showers of killifish along the grasslines, largemouth bass taking just as many shots at our lures as the snakeheads... and bald eagles plucking catfish out of shallow timber right infront of us.
I will not pretend my anecdotal experience with snakeheads is the end-all-say-all.,.. but every encounter I have with them seems to fortify my own perspective that they just aren't the destroyer they've been made out to be... conversely, they have unbelievable sport and game characteristics.
We got some amazing footage - all of which will be revealed in due time when Josh and my 'Have Rods Will Travel' project is completed and made available. There is much to look forward to!
I want to thank Grant Alvis again for his accommodation and knowledge, and Josh Dolin again for inviting me to see his awesome homewaters.
Grant Alvis holds a stunning northern snakehead
Josh Dolin with yet another awesome fish to be featured in the 'Have Rods Will Travel' season that is shaping up to be an incredible film series.