Kayak Fishing Club of the Palm Beaches

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About | Snakeheads

Snakeheads – Worth a Look

This is about Florida’s Bullseye Snakeheads. The Bullseye gets its name from the prominent eyespot, or ocellus, which is a black spot rimmed with orange near the base of the tail fin. These Snakeheads are an invasive fish and were predominately found in an area north of SR-84 near the Ft. Lauderdale Airport (New River). They are expanding their territory so that now they are into Dade County and all the way north up to Wellington and even into Royal Palm Beach, west of West Palm Beach.

Snakeheads are members of the freshwater Perciform fish family Channidae, native to Africa and Asia. There are 29 species of Snakeheads and they differ greatly in size. One specie only grows to 10 inches while others grow to over 4 feet. At this time two species are reproducing in the continental United States. These are what are called the Northern Snakehead, which is reproducing in the Potomac River and a few other areas, and the Bullseye Snakehead, which started reproducing in the canal systems in Broward County, Florida.

The Northern Snakehead (in the Potomac River) is a cold water fish and may grow up to more than 4 feet in length and well over 40 pounds, while the Bullseye Snakehead in Florida is a warm water fish and may grow up to 39 inches long and 15 pounds.

Snakeheads are super fun to catch and super good to eat. The large ones fight like a Snook going into the Mangroves and even jump. Some Snakehead fishermen are very “protective” about where they catch them. Ignore the Hollywood-type hype (like on “River Monsters” TV). This is what we know about them, the truth, starting right here.

There are Snakeheads in the North New River from GPS coordinates 26.094969, -80.229701 all the way west to the canal that surrounds Markham Park (put GPS coordinates in Google Maps 26.12534, -80.354885) and now also in the South New River Canal (C-11) along Griffin Rd. and into north Dade County and all the lakes that connect in any way to the canals.

Two of the east/west canals in Broward County that have the largest numbers of Snakeheads in them are the C-14 canal along the south side of Atlantic Blvd. west of Deerfield Beach (where the very first ones were discovered) and the Hillsboro Canal west of Pompano Beach. They are mainly caught in the spur canals, the main canals where there is vegetation or structure, and the numerous lakes and ponds connected to these canals.

The easternmost point on the Hillsboro Canal is a lock west of Military Trail at 26.327855, -80.131543. The western limit is past 441 at the lock at the SE tip of Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge
26.355718, -80.297534.

Four good launch areas along the Hillsboro Canal are

(1) at the Villages of Hillsboro Park: 4111 NW 6th Street, Deerfield Beach, just west of Powerline Rd. north of Hillsboro Blvd. (fish east along the north bank).   26.327534, -80.160758

(2) Tradewinds Park South, 3600 W. Sample Road, Coconut Creek, Fl (just West of Turnpike exit 69 (exit 39 on I-95). Free except wk ends and holidays (then only $1.50/person).
Sign Waiver 9am at office:   26.271623, -80.174769
Designated Put-in and Parking:   26.268973, -80.173508

(3) Off Kimberly Rd. (Old Everglades Pump Rd.) but now off-limits for launching because of all the trash left by fishermen on the bank there.
26.383573, -80.236854

(4) a boat ramp off west end of the Hillsborro Canal
26.352745, -80.297576

Along the C-41 check out the spur canals from the easternmost lock at GPS coordinates 26.23077, -80.121527 (and 26.205889, -80.131427) near Cypress Road and S. Dixie Highway and west to the Sawgrass Expressway and the north-south canal along the expressway.

Here are six free boat ramps connected to the C-14: and one launch from near a commercial parking lot.

(1) Donaldson Park, 900 NW 43rd Avenue, Coconut Creek: From the Turnpike go west on Coconut Creek Pkwy. And then south on NW 43 Ave to NW 9 St. The park will be on your left.
26.241409, -80.180464

(2) Winfield Park, 6400 Winfield Blvd. at NW 63 Ave. Margate: Take Winfield Blvd. west at SR-441 and north of Copans Rd. (also called Royal Palm Blvd. there).  26.258159, -80.210729

(3) Legacy Park, West River Drive, Margate, Fl. From SR 441, just south of Coconut Creek Parkway, take Margate Blvd. west to W. River Dr. Turn right and you are at the ramp (very limited parking – no trailers).
26.24471, -80.20687

(4) Veterans Memorial Park at Margate Marina, 7186 NW 1st Street, Margate: Atlantic Blvd., south on Rock Island Road (NW 7th Ave.), east at NW 1st Street (just before the bridge) and ramp is right there.
26.230561, -80.220508

(5) Veterans Memorial Park, Tamarac: from Atlantic Blvd., south on University to Southgate Blvd. and west to park at south side of bridge.
26.229518, -80.254253

(6) Riverside Park, Coral Springs: from Atlantic Blvd. go south on NW 100 Ave. (Coral Ridge Dr./Nob Hill Rd.) and, just before the big (second) bridge, turn left.     26.23, -80.281231

(7) Coral Lake Near Winfield Park off 441: Launch at GPS 26.259807, -80.200694 and take this little canal (we have seen Snakeheads right here) east to Coral Lake where we have caught some big ones.

I hooked some Snakeheads just feet from my canoe with a little flip cast. Canoes and kayaks are silent and do not spook them like motor (even electric) boats do.

And so you do not confuse the Bowfin (Mudfish) with the Snakehead, the Bowfin has two smaller anal fins while the Snakehead has one long anal fin running from mid body almost to the tail fin.

Snakeheads are more active in the middle of the day and are more active when it is sunny bright (like Peacock Bass).
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Kayaks and canoes are quiet enough so that you do not have to do long casts and we catch some with 10 foot flip casts.
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The Snakehead has a lot of small very sharp teeth that point back in the mouth so that whatever they hold on to will not get away. This explains why I lost some, thinking that they were hooked, when, in fact, they just held on for a long time (some a really long time and putting up a good fight) before spitting the lure. A second “set the hook” may be a good idea.
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I use my “normal” light salt water (and Bass) set-up for Snakeheads. That is a spinning or bait casting reel on a 6 to 7 foot rod with 10 to 15 pound line and 2 feet or more of 30 pound monofilament leader (so I can lift them out of the weeds) and a noisy surface lure (like a frog or a buzz bait). A medium stiff rod will help in hook setting. You do not need wire leader, heaver line, club, etc.

I have had only one ‘cut me off’ so far. It is easy to grab them with your hand behind the head and in the gill area. Some very successful Snakehead fishermen use heavier line and large frog-like lures and cast into the weeds. On overcast days a worm weight ahead of the lure takes it down to where they may be.
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You will see it in some videos, but clubbing them to kill them usually only stuns them. It does make it easier to put them in the cooler though. Cold (on ice) kills them. I stab them under the pectoral fins with a small knife and bleed them to kill them. Catch and release in the water you catch them in is allowed. Snakehead fishing rivals going out for Snook. Really. Give it a try.

Catching Snakeheads is like going after Peacock Bass. Peacocks and Snakeheads seem to bite more in the middle of the day and also like it to be sunny and bright out. Windy overcast days are not as good fishing for Snakeheads. I have been catching them on noisy surface lures pulled pretty fast, but sometimes a slower retrieve works best.

Snakeheads like weeds and that can make it difficult for my Outback with the Mirage drive and the twisting rudder, so if you have that, you may be better off paddling and plugging the drive hole with your Cassette Plug. The rudder also catches tons of weeds. I sometimes could not pull it up and needed help clearing it. I ended up with lots of weed flipped up on the kayak too. I will use one of my other kayaks or my canoe more for some Snakehead fishing.

We are also seeing quite a number of Snakeheads in very shallow water facing shore, some big ones even have part of their bodies out of the water. It is exciting to see them turn around and attack your lure passing behind them. When we do not see them, a good cast would be on or very near the shoreline, and pulled out fast. It can be very productive.

I talked to a young woman fishing along the bank just west of Winfield Park and she said she could see a Snakehead with a lot of babies about 6 or 7 feet down along the edge of the limestone wall behind her house right there. Maybe live bait or a plastic shrimp would be better for the deeper ones. Just a thought. And she did not know Snakeheads were good to eat so was not targeting them. With the limestone base and walls, the water is so clean here that the locals eat the Bass in this canal all the time. FYI. So I am eating Bass from here too.

When Snakeheads are mating, or protecting some of the hatch, daddy and mommy Snakehead are aggressively protecting the young-uns so may be even easier to catch. Wonder how a lizard or snake plastic lure would work. Hmmmmm…. And this may be a perfect time to dig out those old weedless helicopter lures hiding in the back of some gear bags. That could be a perfect Snakehead lure.

Snakeheads mate three times a year and have around 300 baby Snakeheads each time. This had the FWC worried that they could take over an area really fast and hurt our Bass fishing industry. This has not been the case since large Bass eat the baby Snakeheads. But we can help cut down the numbers by catching as many as possible. Fortunately for us, they are really good eating.

I did hook a really big Snakehead that cut me off. Yeah, right near the hook, cut it like a knife, it did. It attacked the plastic frog, took off, ran a bit, jumped like a Tarpon, dove to the bottom, and … it was gone. However, that is my only one cut-off so I will still be using 20 to 30 inches of 30# mono leader (with 10 to 15# line). We now also know that Snakeheads like Gulp Shrimp.

I lost a really big one that ran around some weeds and then some rocks. It fought just like a big Snook running into the Mangroves and, yes, I lost it and a good bit of line too.

To see some that did not get away, look at the “Photos” section and go to “Snakefishing 101.

David

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