Beware the Frankenfish!
Robert Burstein is among several fishermen searching for the Northern Snakehead in Central Park.
May 2nd, 2013
11:39 AM ET

Beware the Frankenfish!

By Steve Kastenbaum, CNN

Follow on Twitter: @SKastenbaumCNN

Editor's Note: Listen to the full story in our player above, and join the conversation in our comments section below.

(CNN) – The Northern Snakedhead fish is not going to win any beauty contests.

With a mouth full of sharp teeth beneath bulging eyes, the invasive predator – native to waters in China and Russia – may be threatening the balance of the ecosystem of the  Harlem Meer, a man-made lake in New York’s Central Park.

[2:46] “It can attack and feed on the other fish that are there which would disrupt the water body,” said Rodney Rivera of the New York State Department of Environmental Protection. “The fact that it breaths and it spends some of its time above water it’s kind of an interesting one to most folks.”

Some urban fly fisherman have come to the lake in hopes of being saviors to the dozens of turtles, ducks and schools of carp that live there.

Robert Burstein was trying to hook one of the nefarious fish..

[3:47] “I’m trying to protect the inhabitants of the pond. Maybe it’s just the desire to fight a monster.”

It’s not clear how the Northern Snakehead could’ve wound up in this lake. It’s actually illegal to own a live Northern Snakehead in New York.

Subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or Stitcher. And listen to CNN Soundwaves on our SoundCloud page.

soundoff (27 Responses)
  1. Dondi

    might I suggest chasing the entire population through a wier using a small amount of chloriene and then simply vacume the offending fish into a holding tank for disposal through emulstion into fertilzer for the local park... a 24-to-36 Hr. hold would create minimal mortality for the remaining species and provide sufficient time for the chloriene level to disapate to safe levels...

    May 8, 2013 at 10:47 am | Report abuse |
  2. Marc

    /facepalm Carp is an invasive species too, and do as much damage to the environment as snakeheads can do.....

    May 6, 2013 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tom

      Prove that Asian carp do as much damage as snakehead. Good luck Marc.

      May 6, 2013 at 8:42 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Jasper Hill

    While most of the U.S is susceptible to these Snakeheads, Arizona will remain pretty much free. Fried Fish anyone?

    May 6, 2013 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
  4. John

    The picture is great! I'm a professional fly fisherman and looking at his set up, I hope he doesn't catch that fish. Better have some shock tippet and 4-inch needle nose pliers if you catch that thing. I would use a popper for bass or GTs and strip it over the water like a hurt fish. I've fly fished in China and Thailand where they have Snakefish. These people have no idea what they are in for if they catch one of these.

    May 6, 2013 at 1:13 am | Report abuse |
  5. Robert

    I saw the report and first thought, "I know more about snake heads than CNN does.Instead of saying what you know you know you should get an expert to talk about it.SNAKE HEAD CAN'T GO OVER A FOOT ON FLAT, DRY LAND AND GET TIRED VERY EASILY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    May 4, 2013 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jenifer

      Thank you much!!!!!! A few years ago it was reported lose America and would make its way into most of Americas lakes and rivers over time.

      May 4, 2013 at 8:24 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Dan

    Just saw the report on CNN this AM. I haven't laughed that hard in awhile. They eat turtles! Keep your pets away! They will eat everything!!! Good times. I've caught Snakehead in the Potomac. Fantastic fish to catch and eat. Monsters who will eat your pets? No. Do your research folks and you will find that local fish and wildlife agencies have yet to establish a link between a decline in native fish populations and the Snakehead once the Snakehead have become established. Largemouth Bass populations have actually increased in the Potomac. Snakehead have been in the Potomac River for over 10 years.


    May 4, 2013 at 9:02 am | Report abuse |
    • skastenbaumcnn

      I guess you know more than the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Maybe you should give them a call. Perhaps, then, all of those communities that have drained lakes and ponds in the name of ridding their waters of the invasive predator did that for nothing? The pet remark was a joke. It's called sarcasm. As for the turtles, yes, they have been known to take bites out of baby turtles and frogs. But hey, don't take my word for it, watch National Geographic's take on the Northern Snakehead. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nmU7etSYYqI

      May 6, 2013 at 11:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • JZG

      Ever seen a Giant Snakehead? They're basically 4-foot piranhas with an attitude.

      May 7, 2013 at 7:01 am | Report abuse |
  7. Sam

    The fly fishermen aren't going to catch anything. if you want to catch a snakehead, use a pencil popper or a bass assissan on a led-head jig

    May 4, 2013 at 8:34 am | Report abuse |
  8. Bart NYC

    My son & I fish this pond. Can't wait to catch one and put a knife through its head. This fish will tear through the LM bass, bluegills, crappies, sunnys, & carp that live there. Way to ruin a great fishing spot. I wouldn't doubt if they just poison the whole pond and restock it. Argggh!!! They better not do this to the other ponds in our park!

    May 3, 2013 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bart NYC

      ohh and I guess I better put more than 2 lbs test on my light rod ; )

      May 3, 2013 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • william

      Fishing upstae many years also have had snake heads as pets......JUST CHUM THE WATER WITH CHICKEN BROTH AND NET THEM...works very time...NEXT SOMEBODY WILL 1000000 $ TO HUNT THEM OUT OF A PUDDLE...LOL...CAREFULL THEY BITE REALLY REALLY HARD!

      May 4, 2013 at 7:26 am | Report abuse |
  9. michael

    Here in Vancouver Canada we have a large Asian population and the fish are sold as dinner for restuarant patrons. However one possibly 2 were released into a local park lake Fish and Game spent 2 weeks trying to catch the fish until it was decided to drain the lake and they were finally caught. Good luck New York get these monsters out of your pond before they destroy everything and get into other waterways.

    May 2, 2013 at 9:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • skastenbaumcnn

      Not surprised that they went to a seemingly extreme measure to get rid of this fish. It's a real danger to the balance of local ecosystems. It's tolerant to a wide variety of temperatures, can survive out of water for a time and it'll eat just about anything in its path including members of its own species when it runs out of food and it won't think twice about going after juvenile ducks and other birds.

      May 3, 2013 at 11:07 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Kassandra

    About 10 years ago they were in my town in Maryland. Now you catch them in the Potomac River all around the DC, MD and VA sides. Some of the restaurants cook snakehead meals.

    May 2, 2013 at 8:11 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Richard

    There is an episode of Discovery's River Monsters that covers the snakeheads. They have been discovered all over the US. Seem like a pretty nasty fish to be in that little pond.

    May 2, 2013 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sir Bobowe

      Killing critters for sport is terrible, no matter what type critter it is

      May 3, 2013 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
      • Mel

        Then You've never watched river monsters. The host almost always does live releases (the few times the fish was not returned was because of accidental death, like one fish bashing his head on rocks. Said fish was then given to the local residents so it was not wasted.) and does his best to ensure the fish is unharmed.

        Also, the snakehead is an invasive species. Like the Asian carp and the Lionfish, unless they are checked, they will RUIN our local waterways.

        May 3, 2013 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
      • Jan

        I happen to share your moral conviction here concerning the ethics of killing for sport, but regardless of my moral judgement concerning the ethics of those who do this, what matters to anything other than the karma of particular individuals doing the killing is whether removing or at least decreasing the ongoing damage from this environmentally destructive species from where it has been mistakenly introduced is helped by encouraging folks who DO kill for sport to choose this place & species for their target.

        May 3, 2013 at 5:19 pm | Report abuse |
      • skastenbaumcnn

        Even if that critter is wiping out ALL of the local inhabitants and it is not native to the waters its found in?

        May 3, 2013 at 11:08 pm | Report abuse |
  12. jboh

    This was most likely a pet no longer wanted. As an aquarium hobbyist, I once had a few snakeheads. Most fish will do 1 of 2 things when you walk into the room w/tank. They either come to the top to be fed, or run and hide. These things just sit facing you w/a how can I take a bite out this guy look. We also have a "flying carp", and lion fish problem w/non-native species. This is not new. Read about walking catfish in Fla. in the '70s. Fla. once was paying a $25 bounty on them.

    May 2, 2013 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • skastenbaumcnn

      @jboh thanks for listening to the piece. So they're that menacing, huh? I've yet to see one up close but I'm hoping to be there if/when one of those fly fishermen catches one.

      May 2, 2013 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • chrisinny

      @jboh, I too owned a snakehead and agree with you fully about walking into a room. My wife hated it.. she literally felt the fish disliked her. It is voracious. I fed it 100 comet fish at a time. Even chicken breast. I never put my hand in the water. I moved out of the country and had to give it to a local fish store. It was about 2 feet long by then. It was a true battle to transfer it.. it fought and bit the whole time. A true monster fish.. but one of my favorites.

      May 3, 2013 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
      • skastenbaumcnn

        Well that explains why Dept. of Environmental Conservation officers are so concerned about it possible being in the Harlem Meer in Central Park.

        May 3, 2013 at 11:10 pm | Report abuse |