Bullseye Snakehead: Channa marulius
Air-breathing, torpedo-shaped fish with flattened head and toothed jaws; long anal and dorsal fins without spines; typically red eyes; body color darkens with age to deep brown with black blotches sometimes fringed with bright comma-shaped markings, and a red-orange eyespot (ocellus) near the base of the tail. It resembles a bowfin in behavior and appearance, but is distinguished by a long anal fin.
The Bullseye Snakehead remain centered in the Margate/Coral Springs/Pompano Beach area where it was first documented in October 2000. They will likely be limited to the southern half of Florida since temperatures below 50oF are lethal. To the south this population is bounded by the North New River Canal (G-15), L-36 Canal to the west, and the Hillsboro Canal (G-08) to the north. This is the only area from which Snakeheads have been documented, although FWC has received numerous reports of Bullseye Snakehead elsewhere these have all turned out to be similar-looking native fishes such as the Bowfin. Native range Pakistan, Malaysia, and southern China.
In canals, typically associated with overhanging shoreline vegetation, dense submersed vegetation, and debris; tolerant of stagnant waters due to air-breathing capabilities.
Spawning Habitats: Spawn primarily from March through May with a secondary peak in August; adults occasionally seen herding young in shallows until six inches long; a sample of ripe females contained an average of 4,700 ready to spawn eggs.
Feeding Habits: Bottom dwelling, ambush predator that feeds primarily on small fish and crayfish, but occasionally eats a wide variety of prey including turtles, toads, lizards, snakes, and insects.
Age and Growth:
Largest collected in Florida by FWC was 31.5 inches and weighed 9.2 pounds; reports of this species commonly growing to more than four feet and weights of 66 pounds erroneous; largest likely to get about 15 pounds.
Good; have been caught on jerk baits and live baits; a popular sportfish in its native range; no bag or size limits.
Excellent; even said to have medicinal benefits in its native range by hastening the healing of wounds and internal injuries.
Image Credit: Diane Peebles