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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 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 50 F 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 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.

Sporting Quality:

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.

Additional Information

Identification: Snakehead (Channa spp.) presumed Goldline Snakehead (Channa aurolineata) based on recent publications (Adamson & Britz 2018, Adamson & Britz 2019).
Image Credit: © Diane Peebles