I can only tell from the take that a large mouth ate my frog. It was sudden but quiet, creating a silent pit on the surface along the lily pads. Not much fuss on the hit. Now, I’m not suggesting that bass never violently eat an empty-bodied frog because they eat when they’re in the mood or when they’re big. But in the waters I fish, the bass are on the smaller side and tend to drag a frog down instead of absorbing the bait. This two-pounder gives me a jump when I set the hook, and you’d think after spending an entire July afternoon roasting in a South Jersey swamp with zero bites so far, I’d be grateful. But I’m not.
I’m disappointed it’s not a snakehead. Snakehead is worth the sweat and heat stroke. Bass? Not that much.
The vicious fiction of a serpent’s head strike
When a snakehead eats, it’s on the surface most of the time—and it’s adrenaline every time. These fish are usually caught in less than a foot of water, and unlike bass, they jump a lure out of the water before striking, sometimes for 10 feet or more. You track the wake and you know the fish are there, then you have to set the pace it takes to get them engaged. Speed up? Slow down? Stop? You only have seconds to decide, and if you get it right, the fish will rip that bait off with a deep, sharp, ripping suck.
Set the hook and the fish goes ballistic, thrashing and flipping through the air. Unless you’re armed with a stout 40- or 50-pound rod and braid, your chances of getting those hooks on that strong jaw and getting that fish to the net drop significantly. The game is, in my opinion, more challenging, more visual and more exciting than wading through a pile of pound bass at the local lake, hoping for a good fish or two. For now, this opinion is in the minority, but I predict that will eventually change.
America’s other favorite game fish?
Largemouths are America’s favorite game fish, but that didn’t happen overnight. It took decades of stocking to put them in enough places to make them accessible to almost every angler in the U.S. If, then, you factor in access to what makes a game fish popular, it’s not out of the realm of possibility. of the possibility that, in the future, snakeheads may overtake large bass in the popularity contest. The only difference between the heads of the snakes and the bass is that the bass were implanted where they did not exist on purpose; the heads of the serpents were not. Both are aggressive. Both disrupted the natural order of things to some extent when they arrived. But as snakeheads proliferate naturally and through illegal dumping, a growing number of anglers are deciding they have more appeal as a target than largemouth bass.
Steven Cahn, owner of Maryland-based High Octane Custom Baits, is banking on the popularity of snakeheads continuing to grow as their range inevitably expands. High Octane is one of several lure companies that make bait specifically for snakehead anglers. To the untrained eye, these lures don’t look much different from standard bass lures: they’re hollow frogs, crankbaits, spinnerbaits, and spinnerbaits. The difference is that Cahn and his team create them to withstand the harshest punishment of snakes’ heads. The wires are thicker, the colors are stronger, the hooks are stronger and every lure is modified to perform in the worst cover. Cahn only started High Octane in 2019. At first, he received one or two orders a week. Two years later, he has become so busy that he had to temporarily shut down his website to keep up with orders. His baits are now in stores across Maryland and Virginia — the very region where snakeheads appeared more than 20 years ago, creating a national panic. It’s also the area where they’ve been around the longest, meaning the fishermen here have had more time to come.
“Up to Maryland they’re born with a crabbing license and a fishing license,” Cahn says. “That’s exactly what you did—you went crabbing and fished the bay for rockfish. There were also perch and bream in the rivers, but when the rockfish started falling, I think people were looking for something else to start chasing.
Snakeheads filled a void, and while I didn’t have the same void further north in New Jersey, these fish were just a break from the norm. Suddenly, there was a fish that lived in a swamp habitat that I had never had much reason to explore, that behaved completely differently and required a completely new approach than any local fish I had followed all my life.
That was enough to draw me in, though Cahn says he’s noticed for most people, “you have to catch the first one to really turn you around.” There are already enough people coming back to support snakehead tours up and down the East Coast, and the number of participants is growing every year.
Cooking from swamp to table
Cahn also pointed out that snake heads offer a benefit turned off water that does not bet – great table prize. Before my friends down south worry about this: Yes, I understand that many people get big mouths about the table. But it’s fair to say that most serious bass anglers release them (and would feel guilty about keeping them).
“Snakeheads are the total package,” Cahn says. “You get a strike and a fight that’s 10 times better than most fish you’ll hook. Now you can legally release these fish in most countries, so I can put that fish back in and do it again tomorrow or I can take it home to my family and we can enjoy one of the best tasting fish ever. good in the area.”
I don’t kill every snakehead I catch, but I get more excited about snakehead tacos than those made from any other local freshwater species. It is a firmer meat – more similar in taste and texture to a saltwater grizzly or grouper, but the nutritional value does not exceed the sporting abilities of these fish. Like Cahn, I believe there will come a time when snakeheads will be as accepted as bass, pike, walleye, and perch—especially considering 20 years of Maryland studies have led some biologists to conclude that they are not as harmful to the ecosystem as they once were. scared. People who fish where snakeheads do not exist find these conclusions more difficult to believe and accept, but for those of us who witness the coexistence of snakeheads and other game fish, the fear of total ecosystem destruction is long gone. The only thing I worry about is whether I’m going to drown or be ready when a 10-pound black torpedo is coming back at my frog.