Photo: Angler Damien Cook with his record catch.

Kayak Angler Hauls in New MD Record Snakehead

They put up quite a fight. The invasive northern snakehead has become a fun conquest for Chesapeake Bay anglers, who are instructed to kill them on the spot for the sake of the environment.

Now, the bar has been raised among snakehead anglers in Maryland. Damien Cook, who lives in Dorchester County, set a new state record with a snakehead he landed from his kayak last week.

Cook was fishing in a Dorchester County river on July 5 when he caught a 21.0-pound fish that measured over 36 inches long. At first, he didn’t realize the special catch he had.

“Honestly I thought it was just your average 30-inch snakehead when I first hooked the fish,” Cook said. ”It pulled hard but I had the advantage of it being close and I got it in the net pretty quickly.”

At the time he was using a custom baitcasting rod, 30-pound test-rated braided line, and a custom chatterbait he calls the “cooker”.

The fish was weighed on a certified scale provided by Kool Ice Seafood in Cambridge and confirmed by a Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) biologist.

Cook’s catch surpassed the previous record 19.9-pound snakehead Andy Fox caught in 2018 while nighttime bowfishing with friends in Charles County. 

Northern snakeheads are popular among anglers both for the ecological importance of removing them from the watershed and the challenge they offer the person on the other end of the rod. As DNR biologists note, they fight hard and strike traditional artificial lures that are often used for largemouth bass. Dorchester County has long been a hotspot for catching snakeheads, as videojournalist Cheryl Costello learned firsthand for Bay Bulletin.

Snakeheads aren’t welcome in the Bay because they’re a nonnative predatory species that could outcompete important native predators in our waters.

DNR encourages anyone who catches a snakehead to kill it—never catch and release. It is also illegal to transport a live snakehead.

-Meg Walburn Viviano