NEWS, SPORTS, COMMENTARY, POLITICS for Gloucester City and the Surrounding Areas of South Jersey and Philadelphia

Stretching Your Dollars: How Thrift Stores Make Budgeting Easier

CNBNews Fishing Maryland: Are Invasive Fish Good Eating?

What Anglers Can Do After Harvesting Invasive Fish Species Such As Blue Catfish or Northern Snakehead


Anglers who catch invasive species in Maryland waters have multiple options to make use of the fish

Photo of sign noting invasive catfish in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Catch and release of blue catfish, flathead catfish, and northern snakehead is discouraged as they are harmful to native species. Maryland Department of Natural Resources photo.

Invasive species can have detrimental effects on ecologically and economically important native species. Once invasive species establish themselves in an ecosystem, they can reproduce in such numbers that it becomes hugely expensive, or even impossible, to eradicate all of them. For that reason, habitat and wildlife managers aim to minimize the harm caused by invasive species by reducing populations or containing them in a specific area.

Northern snakehead, blue catfish, and flathead catfish are the most harmful invasive fish in Maryland. Blue catfish prey on blue crabs, menhaden, white perch and other species. They and other invasive fish also out-compete native species for habitat space and food, and pose a threat to key commercial fisheries.

To combat these ecologically-threatening species, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources urges anglers to kill all invasive species they catch. In fact – in Maryland – it is illegal to transport live snakehead, blue catfish and flathead catfish. Anyone in violation of this can be fined up to $2,500. The Department of Natural Resources strongly discourages catch-and-release fishing for invasive species.

Anglers who catch invasive species in Maryland waters have these options to make use of the fish:

Photo of snakehead etouffee.

Snakehead Etouffee, a culinary creation perfected by a Maryland angler. Maryland Department of Natural Resources photo.

Eat Them!

Fish and eat; then repeat. Blue catfish and northern snakehead feature delicious white, flaky filets. They can be served many ways, including fried, baked, sauteed, grilled, and much more. Work on your culinary craft with these tried-and-true recipes: Air Fried Snakehead Nuggets and Steve’s Yellow Mustard Fried Blue Catfish. Anglers should consume blue catfish or other fish species from the Chesapeake Bay in moderation as part of a diverse diet, and for blue catfish in particular, anglers should remove the red muscle and skin before eating filets.

Bait Up

Freeze the fresh catch and use it as cut bait for a future fishing outing, or save frozen bait to load a crab trap. With crab pot owners changing bait as often as every 24 hours, there can never be enough bait on hand to restock. Some people even grind the carcasses to use as chum for future fishing outings.

Fertilize Your Garden

Whole fish carcasses can go right into your backyard compost bin along with food scraps. Fish waste is high in nitrogen – and when mixed with wood chips, leaves, branches or bark – can turn into rich soil. Many localities and counties also offer local food waste drop off centers, but you’ll need to check on a case-by-case basis if they take uncooked seafood.

Save Local Wildlife

A local wildlife rehabilitation center or zoo may take fresh or frozen seafood to feed raptors, carnivores, and carrion feeders in their care. Don’t let the catch go to waste, allow recovering animals to reap the benefits of your fishing success. The Owl Moon Raptor Center in Boyds, Montgomery County, accepts donations of fresh invasive fishes, as do other area zoos. Catches that are donated should be as fresh as possible.

Make Money Selling Invasives

Learn more about becoming a commercial harvester and making money selling invasive fishes. For northern snakeheads, there are three licensing scenarios for processing and selling fileted fish – either to consumers or to a licensed seafood processor or dealer. For catfish, commercial harvesters can connect with a USDA-approved processing facility to sell their catch.

Photo of a DNR staffer holding a sign marking an invasive species disposal station at Deep Creek Lake.

Disposal areas ensure invasive species do not reenter the ecosystem they came from. Maryland Department of Natural Resources photo.

Dispose Responsibly

Nationwide, disposal areas at public fishing areas are picking up traction. For anyone fishing out of a Certified Maryland Clean Marina, the facility should have established fish-cleaning areas or waste receptacles on site. Alternatively, if disposing of carcasses in a public waste receptacle at a boat ramp or elsewhere, anglers should be mindful of other patrons, and double bag the contents when possible.