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Freaky air-breathing fish sparks 'kill it immediately' warning

CNET logo CNET 10/10/2019 Amanda Kooser

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(Video by Amaze Lab)

Georgia's waterways got some bad news this week when an angler landed a northern snakehead fish in a private pond. These oddball animals can get up to 3 feet in length (that's about a meter) and are known for their voracious appetites and ability to breathe air. 

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources issued an alert about the fish this week and gave instructions for what to do if you think you've caught one. 

a close up of a hand holding a fish: This USGS photo lets you peer inside the mouth of a northern snakehead. © CNET

This USGS photo lets you peer inside the mouth of a northern snakehead.

The first step is to not release it. Next: "Kill it immediately (remember, it can survive on land) and freeze it." The department asks anglers to report suspected snakeheads to the Wildlife Resources Division Fisheries Office.

A United States Geological Survey fact sheet says the northern snakehead can survive up to four days out of the water and that juveniles can migrate over land, making this toothy fish a prime candidate for your nightmares. The fish compete with native species for both food and habitat. 

Gallery: 37 Animal Oddities That Prove Mother Nature Is Crazy Weird (Best Life)


The northern snakehead is native to China but has already been spotted in multiple US states, including Maryland, California, Arkansas and Virginia. 

The fish likely made their way into the wild from unauthorized releases by fish markets or aquarium owners. The snakehead's capture in Georgia is a first for the Peach State.  

a close up of a fish: Juvenile northern snakeheads are capable of moving across land. Georgia Department of Natural Resources © Provided by CBS Interactive Inc. Juvenile northern snakeheads are capable of moving across land. Georgia Department of Natural Resources

"We are now taking steps to determine if they have spread from this water body and, hopefully, keep it from spreading to other Georgia waters," said Matt Thomas, chief of fisheries for the Wildlife Resources Division.  

In case you're wondering, you can indeed eat a northern snakehead. It might be ugly, but it's reportedly delicious.

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