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Snakehead Fish Unwanted Guest after Occoquan Flood

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OCCOQUAN, Va. — Some Occoquan residents on Friday spent the better part of the past two days cleaning up sludge and debris left behind by flood waters from the Occoquan River.

He also had to figure out what to do with an unwanted fish that found their way into their garage.

“We spent an hour to an hour and a half just shoveling buckets of shad out of here,” said Cobb Ervin, who lives in an apartment building his family has owned since 1977 nestled between Mill Street and the Occoquan River. “There were literally hundreds of fish swimming around our parking lot when the water was up.”

The shad regularly spawn in the river during this time of year, so there were plenty of them.

Cobb’s garage was flooded out, its contents strung every where, and his 27 foot motorboat now has a hole in it after being struck by river debris.

On Thursday, after drenching rains the day before, the Occoquan spilled its banks sending more than two feet of water over seawalls and into homes and businesses. The rains fell hard enough and in the right location to cause this type of flooding, said residents who are used to seeing the river rise only when a large storm or hurricane move up the East Coast.

“That’s the perils of living on the water. We’ve gone through this 15 times at least,” he added.

Scuba shop drying out 

Next door at Patriot Scuba, Merial Currer was drying out her shop after it was inundated with 10 inches of water. She brought in five wet-dry vacuums to clean up the mud that was caked to her floor, and then fans to air out the shop.

In addition to giving scuba lessons, her shop sells scuba gear, and much of it is meant to get wet. But she’ll still have to claim a loss on some items damaged in the flood waters.

“I don’t know how much of a loss it’s going to be, but it won’t be as big as I thought it was going to be when I walked in here at 8 o’clock Thursday morning,” she said.

The scuba shop has been at its current location on the river for about a year, occupying 27,000 square feet of space. It’s the third, and largest location for the shop in Occoquan.

“This flood is not going to make us move. We want to be here on the river,” added Kurr.

A new seawall built less  than a year ago, which is lower than the neighboring walls, was said to have been the reason why so much water was able to spill over and into the scuba shops and into the town.

What to do with the snakehead? 

Back Ervin’s apartment building, an employee from a nearby restaurant came to the garage and pointed out what he thought was a snake that washed up from the river. It was a snakehead fish, the invasive fish that can sit for hours on land and breath air.

Snakeheads have invaded the waters of the middle Potomac River, destroying native habitats, and have been declared a public nuisance by state wildlife officials.

With no where to go, the fish sat in the dark, cool, flooded out garage until it was scooped up into a shovel and brought out to a gravel parking lot. Now in bright sunshine, the fish, with moves similar to a snake, tried to slither its way back to the garage.

Instead the fish was put into a barrel and taken to the restaurant where they thought about eating it.

In the end, the restaurant employee brought the fish back to the river and dropped it back into the water – a move that is prohibited by Virginia law.

“They say you’re supposed to kill them when you find them but I just don’t see the sense in it,” said the restaurant employee.

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  • Putting a destructive species back into its habitat where it will kill every living creature it encounters didn’t make any sense. Incredible.

    • Tim DeLong

      Except this didn’t happen. I will still kill and keep every snakehead that I find because they are a very tasty fish, but they are absolutely not a danger to the Potomac River system. Their population levels have stabilized and are dropping in a number of areas. Game fish populations in areas with Northern Snakehead are not declining. The sky didn’t fall and it’s been 15 years since the suspected first introduction of this fish into our area.

  • Returning the snakehead to the water was truly a bad move. Perhaps the employess is not aware of what danger the snakedhead poses?

  • Nick Vega

    jaja…love when people say: ‘danger”..”kill every living creature’…they are so ignorant…go out to see if they are really doing what you have said…

    • Dave Scillffo

      You released it? That’s incredibly stupid. Those who think these invasive or nuisance fish are harmless need to educate themselves.

      Together, fishing related industries and recreational anglers support hundreds of thousand jobs and add millions of dollars to state tax revenues, providing significant support to the nation’s overall economy through recessions as well as booms, according to recent reports from several sources including the American Sport Fishing Association and Southwick Associates.

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