By Capt. Chaconas
They don’t walk on land or eat small dogs and children. Sub aquatic myths! But… snakeheads have invaded the Potomac River! For 12 years, the lore of the Potomac’s Snakeheads has increased with electro-fishing catches by Natural Resources staff and anglers.
For fishermen, it’s been random hook-ups, until now. Accidental angling for Northern Snakeheads is over! A dozen years ago, a self-proclaimed “Snakehead pro” launched a new sport!
Alexandria native Derek Radoski is hooked on snakeheads! His compulsion began on a bass fishing trip. In Little Hunting Creek, Radoski latched on to what would be the first of dozens of snakeheads he’s battled. National Geographic, Voice of America TV/radio and others spread news of his catch internationally.
Recognizing he was on to something, Radoski focused his fishing in what he dubbed “Snakehead Alley”, Pohick, Dogue to Little Hunting Creeks, where he was just a cast away from hooking into another toothy critter. But Radoski wanted non-stop snakehead action.
The internet revealed Radoski wasn’t alone in his quest. “I became friends with Jean-Francois Helias, a guide in Thailand.” Radoski knew he would fish with him after seeing Helias snakehead fishing with Cindy Garrison (Get Wild with Cindy Garrison) on ESPN.
Helias sent custom-built snakehead rods and a handcrafted snakehead lure, the “Frogasm”. Radoski began selling Frogasm lures on his website: snakeheadpro.com. He established the Snakehead Angling Society (SAS) with worldwide membership.
Dozens of anglers have landed one, but none dedicated aquatic assaults species specific to snakeheads, until Radoski. Bitten by the snakehead’s bite, Radoski headed to Malaysia’s jungle reservoirs in search of giant snakeheads. Armed with Potomac River research and one Northern notched on his rod, Radoski endured a battery of inoculations, bad water, off-the-scale humidity, and bugs, to do battle halfway around the world.
Radoski’s Snakehead Safari entailed 30 travel hours. In Kuala Lumpur, he met guide Helias for a 10-hour dirt road drive into the jungle to a part of the world where the definition of civilization changes…no radio or phone. The “resort” was a 20×20 room with bathroom and shower sharing the same drain.
The resort’s restaurant was un-rated. Radoski downed over 3 liters of water daily. He endured jungle heat and humidity along with heavy rains. After 3 days, he adjusted to diet and time differences.
Stepping onto small casting decks of wooden Viking-like canoes, Radoski was ready to fish! “It wasn’t even a deck, more like a twelve-pack!” Radoski’s TEVA clad feet kept him afoot as the guide used thick bamboo poles to stealthily approach the snakehead’s lair, a 1000-acre flooded jungle reservoir.
The guide sights schools of snakehead fry (Luk Krok), appearing like an isolated rainstorm in a five-foot circle with water morphing from calm, to boil, then calm. Fry-guarding parents are targets! Mother swims under babies pushing them to the surface to get them to breathe. Father swims around in bigger circles.
The guide shouts “single”, referring to lone fish surfacing for a nostril of air. Within an hour, his first snakehead! “As soon as it realizes it’s in danger it’s like a U-Boat Commander diving to find trees. You need to get them up or they’ll wrap you or straighten the hook, then it’s over.”
Even long butt 6’6” stiff rods with 50-pound test braided line were no match for jungle fish! “All of a sudden your rod is almost yanked out of your hand…on tight drag you muscle fish up using the rod…reel, reel, drop the rod and pump to pull the fish up.”
Pre-sun-up provided topwater action. Afterward, they used half-pound walking catfish. Accurately casting to fish popping nostrils up or bubbles, “You can see line move or “foam” bubbles where the snakehead has crushed the bait beneath the surface.” Once the snakehead takes the bait, anglers strategize a route through trees.
“You close the bail, set the hook, pump and reel to get the fish to the surface as quickly as you can.” Radoski’s “hat trick” was catching mother first, then casting to get the fry-guarding father. Hooked, Radoski says snakeheads are a cross between a Striped Bass and a Muskie on steroids, drunk on tequila. Released, they return to fry.
Today, snakehead fishing on the Potomac is a big deal by rod or bow. When Radoski returned from his journey, local and international media documented his exploits. Bass Pro Shops invited him to share video and photos along with spectacular stories.
Radoski’s snakehead saga: 60 travel hours, 6 inoculations, 20 hours jungle driving, 9 days away from civilization. Catching 60 giant snakeheads…priceless!