Frankenfish threatens Canadian waters

MIKE STROBEL, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:35 PM ET

TORONTO - Say hello to Frankenfish.

How'd you like that thing biting your ass? It can grow to 1.8 metres. The fish, I mean.

The savage, voracious, quick-tempered, razor-mouthed northern snakehead fish.

It's Asian but seems intent on conquering the New World. We're like a holiday resort with a jaw-dropping buffet.

Just when your chihuahua thought it was safe to go back in the water. This monster is known to inhale small mammals and shred human appendages.

"You wouldn't want to be in the water with it," Burlington biologist Becky Cudmore tells me. "It's as nasty as it looks."

And that's naaaaaaasty. Watch your toes.

This'll curl them: The northern snakehead can survive four days out of water, thanks to a primitive lung above its gills. AND IT "WALKS" ON LAND!

Aye, Capt. Quint, the slippery devil slithers from one stream or lake to another. It can "walk" for half a klick.

I kid you not.

I learned of this finned fiend in the Expositor, on Manitoulin Island, where I just bought a small waterfront lot, where I will now sleep with one eye open.

The paper warned of the looming danger to such species as the local whitefish.

Sure, Mikey, but this is some distant nightmare, right? A Hollywood plot? A bait-and-switch?

Wrong. Already, the northern snakehead is snapping at Canada's door.

Officials are trying to contain an outbreak in a few ponds and streams in mid-New York State. Poison and electrocution have been hit and miss. (They "walk," remember?)

Northern snakefish invaded the Potomac River near Washington, D.C., while George W. Bush was president, though this time you can't blame him.

Aquarium fanciers and live-fish markets are the usual suspects.

An 18-inch snakehead was pulled from a Chicago harbour five years ago -- but it's believed (hoped) to have been a one-off.

At the time, a U.S. fisheries officer warned that northern snakefish "are going to affect the food chain from the bottom up. You need to stop them before it's too late."

Says Cudmore: "It's a vicious predator. I've seen pictures of fish that it has torn in two, completely sheared in half. You can see the bite marks.

"Native fish just aren't prepared for this."

Is it already too late for the Great White North? Will we kiss our bass goodbye?

Just a month ago, Quebec scientists shuddered when a giant snakehead -- a bigger, meaner, but tropical version of the northern -- was found dead on the shores of the Saint-Charles River.

It, too, is believed to have been an overgrown former pet.

Ontario has banned live snakeheads -- for fun or food -- but Cudmore bought one in Vancouver to study.

GLOWERING

She spent a nervous night while it glowered in a bucket in her hotel room.

"It sank its teeth into the plastic and just wouldn't let go."

Next stop, the freezer. Snakeheads are a tasty treat in Asia.

"Actually, I'm allergic to fish," says Cudmore.

Odd trait for the woman who is top warrior in the federal fisheries department against the snakehead, Asian carp and other invasive species.

She co-authored a study that declared a "high -- reasonably certain" risk of northern snakeheads calling Canada home.

The study reports maximum lengths in Asia of 1.8 metres (5-foot-10!), though most adults top out at a metre.

Which, including teeth, is plenty.

We should all be allergic to this fish. If you catch one, kill it.

MAKE SURE IT'S DEAD!

The brute is hardier than a federal Tory in Toronto. It has survived being frozen, clubbed or shipped without water from China.

The Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters has a website, invadingspecies.com, with a hotline.

Or, call Chief Brody.

And get a bigger boat.

mike.strobel@sunmedia.ca


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