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Eastern Shore Angler Catches Maryland State Record Snakehead

Record 21.0-pound fish caught in Dorchester County

Photo of man holding a large fish

Angler Damien Cook with his state record Northern snakehead. Submitted photo, used with permission

Damien Cook of Rhodesdale has been recognized by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources as a new state record holder for Northern snakehead – Channa argus — in the state’s Invasive Division. Cook caught the 21.0-pound fish on July 5 while fishing in a Dorchester County river.

The impressive fish, which measured more than 36 inches long, was weighed on a certified scale provided by Kool Ice Seafood in Cambridge. The species was confirmed by a Maryland Department of Natural Resources biologist. Cook’s catch surpassed the previous record 19.9-pound snakehead caught in 2018 by Andrew D. Fox while bowfishing in Charles County. 

Cook was kayak fishing with a custom baitcasting rod, 30-pound test-rated braided line, and a custom chatterbait he calls the “cooker” when he reeled in the massive snakehead.

“Honestly I thought it was just your average 30-inch snakehead when I first hooked the fish,” Cook said. ”It pulled hard but I had the advantage of it being close and I got it in the net pretty quickly.”

The Northern snakehead is an invasive species now common throughout Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay tidal waters. Snakeheads have become popular for sportfishing in Maryland because they fight hard and strike traditional artificial lures that are often used for largemouth bass. Dorchester County’s tidal river system is among the state’s hotspots for snakeheads. More information about snakeheads is available on the Department of Natural Resources website. 

The department encourages anglers to kill all snakeheads that they catch, and reminds anglers it is illegal to transport a live snakehead.

The Department of Natural Resources maintains state records for sport fish in four divisions – Atlantic, Chesapeake, Nontidal, and Invasive. Anglers who think they have a potential record catch should download and complete a state record application and call 443-569-1398 to report a potential state record catch. The department recommends the fish be immersed in ice water to preserve its weight until it can be checked, confirmed, and certified.