A fisherman in Canton got a terrifying surprise when he caught an invasive species that was as long as his torso. It would have any swimmer racing to safety if this slithering, slimy fish swam passed them, and MassWildlife warns that if you do see a northern snakehead, it shouldn’t be there.

An angler reeled in the northern snakehead from Reservoir Pond. MassWildlife confirmed the species and said that it was most likely released by a pet owner when it grew too large to manage.

“Possession and liberation of snakeheads are both illegal in Massachusetts,” MassWildlife stated. “Transferring exotic fish into local waterways can cause a host of problems, including competition with native species and spread of disease.”

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There are no signs of reproduction, but this catch marks the fifth northern snakehead found in Massachusetts since 2002, showcasing the need for monitoring and enforcement efforts. If they were to reproduce in Massachusetts waters, it could be detrimental to sea life as we know it.

MassWildlife said that “resource managers are concerned about the potential for snakeheads to reproduce and become established as a significant component of the fish community as a top predator.”

This local fisherman pulled it out of his fishing net from the mouth to show its long shape, dark eyes, and sharp teeth, proudly pulling it out of the pond and out of harm’s way. Thanks to anglers like this one, snakeheads have yet to take over, and for anyone that sees a native species is encouraged to report the findings to MassWildlife.

How to Tell If It’s a Snakehead

Native species can often be misidentified as northern snakeheads. Here's how to spot the differences.

Courtesy of Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife

Massachusetts Wildlife You Can Legally Take Home as Pets

Massachusetts has such diverse wildlife, but also strict limitations on what you can bring home and cuddle. In fact, there are only certain reptiles and amphibians you can keep as pets (so no raccoons, squirrels, bunnies, etc.) and you are only allowed two of each. The state also says "you cannot sell, barter, or exchange them." Also, keep in mind, these are wildlife, so it's probably best to just leave them be and maybe visit a reptile shop instead to get your next pet.