FORT WAYNE — They looked like snakeheads, the odd-looking fish that biologists fear can wreak havoc on native fish.
But the catches Fort Wayne’s Jeremy Hennen pulled out of the Pigeon River recently were run-of-the-mill bowfin, otherwise known as dogfish.
That was a relief.
“I let them go. I didn’t want to kill them,” Hennen said, according to a statement from the Department of Natural Resources.
Bowfin are native to lakes and rivers in Indiana. Snakeheads are present in several states, particularly in the east, but haven’t yet been found in Indiana.
That’s good news for the DNR.
It is illegal for anyone to possess a live snakehead in Indiana, even in an aquarium. Anyone who catches or possesses a snakehead is obligated to kill it, and the DNR will even assist in euthanasia.
“Bowfin evolved as a natural part of fish communities and don’t pose any ecological danger,” said Jed Pearson, a DNR fisheries biologist. “But fishermen need to be on the lookout for snakeheads and know what to do if they catch one.”
Hennen, 27, has fished for about 20 years, and he caught the bowfin using hot dogs as bait. He had been aiming for catfish.
Bowfin and snakeheads do look similar, as both have round tails, long dorsal fins and teeth, according to the DNR. They live in similar habitats and are capable of breathing surface air by using the air bladder as a lung. Each can survive dry periods by burying themselves in mud.
However, bowfin are generally greener and have shorter anal fins. The anal fins on snakeheads extend more than half the length of the dorsal fin. The head of a bowfin is more rounded than a snakehead’s and the bowfin’s upper jaw is longer than its lower jaw.
Bowfin also have a large spot in front of their tails. The bull’s-eye snakehead does too, but the giant snakehead and Northern snakehead do not.
Information on bowfin and snakeheads, including photos, can be found at: dnr.IN.gov/files/SNAKEHEADS.pdf
People 50 and older are invited to the Salamonie Interpretive Center on Monday to listen to interpretive naturalist Kristie Ridgway share details of her school semester in Australia.
Highlights for Ridgway included holding a koala bear and seeing flying foxes.
There will be lunch at 12:30 p.m., provided by Upper Wabash Interpretive Services. Seniors should bring a dish to pass, their own table service and $1 donation to help offset the cost of the provided meat dish.
Register by calling 260-468-2127, or by visiting the interpretive center, 3691 S. New Holland Road, Andrews, 46702.
The center is in Lost Bridge West Recreation Area in western Huntington County. The standard entry fee of $5 per in-state vehicle or $7 per out-of-state vehicle will be in effect.