Piney Creek flows into Big Creek in Lee County, where it joins the White River to the south. The White then empties into the Mississippi River. Stopping the snakeheads before they move downstream is the goal of the AGFC.
The species was banned in Arkansas in 2002 and placed under a federal importation ban the same year because of its potential to cause problems with native fish. However, biologists believe the species may have been brought to Arkansas before these regulations were passed.
"The northern snakehead is used as a food species in Asia, and we know some were brought to fish farms in the U.S. before 2002," said AGFC Chief of Fisheries Mark Oliver. "Fish farmers in Arkansas realized the potential danger the species posed and tried to eradicate them even before bans were imposed."
Application of a fish-specific to poison many miles of creeks and ditches in east Arkansas was completed in 2009. The massive eradication program killed a great deal of the fish, but not all.
"We can't be sure exactly where this population came from and we just don't know how far they've spread," added Oliver. "Their abilities to live in extremely poor water conditions and reproduce quickly make them a difficult target to completely eliminate."
The largest fear biologists have concerning the species is its impact on native fish such as largemouth bass, bream and crappie. Snakeheads are very aggressive predators, attacking food species as well as fish their own size.
Oliver said that the sooner the AGFC knows about a population of invasive species, the better the chances for controlling their spread.