MIDDLETOWN, Conn. (WTNH) – A dam removal project is slated to begin next summer in Middletown but the project has caused concerns that a “predator fish” may be swimming around in a town pond to resurface.
In Sep. 2017 a fisherman took photographs of a strange fish he captured at Pameacha Pond that had the head of a snake and teeth, but it got away. DEEP later confirmed the fish was a northern snakehead fish.
“The very first one and only one that’s been reported from Connecticut,” said Bruce Williams, a Fisheries Biologist with the CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
James Sipperly received the 2017 fish photos and says there has since been one more sighting.
“Most likely it was cruising near the shore and the water is clearer and not deep and it was sighted,” said Sipperly.
Northern snakehead fish are an invasive species with teeth commonly found in Africa and Asia. They are known to eat other fish.
“Nobody really believed us at the time that that photo came from that pond or that fish was in that pond,” said James Sipperly the Environmental Planner for Middletown.
There is a concern there may be more than one of the carnivorous fish in the pond and when the water is lowered for the dam removal project they could escape through a nearby brook to the Connecticut River.
Residents and officials are worried there may be more of these “predator fish” in the pond.
“Why we’re concerned is these are an Apex predator,” said Bruce Williams, a DEEP Fisheries Biologist.
The fish is illegal to own in the U.S. and may have been in someone’s home aquarium.
The concern now is there are more of them in this water which is expected to be drawn down for a dam replacement project. This is how a five-year-old discovery was brought back to light again.
Some neighbors say they’ve never seen anything like that at the pond and they’re not too concerned. One resident said the fish inhabiting the pond appear to be thriving.
“Anybody who has one in their aquarium has an illegal fish and the last thing we want them to do is take that illegally possessed fish and release it into one of our waterbodies. That’s how you know so many invasive species have gotten out,” said Williams.
When the water is drawn down here in the pond for this dam project the state expects it will be able to monitor that outflow of water to see if there were any more snakehead fish in this pond.
Officials hope to capture them so they do not escape into the Sumner Brook which feeds into the Connecticut River.
“We could say see them spread the entire width of Connecticut,” said Williams.