When they made their first American appearance just a decade ago, they were called every name in the book.
They were dangerous.
They were evil monstrosities of nature.
They were even the focus of a couple of cheesy movies.
But today the rhetoric is changing fast. Now, they're called delicious and fun to catch. I've even heard anglers say snakeheads are the region's next big fishery.
That's an idea that worries me.
If you're not familiar with the northern snakehead, here's a primer. The species was first found in a pond in Maryland almost exactly 10 years ago. A man admitted to releasing two live adult snakeheads into the pond.
In a desperate attempt to eradicate the "highly invasive" species, the pond was drained. Biologist found nearly 100 juvenile snakeheads in the empty hole in the ground -- proof that these fish are fast breeders.
Two years later, the fish were in the news again. This time 19 snakeheads were found in the Potomac River and there was proof they were successfully spawning. That meant the Asian natives had officially established residency in the Potomac.
In the eight years since, the population has surged. It's so big, in fact, many anglers are specifically targeting the fish.
There are even snakehead tournaments and a likely new world-record was pulled from the Potomac's water last month. The big fish is nearly a full pound heavier than the current world record, a 17-pound snakehead caught in Japan.
We're seeing with snakeheads the same sort of pattern we see with almost all of our invasive species. At first, it's panic.
"We have to kill them all," we say.
Then it's desperation. "We can't possibly kill them all."
And finally, ignorant bliss. "Mmmm ... these taste good."
As sportsmen, it's sad to say, but we don't have much choice in the way things evolve. All we can do is let the biologists do their jobs and do our very best to avoid being the person that accidentally or selfishly brings the next unwanted guest to the local waters.
We're lucky because snakeheads are not living up to their initial "evil" hype. The population seems to have leveled off and the species hasn't decimated the Potomac's forage fish, like so many thought it could. That's the good news.
But as you read this, I'm sure there's some good-minded angler that has heard of the surging fishery to our south and is thinking about bringing a few live snakeheads to his backyard pond or maybe a local lake. That's bad news.
Love them or hate them, snakeheads don't belong here. We've got enough problems with our local waterways -- such as hermaphroditic smallmouths. We don't need to complicate the issue with another entry to our invasive roster.
I'm glad Potomac anglers have a new fishery and a fresh reason to get on the water. But the bottom line is we need to be careful with our waterways.
What's good news for anglers is not always good news for Mother Nature.
Andy Snyder writes about the outdoors for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at sports@york dispatch.com.