If you can’t beat ’em, eat ’em: alien invaders incorporated into local cuisine

A restaurant in Nantou County is serving up a dish featuring giant snakehead fish caught in Sun Moon Lake, in the hope that creating a market will help reduce numbers of the ecologically destructive invasive species.

Local angler Huang Hsiaosi made news headlines earlier this week when he caught 14 of the voracious predator fish in a 9-hour overnight fishing session on Sun Moon Lake using live carp as bait. Huang said that a total of 29 fish took the bait, but he only managed to haul in 14 of the ferocious fighters. The fish ranged in weight from 2.4 to 9 kilograms, with a combined weight of 48 kilograms.

Celebrity angler Huang Xiaosi with haul of giant snakehead fish at Sun Moon Lake
Giant snakehead fish caught in Sun Moon Lake. Picture credit: Huang Hsiaosi.

The snakehead (Channa micropeltes) is one several invasive species in Sun Moon Lake and other waters of central and southern Taiwan, and is a special threat to native species of fish, shrimp, frogs, and other small animals. The giant snakehead can grow up to 1.3 meters long, and weigh up to 24 kilograms.

Huang became concerned about the issue of exotic fish species more than 20 years ago, and has been actively assisting in efforts to remove them. Huang said that the lake had been affected by drought, and low water levels had inhibited the removal of snakeheads. But recent rains have filled up the lake, so he took advantage of conditions this week to target the species during their breeding season.

Angler Huang Hsiaosi poses with giant snakehead caught in Sun Moon Lake
Fisherman Huang Hsiaosi poses with giant snakehead fish caught in Sun Moon Lake, June 2023. Picture credit: Huang Hsiaosi.

Huang created a fish casserole dish featuring the giant snakehead, and a restaurant at the Nangang Night Market in Nantou City is offering a limited number of servings every day according to supply.

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