Do Fish Eat Snakes?

Will fish eat snakes? Yes, of course, fish will eat snakes. Bottom feeders such as catfish, carp, and pond-dwelling koi will eat anything dead or nearly dead, so they undoubtedly eat snakes.

Live snakes, however, pose a serious challenge to other fish. Successful snake-eating fish need to be large and fast, with wide mouths and sharp teeth. Consequently, full-grown predator fish eat the most snakes.

Match the Hatch

Trout anglers follow a simple rule: match the hatch to catch the fish. In other words, whenever and wherever you find adult snakes and their hatchlings plentiful, fish will eat them.

Therefore, wherever you see snakes, try using them as bait. As anyone who has ever fished off the Seven-Mile Bridge in the Florida Keys will attest, eels make excellent bait.

Although eels are not snakes, their sinuous forms attract sea bass, cod, grouper, and barracuda. Since these fish will all eat eels, they will also eat snakes if and when they encounter any.

Consequently, Florida anglers often use rubber snakes as artificial lures to catch fish off bridges and in Florida’s canals and marshes and mangrove swamps. Similar marsh conditions exist throughout the Gulf Coast, from the Florida panhandle to Port Isabel, near the southern tip of Texas.

Search these areas, and you will find a wide variety of snake-eating fish.

Predator Fish That Eat Snakes

  • Gar
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Muskellunge
  • Cod
  • Grouper
  • Tiger Sharks

Seven gar species exist worldwide, but only five of them inhabit the continental United States.

These snake-eating fish include the short-nosed Lepisosteus platostomus; the long-nosed Lepisosteus osseous; Lepisosteus platyrhinchus, AKA the Florida gar; the spotted Lepisosteus oculatus, and Atractosteus spatula, the alligator gar.

All five prefer to ambush their prey, hiding in submerged grass, near logs, or below overhangs.

The short-nosed gar reaches about 32 inches and will breed as soon as it measures 15 inches long. Therefore, older short-nosed fish will feast upon any unwary adult snakes they encounter. Likewise, the smaller, breeding age short-nosed gar will eat hatchling snakes.

The slightly longer Florida gar measures 34 inches when mature and can survive in hot, stagnant water. As with the short-nosed gar, the older adult fish will eat full-grown adult snakes, while barely mature breeding specimens of Florida gar prefer to eat hatchlings instead.

Stretching 36 inches, the olive-brown spotted gar would undoubtedly use its strong, sharp teeth to tear into an unwary cottonmouth snake and eat it, usually beginning at the snake’s head.

Moreover, the snake-eating spotted gar lives throughout the backwaters of Texas streams, swamps, and lakes. It thrives in these warm, oxygen-deficient waters.

The long-nosed gar measures more than twice the length of the short-nosed variety, about 6.5 feet long. Almost extirpated — meaning locally extinct — near the outer, northern portions of its range, this gar nevertheless fills four of the five Great Lakes: Huron, Ontario, Michigan, and Erie.

This snake-eating gar also ranges throughout the lower Missouri River basin and the entire Mississippi River drainage corridor.

Sometimes measuring 7 to 10 feet long at trophy size, the alligator gar could eat any snake it encountered, including large cottonmouths.

The largest and heaviest snake-eating alligator gar pulled ashore in Mississippi weighed a scale-busting 327 pounds. That particular record-setting gar would eat even a giant boa or python with ease.

Do Fish Eat Snakes?

Anglers have reported seeing largemouth bass eat snakes, just like gar. Bass love snakes so much that they will even strike on an artificial snake while you pull it along the top of the water.

Muskellunge or Muskies typically measure 37 inches long. Some anglers have recorded muskellunge measuring six feet long, however.

Muskies live along the St. Lawrence River, in all five Great Lakes, in Hudson Bay along the Red River, and throughout the Mississippi Basin. When a muskie strikes, its speed easily tops 30 miles per hour, making it a highly successful snake-eating fish.

In May 2016, Australian fisherman Andy Warton reeled in an estuary cod with a freshly eaten snake in its gullet. The estuary cod, Epinephelus coioides, often measure 15 to 47 inches long. These snake-eating fish love to hide near shipwrecks as adults, while younger cod prefer shallow waters filled with seagrass.

Scuba divers near Jupiter, Florida, documented a grouper eating a sharptail eel. Although not a snake, the eel looks snake-like enough that Florida anglers will use eels and artificial snake lures to snag grouper.

Nevertheless, when you see grouper in the specimen aquarium at hunting, fishing, and camping supply stores such as Cabelas or Bass Pro Shops, grouper do not receive snakes as part of their diet. Uneaten snake carcasses off-gas too much ammonia.

Tiger sharks eagerly devour the bar-bellied sea snake (Hydrophis elegans) and the olive-headed sea snake (Disteria major).

The tiger shark will repeatedly return to any snake it swims across, striking and biting until it consumes every last scrap of the unfortunate snake. At 18 feet long and weighing 2000 pounds, the tiger shark has no trouble at all eating sea snakes

Final Thoughts About Fish That Will Eat Snakes

Fish that eat snakes alive must strike hard and fast to avoid being eaten in turn by their intended prey. Some fish species, such as the grouper, will attempt to eat a snake, only to lose its prey through a gill when it fails to pass into the gullet of the attacking fish.

On the other hand, scavengers and bottom feeders such as carp and catfish will never pass up the chance to eat a dead or dying snake. Live and artificial snakes, therefore, make excellent lures when you wish to catch larger fish.

Protect Yourself From Fish That Will Eat Snakes

If you reel in a catfish with a bulging belly, handle it with care. It may have recently eaten a snake, as a couple in this video discovered.

Fortunately, the snake died while the man in the footage filleted the catfish, or the venomous snake could have sent the couple to the nearest emergency room, hoping for an anti-venom shot.

Consequently, either throw bulging fish back into the water right away or wear thick leather gloves, gauntlets, and a full-length leather apron when skinning, filleting, and butchering them.

If you must wade into snake-infested water, wear a set of hip waders. Examine any fish you pull from the water for suspicious bulges before you decide upon their fate.

California considers gar a nuisance fish and requests that anglers wrap and freeze the snake-eating fish rather than throwing it back into the water.