A Beginners Guide To Lionfish Hunting

By David Fialkoff •  Updated: 12/24/20 •  7 min read

A lot of fun and experience can be had with Lionfish hunting. These fish are considered the king of the corals due to their look and characteristics. They can look beautiful with their fins and stripes, but they’re also invasive and poses harm to the ecosystem. Their unique needle-like dorsal fins may be attractive but are highly venomous. A sting from these fins can be painful and can cause breathing problems. This article will prepare you for a day out on the water and going lionfish hunting.

How Much Do You Get Paid for Hunting Lionfish?

A good amount of money can be received for those who hunt Lionfish. Both commercial and recreational fishermen can receive $500 to $5,000 in cash if they can submit dead Lionfish in Florida. They offer this prize through Florida’s Lionfish Challenge. Asides from the cash prize, those who can submit will also receive commemorative coins, shirts, and an entry to the FWC Lionfish Hall of Fame. Florida supports this campaign against Lionfish because they are predatory and compete with native fish on the state’s reef.

Different states such as Alabama also offers cash prize for those who can hunt Lionfish. They host a Lionfish tournament where sponsors provide up to $10,000 for it to take place. The payouts for the tournament was based on the number of pounds of Lionfish harvested during the event. One of the fishermen who caught over 250 pounds of Lionfish was awarded $1,779. It is enriching to catch Lionfish as not only do you help nature, but you also receive a decent amount of cash as a prize.

Do You Need a License to Hunt Lionfish?

For the recreational fishermen, a fishing license is not required, provided that they are using a Hawaiian sling, pole spear, or any spearing device specifically used to hunt Lionfish. Only those fishermen who target Lionfish using hook-and-line fishing are required to have a recreational fishing license to harvest this species.

If you want to commercially sell your harvested Lionfishes, a saltwater products license is also required. Sometimes, permits are required when harvesting Lionfish in no-take zones such as in Florida keys Marine Sanctuary. Permits are only allowed to be given after taking training from the Sanctuary and the Reef Environmental Education Foundation or REEF.

How Do I Spear Lionfish?

Lionfish have no predators, so they are not that afraid of you, compared to the typical reef fish. They usually let divers get really close to them and are very easy to spear. Lionfish hunters commonly use a short pole spear with a distance of at least 6 inches to a foot away. That is quite short and manageable even for beginner hunters. It is recommended to target the head so that its meat is not damaged, as common Lionfish are small in size. A quartering shot by a pole spear is thrust from tail to head so that the head is inserted first into the container. This procedure is done so that its fins do not spread out. If the fins are spread out, inserting them into the Zookeeper will be very difficult.

Spearfishing Gear for Hunting Lionfish

A pole spear and zookeeper are the most common gear for those who hunt Lionfish. Pole spears are an excellent tool to hunt these fish as they’re lighter and easier to handle than a large speargun. The Zookeeper is the leading Lionfish containment unit. You can use it for other fish as well, but it was designed for divers who are harvesting Lionfish or lobster. The Zookeeper comes with a storage tube and a pole spear, which makes it a great all in one package. The storage tube is for your protection and convenience when catching Lionfish. The tube prevents drag from the water and offers a barrier to prevent you from getting stung from its venomous spine.




Here Is The Essential Spearfishing Gear For Hunting Lionfish

Precautions When Hunting Lionfish

A companion in your diving and hunting adventure is recommended for extra safety. Take an expert who is local to where you are hunting Lionfish to guide you well on what specific areas are safe or dangerous. One of the main areas that you’ll find lots of Lionfish are coral reefs. Although these fish are hazardous to the coral reefs and must be removed, you must be careful not to damage any corals when hunting these predators.

Many beginner Lionfish hunters are exciting and enthusiastic about catching these beautiful but invasive creatures, but they often forget the corals around them. They should be relaxed and calm when using the pole spears or spearguns. It is common for divers to miss their shot and break the coral reefs as a result. An important part is to practice spearing first before diving and hunting for these invasive species.

Where Can I Hunt Lionfish in Florida?

Panhandle from Mobile Bay Alabama to Apalachicola, Florida

Hunting for Lionfish in Florida is excellent as there are many diving and hunting spots for this fish. There is a good number of Lionfish to catch in the northern Gulf of Mexico that genuinely provides fishermen with a complete experience when hunting this fish. In this stretch of area, there are scattered and numerous artificial reefs that draw the Lionfishes. The northern Gulf of Mexico is also known for the invasion cycle of Lionfishes more than that of the eastern areas.

Florida Keys

You can spearfish Lionfish in the Florida Keys. It’s a place known to have this invasive species, and many fishermen love to go here to catch these fishes. One of the largest Lionfish was captured in Florida keys by Timothy Blasko. It was the largest Lionfish that was speared, weighing over 3 pounds. The Lionfish now holds the record for the heaviest Lionfish caught by spearing in the Atlantic Ocean.

Why are Lionfish Bad?

Lionfish are considered an “invasive species,” which is terrible for the ecosystem of fishes. But first, we must know what is “invasive species” and how it affects marine life. Invasive species are non-native species that are found outside their natural and historic range. Invasive species are considered a dangerous subset of the non-native species. Because they are non-native, they establish new homes outside their natural range. They cause ecological disruption to their newly found homes because Lionfish introduces changes to the environment.

Native and juvenile reef fishes are being eaten by these Lionfishes, which are important for the ecosystem. The native marine species that Lionfish consumes are important and essential to commercial, recreational, ecological, and traditional reasons. They can eat prey over half the size of their own body as long as it fits in their mouth. The Lionfish’s stomach can expand up to 30 times the normal volume. Because they are not picky eaters, they will eat anything they see as prey. In addition to eating native reef fishes, they prey on crabs, shrimps, juvenile octopus, lobsters, sea horses, and squid, which are all important in serving some purpose to the environment and to us people.

Can You Kill Lionfish?

Yes, you can kill Lionfish as these are invasive species that can harm ecosystems. Governments realize the potential danger and harm that Lionfish bring to the environment, so they support the hunting of these fishes. Not only governments but also many individuals and nonprofit organizations come up with different strategies like events and tournaments to eradicate these fishes. The regulation and prevention of the growth of these species are still ongoing, and it may continue to the future until these invasive species are eradicated in the ecosystem of fishes.

Is it Safe to Eat Lionfish?

Eating Lionfish is safe and delicious. Lionfish’s texture is the same as a snapper. It has a mild white flakey taste and can be prepared in cooked in many different ways. You can grill it, fry it, or bake it in the oven for a healthier option. Cooking Lionfish is convenient as it can be served in many ways and also provides you with a delicious tasting fish as well.

David Fialkoff

David Fialkoff is the founder of Spearfishing.Live, a site that's dedicated to the sport of spearfishing. He is a full-time digital marketer and loves to spend time chasing fish underwater on the weekends.