It’s no secret that lionfish are an incredibly invasive species that ravage local reef populations. However, a relatively well kept secret is that you can actually make a fair amount of money hunting lionfish! It’s the best in-between of satisfying your fishing/hunting/diving itch, while also doing something that’s great for our reefs. But how do you get started? Look no further. We have a complete guide right here
Equipment you need
- Polespear (or another type of lionfish spear)
- Lionfish containment unit (like the Zookeeper)
- StingMaster: the world’s only cream that treats the pain caused by lionfish stings (it’s not a matter of if you’ll get stung, but WHEN. And trust us, having StingMaster makes a world of difference when it comes to lionfish sting pain.)
- Puncture proof gloves
- Good shears (for cutting the spines off CAREFULLY once you’re on board)
- A boat to hunt from (this is the pricier and more logistically complicated part. Bonus points if you have a boat yourself!)
Skills you need
Ideally, you’re a certified scuba diver, because hunting lionfish requires you to spend a fair amount of time fully submerged (snorkeling is not so conducive to hunting lionfish) and you need to get pretty deep to reach them. Lionfish tend to hang out in concealed places, often under ledges or in holes, and are often found pretty deep: between 5 and 1000 feet deep. Since more shallow areas tend to get hunted more often, you’re guaranteed to find more lionfish the deeper you go. It could potentially be feasible to hunt lionfish while freediving, but you’d have to surface after catching every lionfish, which isn’t as satisfying as just collecting more than 10 at a time on a reef like Alex Fogg in this video. Another thing to consider is that you’ll need to carry more gear than if you were just on a basic dive (see above list), so be sure you’re a strong enough swimmer and diver to carry all these underwater.
Permits you need
You don’t need a permit to spearfish lionfish! They’re an invasive species, so no need for a permit. Keep in mind: you cannot hunt lionfish in “No Take Zones” such as the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. You also cannot spearfish within 100 yards of public beaches or commercial/public piers, within 100 feet of a jetty above the sea or in any body of water under the jurisdiction of the Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Recreation and Parks (Florida Park Service).
If you want to sell your loot for some easy cash, you need to pay about $50 to get a Saltwater Products License in Florida and then you’re good to go with selling. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has a list of wholesale dealers buying lionfish on their website, typically hunters get about $5 or more per pound of their catch.
How to spear lionfish
Firstly, lionfish are everywhere in the United States and Caribbean: they have been spotted as far north as North Carolina, and as far south as Venezuela and Colombia.
Secondly, time of day can be important for catching the maximal number of lionfish. They’re also a crepuscular fish, so they tend to be most active for feeding around dusk and dawn, so try to time your hunts around these times. But of course, there are so many lionfish that you’ll probably still find some even if it’s the middle of the day.
Thirdly, lionfish tend to hand out around edges and cracks. The sandy edge of a reef is a great spot to find lionfish, so are under edges, cracks and especially on artificial reefs. Lionfish, like many other fish, are attracted to shiny and unnatural objects in the ocean and like to investigate them, so you’ll find a lot of lionfish on artificial reefs.
Fourthly, lionfish like to hang out in larger numbers in deeper spots. Why? Well the more shallow spots are easier to get to, so they’re often the ones that get hunted first. It’s more difficult to hunt lionfish the deeper you go, so if put in the little extra work and you will certainly be rewarded with a larger loot of lionfish!
Finally, spear them in the head at an angle from the tail toward their head. Lionfish have a delicious meat, so why ruin their perfect filets with your spear? Spear them in the head to avoid damaging their filets. Also, spearing them at this angle (towards their head, from the tail) will help protect you from their spines when putting them into your Zookeeper. If you were to spear them the other way around, the spines would get caught on the edge of your Zookeeper and put you in more danger of getting stuck.
Of course, you absolutely cannot go hunt lionfish without having StingMaster on board. StingMaster is the world’s first and only treatment for the pain caused by lionfish. Like we said before, it’s not a matter of if you get stung, but when and when you get stung it’s going to hurt, a lot. However, if you use StingMaster, you’ll have instant pain relief so when you’re buddies are all suffering on the boat and complaining about the pain they feel from their stings, you’ll be able to go back in the water for a second dive because your pain will be long gone.
Safety should be your top priority at all times. Always keep your breathing rate steady and monitor your depth and air. One of the most important things is to always monitor your surroundings. While lionfish don’t currently have any natural predators in the Atlantic, moray eels and sharks are learning that they can eat lionfish, and are also learning that some divers will feed them dead lionfish off of their spears. This means that you might have an unexpected shark or moray eel friend coming to visit you while you’re hunting. Make sure that you NEVER feed a lionfish to a shark or moray eel while you’re hunting to creating encounters like this for other divers. Always keep calm when you’re spearfishing and take your time: lionfish don’t move that fast, especially before you try and spear them. Make sure you don’t kill any other fish, or damage and coral in the process and of course, make sure you have fun! You’re contributing to an effort to eradicate an extremely invasive species in the Atlantic! You should be proud of any fish you catch, because every single one makes a difference.