Lionfish Derbies 2012

REEF along with sponsors Divers Direct are holding a lionfish derby tomorrow at Black Point Marina, Key Biscayne, FL. Head on over to there Lionfish Derby page for more details including rules, registration forms, waivers, etc.

It may be a little late to get to this lionfish derby unless you live in Miami or were already planning on traveling there and already have access to a boat. However, REEF’s Lionfish Derby page lists the other lionfish derbies that are planned for 2012 in the South Florida and Bahamas area.

Lionfish are a non-native species of fish that are taking over and destroying reefs and coastal areas of the Caribbean, Florida, The Bahamas, and are moving up the Eastern US seaboard. Lionfish have very showy, spiked pectoral and dorsal fins and the very tips of those spikes on their fins are venomous. Those venomous spines are so effective at keeping predators at bay that lionfish don’t have any known natural predators, but they are very ravenous predators themselves. They will hunt and eat any fish on the reef that they can fit into their mouths.

Not only do lionfish eat all fish on the reef while nothing eats them, but they also reproduce at an alarming rate. They seem to reproduce year round, and females release two mucus filled egg clusters frequently. Those egg clusters may contain as many as 15,000 eggs each. That’s 30,000 eggs each time a female releases her egg clusters. Again, this happens frequently and year round. That mucus filling the egg clusters is also said to make the clusters distasteful to predators. So here’s a fish that is not native to these waters, it eats everything, reproduces often and in abundance, and nothing really eats it or its eggs. The lionfish is taking over, and we’d like to find a way to stop it.

Fortunately, the meat of a lionfish is very tasty. Also, only the very tips of those spines are venomous, your skin has to be punctured to get stung, and they are fairly easily removed to provide a very white, meaty, light, delicious fish meat with an almost buttery taste. So, be careful when collecting. Have some good, puncture-proof gloves on. Grab a spear and a good collection bag and go get yourself some lionfish!

Personally, I killed a few of them while on a sailing trip on my buddy’s catamaran this past New Year. We had spears to do some fishing with. No tanks are allowed when spearfishing in the Bahamas so we would just do some free diving, searching for some good fish to eat. We came across lionfish at almost every reef we went to. We had wetsuits and gloves on that offered some protection and we would just spear them, put them in a collection bag and swim them back to the boat. I’ve included a great video below about how to filet a lionfish. The fish sandwiches that we had from our lionfish were fantastic!

Got a good lionfish recipe? Leave comments below.