Lionfish - How you can help

Capt. Mike Murias with the new All-Tackle lionfish
Capt. Mike Murias with the new All-Tackle lionfish. Click for larger image.

The invasion of western Atlantic and Caribbean waters by two voracious lionfish species (Pterois volitans and P. miles) is a continuing concern to anglers, scientists, and resource managers; research has indicated that populations of these venomous predators are growing exponentially with significant negative impacts on important marine resources.

Lionfish are documented to survive at depths up to 300 meters (1,000 feet) and ingest a large range of economically and ecologically important fish species. Native to the Indo-Pacific, lionfish have no controlling predators in the Atlantic and Caribbean. This, coupled with a high reproductive rate, has scientists and resource managers worried about impacts to our marine ecosystems.

With current tools and technologies, eradication is not an option. However, lionfish can be collected via spearfishing and hand netting, and are increasingly captured during hook and line fishing and as by-catch in the trap fishery. Although catching lionfish using a rod and reel may be opportunistic, anglers are encouraged to remove lionfish whenever possible and even submit their catch for a world record!

The first All-Tackle record for lionfish that was approved by the IGFA was a 0.74 kg (1 lb 10 oz) red lionfish (Pterois volitans) that was caught off the coast of Miami, Florida, USA on September 7, 2013 by Capt. Mike Murias. The fish was caught on a live pilchard while Murias was targeting snapper and other reef fish in about 61 meters (200 feet) of water. Having never seen a lionfish that size, Murias placed it on ice and contacted the IGFA, where he learned that the IGFA keeps All-Tackle records for any species that weighs over a pound, and is at least half the maximum reported weight of the species. The current All-Tackle record was caught on August 24, 2015 by angler Jesse Paul Moore; the 1.25 kg (2 lbs 12 oz) red lionfish was caught in Madeira Beach, Florida, USA. 

Although they are equipped with venomous spines, many people don’t know that once the spines are removed, lionfish offer a tasty and flaky white meat that can be prepared just as any other fish! Check out the cookbook from the Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF), which is devoted to lionfish recipes – and the next time you catch a lionfish, check to see if it may be an IGFA record, then fry it up or eat it as ceviche!

Check out this demonstration by Lad Akins, Director of Special Projects at REEF, on the ease of filleting a lionfish.

Want more stories like this? Sign up for an IGFA Membership to receive our e-newsletter, access to All-Tackle world records, and more!