What would you do if you spot a lionfish?

HmmM??? I see only four options.

1. Kill it
2. Leave it alone and do nothing
3. Report it to Dan or NOAA.
4. Bag it and sell it or put it in a tank.

I am not sure whether I would do option 1 or 3. I am intrigued about killing it and cooking it up for dinner. Lionfish Escabeche is supposed to be good. It is served up Cayman-style, with roasted tomato, Worcestershire, pickled vegetables, avocado, extra virgin olive oil, scallion, and cilantro. My initial reaction is , I know I would not bag it for a tank as I somehow expect that one getting out of a tank was the initial cause of the invasion we are now having. But read below as I have seen some pretty capitalistic reasons for selling babies to fish stores. Going back to how I feel about the oceans, I would not leave it alone and do nothing. So I would have to say if I didn’t kill it and cook it, I would definitely report it.

If you report your sighting to NOAA or DAN, they will want the following location information such as lat/long, depth and type of habitat is also encouraged. From what I read, if you are not sure how to kill it, leave it alone. They become wary of divers if threatened.

If diving on small/private boats:
Talk to the captain and establish a signal. To mark a specific location on some boats, the diver pulls their flag line tight, then pulls the flag under 3 times. The boat takes a GPS mark and acknowledges it by revving the engine 3 times. The divers can then continue their dive without interruption.

You could also carry a marker buoy (like a Pelican Float) that you can deploy. You can come back after the dive, get marks, and recover the buoy.

If diving on larger/commercial boats:
Talk to the captain establish a signal. If conditions/currents allow, tie off the flag line and ascend or have a buddy go to the surface. Make contact with the boat and have them get a GPS mark. Re-descend and continue the dive.

Then, contact REEF at Lionfish Research Program .

For killing it:


Be very careful! These have venomous spikes and it will hurt if you get stung. I have heard a blow torch used on the spines will neutralize the venom.

The Euphotic Lion Fish Spear priced at $25

Disclaimer: Tubing is made from Latex! Those with an allergy to latex should not use this product!

Shaft is 36 inches in length. Perfect for one or two handed use.
Shaft is 1/4 inch thick.
Durable construction.
Handmade to order.
Anti-rust material.
Sharpened perfectly for penetrating lion fish.
Customizable shaft lengths available. E-mail for details.

A fellow diver and well respected poster on Scubaboard CHUGWUMP has this to say:

This being said, I still kill and will continue to kill all of the LION FISH I can find larger than 3″ or so.

But the little guys are still in some demand in the fish stores.
I have been helping some collector friends capture small (1″ to 3″) LION FISH for the past few months down here in sunny SoFla.

They trade the LION FISH in and get anywhere from $5 to $10 in store credit.
Last year it was twice that amount, but the price has fallen precipitously from $15-$20 mark in 2009 to for some strange reason….

Last week I went out with some pals.
We killed 10+ biguns’ on the first dive and caught 7 littluns’.
We popped up and between tanks called the fish store.
The guy said, “Bring me no more than 10 LION FISH, and they need to be 1″ to 2.5” in length.
So we had 7, we did another tank and caught 3 more.
After getting the 3 more into the tupperware while submerged, we just just smashed the little ones while it was in the net thereafter.
We did it short, and with respect.
They are a magnificent creature, and they are in the wrong place.
We killed 17-20 between the three of us.

I like many of his thoughts, except going back to the tank issues…is it really good to be selling these guys rather than kill them. When IDIOT JOE decides this fish is too big and lets it go, we have a problem. Do the fish stores do anything to raise awareness about what these guys do to the reef> Also, I do agree that it is good that the price is dropping and they are not quite so EXOTIC and are being imported less. Does the price dropping make them less desirable to those who have aquariums? America is all about capitalism and maybe it is good that divers can make a few bucks on the side. With the cost of boat dives, if you bagged a few, it would make your trips more affordable.

I have said it before in my other posts, why do aquarium owners not have to have some sort of license to buy and raise exotic fish? Then again, what makes a fish exotic? Perhaps a license requiring some sort of classes like all us fellow divers have to take before we can rent a tank, should be made mandatory before you can buy an exotic fish. Perhaps fines imposed on those who do not abide by the rules would curb the enthusiasm to have a creature that should be roaming free.

    Florida reptiles of concern – permit required

There is a Reptiles of Concern law now, maybe we could do that with exotic fish. The reptiles of concern include any species of the class Reptilia, including subspecies, taxonomic successors or hybrids thereof, which, due to its nature, has habits or the potential to impact the environment. Sounds good to me.

About daniellesdives

diving enthusiast
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6 Responses to What would you do if you spot a lionfish?

  1. Dana says:

    My husband and I are both avid divers and aquarium owners. We fully realize what these lionfish are doing to the reefs and oceans (We’ve seen them feed… and feed…). We were wanting to plan a dive trip to collect several lionfish ( the 180Gallon tank is empty what a better way of killing two birds with one stone?) We live in North Georgia and We have owned these fish before; So, no worries of us releasing or selling these little hungry beauties. We can help our environment by helping ourselfs; however, Finding ANY INFORMATION has been almost impossible. Are there any locations near Englewood, Sarasota, or Venice Beach with Lionfish populations? If not where would you suggest?

    Thank You for Any Information,

    • head to the east coast. Pompano on boat dives, lauderdale by the Sea shore dives, and even Blue Heron bridge. I am going to turn you on to a call named Charles, goes by Chug on scubaboard. IMHO he is way more knowledgeable and informed. Contact him. I will try to look up his email for you. I know I have his phone number but I am not sure he would want me to hand that out. Shoot me your email and I will gladly forward it to him.

      • Dana says:

        Thanks! My email address is phatcat8707@aol.com. We were planning to go at the end of June through the beginning of July. I appreciate all the advice that we can get. It would be bad to go home empty handed for the many different reasons.

      • no problem, it is not lobster season then so many divers are entertaining themselves in other ways! I am heading to ldbs Sunday. They have family fest till the 30th, some good discounted rooms. Also check my website as I have some hotels that work with me and divers with discounted rooms. Just tell them I sent you, Santa Barbara, Villa Caprice,

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