, now heading into year five. The red Lionfish is everywhere so reporting sightings is a wasted effort. They eat the fry of all reef fish and reproduce frequently. Egg masses are thought to taste bad So they successfully travel with the currents and Sargasso. Some countries claim they have ciguatera but I think this is to discourage spearing. Generally, only large fish such as barracuda over two feet, big grouper etc carry the toxin.
In Cariacou the dive masters have had success teaching local reef predators to hunt and eat them. They started by clipping the poison quills and releasing Lions. They presented Lions to morays, groupers, snappers, octopus, rays. These predictor are now feeding on the lions and the reefs are improved.
We find also that where aggressive lion hunting is pursued the reefs have way more fish and it’s hard to find Lions.
If you want to hunt lions you will need a Zookeeper. This is a plastic tube container. It has a closure on one end with flexible pie shaped flaps. You force the speared lion through the flaps and withdraw the spear, sans lion. You should never risk getting stuck by one of these guys. If you are stabbed by a live one your dive is over. Squeeze, suck the poison out and head
for the boat
. Very Hot water Will help and you may get some relief from Benadryl. If you get two or more stabs you may be heading for the doctor. One of my dive mates got careless and was stuck in his thumb. It was painful and his hand and arm were swollen for three weeks. A Dominican fisherman pulling a net got three spines and was incapacitated, hospitalized.
OK, for the how to and fun. Lions hide out in cracks and crevasses, coral
heads and even in tall grass
in the anchorage. Find them also under ledges the same as lobsters. I recommend a pole spear with three barbed trident. The pole needs to be 3-6 feet long. The commercial
Zookeeper is kind of expensive so I made my own. See photos. It’s a 5 gallon bucket with the lid cut in pie shaped wedges. Snorkeling, I use as is and it floats. Diving
with tanks/hookah I put a rock or two pound dive weight in so the bucket will stay where I place it on the bottom. Shallow water, small fish. Deep water, big ones and more fish. You can fill the 5-gallon bucket diving
in Portsmouth, Dominica
if you hunt 55-100 feet.
After the hunt, drain the water from your Zookeeper and leave it alone for about 40 minutes for the fish to die. The muscles that pump
the poison from the base of the quill will be inactive. Still, avoid getting stuck. I prefer totally removing all quills and fins with a set of medical
SS shears. One edge is serrated. Hold the fish with your thumb inside the lower jaw and clip away holding the lion over the water. After this, clean as you would any other fish. I prefer to cut all around the fish’s back and belly, head
to tail and then peel the skin off. Start at the back of the head with the skin trapped between your knife and thumb. Pull the skin off in one easy stroke.
The meat is whit and firm like snapper.