Today’s the day I go to hunt the Lionfish and I find myself mentally torn. The Lionfish has for many years been sought after by photographers, videographers and marine life enthusiast who will travel great lengths and spend hard earned money to see them and yet today…I am hunting them. This creature is a venomous marine fish often used in aquariums but indigenous to the Indo-Pacific region. It has recently spread to the Atlantic reefs as well, established themselves as significant invasive species off the East Coast of the United States, casting it’s shadow over the beautiful inhabitants there, who now need to evolve their defense strategies in order to survive. Although it is mostly interested in small prey, this underwater villain will not balk at meeting with a human, posturing like its terrestrial counterpart but unlike its counterpart it is all roar and no bite. Fortunately, they are not aggressive towards divers, like their indigenous neighbor, the sabre-toothed blenny, who might sneak a bite in after its unusual luring dance or just because you took your eyes off of them.
However, today will be the day that I defeat my fishy foe.
STEP ONE – Capture the Beast with the 1st tool: #spear
The venomous spines of the fish are my biggest opponents in my quest to capture the beast. Before I begin, I need to gather together the proper tools to handle the danger that is sure to wait for me underwater. I will need:
- My scuba gear
- Fish spears with special paralyzer tips
- Puncture-proof gloves
- Catch bag
Once properly outfitted for my underwater adventure, I’m ready to dive right in. This species of fish prefers to hang out near rocks or reef edges, but they remain out in the open. In addition, most of these fish will allow me to get my spear within three or four inches of them before they get scared enough to swim away. This close proximity will make my job a lot easier.
STEP TWO – Clean the Fish with the 2nd tool: #filletknife
Once I have the nasty fish in my possession, I can begin to prepare it for cooking. If I have opted to net it, I must carefully pull the fish from the net by wearing the puncture-proof gloves. I will keep the fish contained by firmly holding the creature’s head and not allowing it to stab me with its venomous spines.
If I have utilized my special spear, I must remember to keep the spear nearly horizontal so that the fish does not slide down the shaft and sting me. They are sneaky little fish.
I must also remember that these crafty creatures maintain the venom in their spines for up to an hour after death, so when I start cleaning my catch, so I cannot let it catch me off guard. I can either cut the spines off the fish using basic kitchen scissors or clippers, or I can begin by removing the skin. Once the dangerous spines, the fear of which have ruined so many of my scuba outings, are removed, I am free to fillet the fish as I please.
STEP THREE – Make It a Meal with the 3rd tool: #fryingpan
As much as I dislike this species, I must remember that it actually makes a delicious meal. The meat is delicate and savory, especially with a little extra spices and flavoring added for good measure. I could cook that villain with a little lemon pepper, or I could fry it to a deep golden brown. Maybe I could cook it in lime juice and add some sautéed vegetables. The possibilities are endless!
The lionfish has the potential to ruin a great dive if you’re not cognizant of your surroundings as a diver. No longer will I worry about this beast’s presence in the clear waters near the coral reefs. Instead, I will defeat this fish and make him my dinner. If you too are interested in helping to control the spread of this invasive species or put a fresh meal on the table, you should seek out local expertise and get instruction on how to hunt, clean and prepare this fish. It is much better and safer than learning on your own, you are sure to pick up on some tips that will help you collect all that you can and keep from getting injured. Good luck on your Atlantic Safari!