Gulf Coast Lionfish Coalition education mitigation utilization

Lionfish Gear

Lionfish hunting

usually starts with a polespear. Most experienced lion hunters prefer the shorter, lionfish-specific polespears, but sometimes a longer spear can be an advantage in reaching spooked lionfish, or lionfish that are hiding out in structure. The trade-off on a longer spear is that it is more difficult to carry underwater, and it is more difficult to manage speared fish, particularly if you are retaining your catch.

lionfish polespear

The type of spear tip you use is of greater importance than shaft length. A rock point tip with retention wings is a disaster for hunting


. A single point allows speared fish to slide up the shaft, and inevitably into your hand (not recommended). Retention wings make it nearly impossible to remove a speared fish without poking yourself. Ideally, you need three or more prongs on a lionfish spear tip. Multiple prongs are better at holding the speared lionfish in place on the end of your spear. It is relatively easy to scrape speared fish into a retention tube or bag with these tips, and you minimize the likelihood of a fish sliding up the shaft.

lionfish spear tip

So now that you have a lionfish at the end of your spear, what do you do with it? It's generally considered bad form to feed lionfish to other denizens of the deep. First, it encourages fish to associate spearfishing, and divers with food. Second, fish consuming whole lionfish are susceptible to internal injuries caused by the lionfish's venomous spines.

Some lionfish hunters carry a pair of trauma shears with them in order to snip off the venomous spines. They then place their catch on a stringer like any other speared fish. There are three disadvantages to this method. First, the lionfish venom is present in the entire length of the spine, meaning you can still be stung by that last three millimeters of fin that you couldn't get with the shears. Second, clipping fins at depth is much more difficult at depth than it is at the dock. This is especially true once nitrogen narcosis and task loading becomes a factor. Finally, the bottom time that you spend removing fins could be better spent killing another lionfish or two.

speared lionfish

Commercial, and DIY tubes like the ZooKeeper are probably the preferred retention method for dedicated lionfish hunters today. Commercial, and DIY tube designs are available in varying lengths and accessories. While the commercial tubes are relatively expensive, a DIY design will likely cost you the same once time and materials are factored into your final cost. Tubes create much less drag than the lionfish bags, and drain faster once out of the water. They're also less likely to cause injury while boarding in rough seas, and while sitting on deck.

ZooKeeper Lionfish Tube

lionfish tube

Lionfish bags are now a popular method for retaining lionfish. The chief advantage of the


bags are that they hold a large number of lionfish compared to other methods. They are also easy to transport, and take up less room on a boat's deck. The disadvantage of the lionfish bags are that they are slow to drain once topside, and, they can act as a parachute underwater, creating a significant amount of drag.

lionfish bag