The most talked-about fish of late summer is the lionfish. These evasive fish from the Indo-Pacific waters have taken up residence in the Gulf of Mexico and almost all waters of the Caribbean. The eradication of these fish in our waters is paramount for the health of our native species. With all the negatives that go with these fish, however, there are positives. The lionfish fishing season is never closed. There are no bag limits. They taste very good. And when you kill a lionfish, you are helping the marine ecosystem. Last weekend one of the largest lionfish spearing tournaments was held at the Guy Harvey Outpost on St. Pete Beach. The numbers were impressive. The first-place team caught 576 lionfish, second place 421 and third place 406. The fish were scientifically processed by the nonprofit marine science group Reef Monitoring, and the fish were prepared by the chefs at Guy Harvey Outpost. Spearing lionfish is usually done with a simple 2- to 5-foot pole spear and a paralyzer tip. The danger is that the tips of the lionfish's dorsal, pectoral and anal fins are poisonous. Some divers cut off the tips of those fins in the water. Others store the fish in a holding device that doesn't allow the spines to touch the diver, and when they are back at the dock, the diver carefully filets the fish while avoiding the spines.
Bill Hardman teaches scuba, spearfishing and free diving through Aquatic Obsessions Scuba in St. Petersburg and can be reached at (727) 344-3483 and [email protected]