Beginners guide to lionfish hunting
So you’ve read about lionfish, you understand what a problem they are, and lionfish hunting sounds like a lot of fun but how do you start lionfish hunting? What gear do you need to get, what dive preparations and certification do you need, and how do you actually hunt lionfish? Well, keep reading, because we’ve got you covered on all the basics to get you out hunting lionfish successfully!
Do I need to be a scuba diver to hunt lionfish?
It helps a lot to be a certified scuba diver. You can certainly still hunt lionfish while freediving, but most lionfish hunting is done on scuba for several reasons. One is that the containers to put lionfish in create a bit of drag and it’s not practical to bring one with you when freediving. Also lionfish prefer habitat on the very bottom, often up under ledges. While lionfish can be found in any depth from 5 feet of water down to a thousand feet, the shallower areas tend to get hunted more frequently so the more successful lionfish hunts are usually a little deeper. It is recommended that you be an advanced or at least experienced diver before you begin lionfish hunting because there are some extra challenges involved like carrying more gear, having your focus taken by the hunt, and the risk of a sting.
What equipment do I need to hunt lionfish?
Once you’ve decided whether you will be freediving or on scuba, head over to our friends at LionfishHunting.com and pick up the lionfish hunting gear that you will need. They have discounted package deals that will cover all of your basic lionfish hunting equipment needs. The main items you will need are a polespear or sling type lionfish spear, a lionfish containment unit like the Zookeeper so that you don’t need to handle the lionfish (read this article to learn everything about the Zookeeper lionfish container), and we also recommend a pair of puncture proof gloves along with a reusable heat pack in the event of a lionfish sting.
Where do I find lionfish?
Lionfish can be found almost anywhere from the coast of North Carolina all the way down to South America. They are incredibly tolerant of fresh water which allows them to live far up rivers and can be found in any depth. We’ve assembled a list of our Top 9 Lionfish Hunting Tips here that will give you some great ideas of where and when to make your lionfish hunts.
How do I spear the lionfish?
Because they have no real predators, lionfish will usually let a diver get very close. Most lionfish hunters use short pole spears and only need to shoot the lionfish from 6 inches to a foot away. It’s best to target the head so that the meat of the relatively small lionfish is not damaged. It also helps to make a quartering shot aimed from tail toward head so that the lionfish can be inserted head first into the container, otherwise it will splay it’s fins out and make shoving it into the Zookeeper much more difficult. Keep in mind that lionfish are not dumb, and once a diver has missed a shot on one it has been ‘educated’ and will remember to fear divers after that.
Can I make a living lionfish hunting?
Some people do! We are currently getting between $5 and $6 a pound for whole lionfish in Florida, so a commercial spearfisherman out getting 100 pounds of lionfish a day is making money. Remember though that there are quite a few expenses such as dive equipment, tank fills, and most significantly the costs of boat ownership and fuel. Location and access to good hunting grounds are key. For many of us, because Florida has made it easy to hunt and sell lionfish, we use our lionfish sales as a way to cover our diving expenses while having a great time.
Another option to learn about lionfish hunting is to contact one of the Non-Profit groups like Ennds.org that arrange regular trips to educate and train new lionfish hunters. They will teach you how and loan you the gear you need to get started.
We hope this helps, and please comment below with any suggestions for new lionfish hunters that you have to offer.