skip to Main Content
Lionfish Fishing Tips

Lionfish Fishing Tips

The lionfish is non-native, meaning it is invasive to our delicate Florida aquatic ecosystems. Because of their venomous spines, this fish has no predators and reproduces rapidly making the invasion that much more daunting. Not to mention, this species can live for decades – eating our native and critical species. The combination of all of this makes fishing for this species highly encouraged.

Identification & Behavior

The lionfish is hard to miss. Its appearance is marked by distinctive white and brownish stripes from head to tail fin. Its pectoral fins are fan-like while the 13, venomous dorsal spines are long and separated. It also has fleshy tentacles above the eyes and below its mouth. The adult lionfish can reach a length of 18 inches.

As we mentioned, the lionfish reproduces rapidly – about every 4 days, all year long. When fishing for lionfish, you’ll probably notice a mass of about 12-15,000 eggs near the surface.

Join Our Monthly Newsletter

This fish will eat almost anything, consuming more than 70 different species of marine life. It actively hunts, mostly at night, but will not shy away from daytime feeding. It slowly but deliberately stalks and corners its prey, rippling its soft rays and pectorals.

Where & When to Find Lionfish

Just like with its food, the lionfish is not picky about where it lives. This species can be found anytime and anywhere from estuaries to mangrove marshes to open water near the reefs. They do like to hunt near areas of structure, especially at dusk and dawn.

Rules and Regulations

Lionfish angling is somewhat of a dream for many people because in the Gulf and Atlantic waters, there is no catch limit, and any season is open season. You also don’t need a license if fishing with any type of spear designed specifically for lionfish, a Hawaiian Sling or handheld net. You will, however, need a recreational license if fishing by any other method, including hook and line. Just keep in mind that spears are not allowed within 100 yards of bridges, public swimming beaches and commercial or publish piers, or within 100 feet of a jetty that is above the surface.

Local and state governments want anglers to pursue this species to get it out of our waters; to protect the populations of other popular fish.

Fishing Tips and Tricks

A very popular method of fishing for lionfish is diving. Divers often use hand nets or pole spears. While it is possible to catch this species using hook and line, nets and spearing are more efficacious. Be cautious when doing so though; gloves should be worn, and the fish should be put into a thick-walled dive bag to avoid getting poked by the venomous spines. If stung, remove any pieces of the spine that may have been left behind, clean the area with soap and water or antiseptic towelettes, apply pressure to stop any bleeding and apply heat (as much as you can tolerate) to break down the venom.

When spearing, aim for the head to avoid damaging the filet. The lionfish should not be used as bait, as it is illegal, dangerous, and not usually successful. If you’re only interested in catch and release, do not release the living fish back into the water. Just spear it and leave it to die in the water.

Boat Hull Types

Push Pole Basics & Techniques

Push poles are quite literally poles, often made of aluminum, fiberglass or carbon fiber. Anglers use them to quietly maneuver their skiff or flats boat around in shallow waters by using the pole to push off the floor of the water body.

Daytime fishing can be beneficial the lionfish is not as active and will not be easily spooked, but fishing at sunrise and sunset will offer more of a challenge and you’ll be more likely to make a good haul. You can also look for tournaments; because of the active campaigns urging the removal of lionfish, lionfish tournaments often come with monetary prizes and can result in the removal of upwards of 1,000 fish.

Best Boats to Catch Lionfish

Because using spears and nets are the best methods when lionfish angling, your best bet is to have a boat that is able to reach shallower waters, such as a skiff or bay boat. Offshore vessels like a center console will also work too for getting to the lionfish out by the reefs.

Our Popular Boats

Take a look at some of our popular boat models. Our certified manufacturers make good quality boats of all shapes and sizes!

Table Fare

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has launched a nationwide campaign in which they urge citizens to “Eat Lionfish!” This push has given rise to a new movement of lionfish appearing on restaurant menus. The lionfish has delicious white meat, with a taste similar to grouper or hogfish. It is most commonly filleted but can be cooked in other ways and even used in Ceviche.

When filleting a lionfish, puncture-resistant gloves are recommended. Lay the fish on its side to avoid the spines, holding the fish by the gill plates of pectorals. You can also start by chopping the spines off but watch out for the glandular tissues within the spine grooves, as they hold venom. Next, make incisions from just behind the head spines to the belly, down the back near the dorsals and along the bottom of the fish, joining the three cuts together. The skin can then be peeled off.

Final Words

The lionfish may be pretty, but don’t let that fool you. This fish is a nuisance! So, enroll yourself in a tournament or set aside a full day on the water specifically for lionfish hunting to help out your local marine ecosystem. If you take anything away from this article, it is that you should be careful with lionfish, but also that you should definitely get them out of our waterways!

Happy Fishing!

Back To Top