LIONFISH: RED LIONFISH (PTEROIS VOLITANS) AND DEVIL FIREFISH (PTEROIS MILES)
Lionfish are an invasive species that have a potential negative impact on native wildlife and habitat. FWC encourages divers, anglers and commercial harvesters to remove lionfish in Florida waters to limit negative impacts to native marine life and ecosystems.
Minimum Size Limit: None
Daily Bag Limit: Unlimited
Harvest Season: Open year-round
These regulations apply in Gulf and Atlantic state and federal waters
Native to the Indo-Pacific and Red Sea, lionfish can be found year-round in Florida waters and from North Carolina to South America, including the Gulf of Mexico. They can be found in almost all estuarine and marine habitat types and have been found in waters up to 1,000 feet deep.
Rarely caught on hook-and-line, the most effective methods of removal are spearing and using a hand-held net. Care should be taken when spear fishing so that the spears do not impact and damage reefs.
Lionfish are also caught as bycatch in the commercial lobster and stone crab trap industry. There is evidence that lionfish are not actually getting stuck in traps but can come and go as they please, only being harvested when they happen to be inside the trap as it is being pulled up.
The practice of feeding lionfish to other predatory species while diving should be avoided because it is dangerous and illegal. It is also proven to not be effective.
How to Fillet a Lionfish
Filleting a lionfish is similar to filleting any other type of fish with the exception of using caution to avoid the spines located along the dorsal, pelvic and anal fins. If you put the fish on its side, you can easily hold the fish by the bony gill plates or soft pectoral fins without getting stuck with a venomous spine. One safety precaution is to wear puncture-resistant gloves. Some also choose to cut off the spines prior to filleting. Use care when doing this as the venomous glandular tissue located within the grooves of the spines are present even at the base of the spine. Furthermore, the venom can remain active in the spines even after the lionfish is dead and stored on ice.
Once you’ve gotten the spines under control, fillet like you would any other fish, making incisions just behind the spines on the head down to the belly, down the back of the fish near the dorsal spines and along the bottom of the fish, joining the three cuts together. The skin can be peeled off from the cut closest to the head, or you can continue to cut the filet away from the body and then cut the filet from the skin after it has been removed from the body.
How to Fillet a Lionfish
View this video to learn more about how to safely handle and fillet a lionfish.