From wreaking environmental havoc to making new world records, lionfish continue to make the news.
The invasion of western Atlantic and Caribbean waters by two voracious lionfish species (Pterois volitans and P. miles) is a continuing concern to anglers, scientists, and resource managers; research has indicated that populations of these venomous predators are growing exponentially with significant negative impacts on important marine resources.
But one enterprising captain recently found a world record opportunity when he reeled in one of the exotic-looking fish, bringing new attention to the ways anglers can be part of the solution.
Lionfish are documented to survive at depths up to 300 meters (1,000 feet) and ingest a large range of economically and ecologically important fish species. Native to the Indo-Pacific, lionfish have no controlling predators in the Atlantic and Caribbean.
This, coupled with a high reproductive rate, has scientists and resource managers worried about impacts to our marine ecosystems.
With current tools and technologies, eradication is not an option. However, lionfish can be collected via spearfishing and hand netting, and are increasingly captured during hook and line fishing and as by-catch in the trap fishery. Although catching lionfish using a rod and reel may be opportunistic, anglers are encouraged to remove lionfish whenever possible and even submit their catch for a world record!
The first All-Tackle record for lionfish was recently approved by the IGFA: a 0.74 kg (1 lb 10 oz) red lionfish (Pterois volitans) that was caught off the coast of Miami, Florida, USA on September 7, 2013 by Capt. Mike Murias.
The fish was caught on a live pilchard while Murias was targeting snapper and other reef fish in about 61 meters (200 feet) of water.
Having never seen a lionfish that size, Murias placed it on ice and contacted the IGFA, where he learned that the IGFA keeps All-Tackle records for any species that weighs over a pound, and is at least half the maximum reported weight of the species.
As it turns out, Murias’ bycatch was heavy enough to earn him the first ever All-Tackle world record for red lionfish!