Get Those Lionfish!

By Edible South Florida | September 04, 2013
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Lionfish in South Florida waters

UPDATED BELOW: Lionfish Derby Results

The beautiful, spiny and highly invasive lionfish (Pterois volitans/miles) are venomous coral reef fish that pose a huge problem through the Atlantic, Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. Listed among the top 15 emerging threats to global biodiversity, lionfish are causing dramatic declines in native populations. According to, lionfish were introduced via the aquarium trade in the 1980s and today have invaded waters from North Carolina to South America, including the Gulf of Mexico. Other facts about these predators:
  • Lionfish may live longer than 15 years and reach 20 inches in length
  • They inhabit all marine habitat types and depths
  • Their venomous spines deter predators and cause serious stings in people
  • In the Caribbean, a single female lionfish can spawn over 2,000,000 eggs a year
  • In heavily invaded sites, lionfish have reduced their fish prey by up to 90 percent in heavily invaded sites

The encouraging news? Lionfish are not only edible, they’re tasty. Many South Florida restaurants serve lionfish when they’re available, including Square Grouper Bar & Grill on Cudjoe Key (they reopen Oct. 10), Chef Michael’s (they reopen Oct. 4) in Islamorada, and Key Largo Conch House; and Fish Fish Miami and Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink. Lionfish are better on your plate than in the ocean.

Catch ’em, Clean ’em, Cook ’em

Now, what to do with your lionfish? They’re a little tricky to clean because of the spikes. Watch this video for tips on cleaning them.
Some diners say lionfish tastes like snapper, mahi mahi or grouper.  Try in escabeche; dipped in batter and fried with potatoes; seared and served on corn tortillas with pico de gallo and lettuce; seasoned and grilled. Find more recipes here. You can also order a copy of The Lionfish Cookbook for more tasty recipes.

Now, go get ’em!

Coming up: Lionfish Derby 9/14

UPDATE: The Key Largo Lionfish Derby got 707 lionfish out of the water. See pictures here.
You can also catch lionfish yourself and win some cash if you capture the most, largest and smallest lionfish. The next Lionfish Derby for Diners takes place Sept. 14 at John Pennekamp State Park. Teams of up to four recreational divers can compete for up to $3,500 in cash and prizes.  To register a team, click here.
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