Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Lionfish! Hunting with CORE, hunting reported lionfish, hunting on my own..

OK, I've been off the blogging for a bit... my neck/shoulders really hurt for nearly a week, perhaps due to diving down and digging around my mooring (hurricane season prep). Still, feeling 95% better and motivated... and am waiting for epoxy to set on my raised bathroom floor, but that is for another post.

So... lionfish. Last August I found my first and obeyed the injunction to report it rather than hunt it illegally in the national monument waters. In March I went back to the same spot and found the reef bare except for the lionfish... and shot the little bugger with great satisfaction. A week ago I visited the same spot and found a half-dozen lobsters, over a hundred little fish... and another lionfish in the same spot! When I left a little later three lobsters were contesting possession of the carcass.

I decided to head over the hill to Brown Bay to see if I could find any over there. Beautiful day: no wind, little waves, sun just rising as I stepped into the water... and there I saw little translucent bits of ribbon made up of double rows of little jellyfish(maybe). In some spots there might be only one every few feet, in other they were only a few inches apart... and SOMETHING stung my upper lip with an electric burn. I tried to avoid the concentrations, but after two more lip burns and one on my elbow (thank goodness for my wetsuit protection!) I managed to escape from the water and climb back to shore. *grumble grumble grumble!*. I returned empty-handed to my boat.

What to do? Well, the CORE organization is trying to reduce lionfish by encouraging folks to report sightings ( and getting the Park Service to let selected folks hunt them. I went online and checked the sightings ( and found one fish in my area near Haulover. I sailed over there at first light and, after five minutes, found that beautiful predator hunting for breakfast!

Last Sunday CORE had a exploration hunt of Reef Bay, a place I love snorkeling, so I joined in and five of us did a pretty decent check, but found nothing. We did find some beautiful sharks, some sleeping, and all but one under 3'... but that last one was more like 8'... I am still quite tempted to snorkel the reef myself and pull in a couple lobsters.

Anything else lionfish related? Well, I snorkeled the north side of Hurricane Hole, from Turner Point to Water Creek and found none, but they could have been far back beneath a ledge. I did find a slipper lobster (googled pics) and dove down and caught it, but let it go unharmed since it is in the Monument. Also snorkeled another mile or so of shoreline and saw none. They really have strong preferences and never colonize certain spots while hardly being able to wait for other spots to become vacant. I think it has to do with requirements for specific shelter being the limiting factor, far more than food.

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