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Posted on Apr 19, 2013 in Top Shots
Lionfish: Curse 'Em or Eat 'Em
by Doug Olander
lionfish2 courtesy NOAA
Courtesy NOAA Photo Library

Concerns are growing over invasive lionfish, those uninvited reef squatters from the Pacific, along the entire U.S. Southeast.

Not much eats ‘em, but they eat just about anything and everything they can suck into their gullets. They reproduce prolifically and grow quickly; fisheries biologists worry that they’ll take over many areas.

But I’ve thought for a long time that one predator should be eating ‘em up: us. Homo sapiens. Anglers like you ‘n me.

Their meat is, like the fleece on Mary’s little lamb, as white as snow. That I’ve seen. I haven’t eaten one only because I’ve not had the chance. But I’ve been assured it’s about as good as fish gets, and I have no reason to doubt that.

The deal-breaker for anyone catching a lionfish is likely to be the fact that they’re known to be poisonous. As members of the scorpionfish family (Scorpaenidae), lionfishes carry venom in glands at the base of their long, hollow, elegant spines.

Unlike with their nastier relatives, the stonefishes, a poke is not likely to be fatal, but it’ll sure hurt like hell. Definitely something to avoid.

Does that mean we shouldn’t eat ‘em? Not at all; as far as I’m concerned, that simply means we should be mighty careful when cleaning ‘em. Dave Chafin, an expert with the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, agrees — and in this video with Jennifer Reeves of WTVJ (NBC 6), he shows how easy it is.

Watch it; remember it. If you find a lionfish honey hole (more and more likely!), don’t throw ‘em back over: Put ‘em in the fish box! 

Preparing a Lionfish! from Guy Harvey TV on Vimeo.