Lionfish Derbies and Events
Lionfish: P. volitans aka Red Lionfish
and Pterois miles aka Devil Firefish
Lionfish are an invasive species that threaten Florida’s saltwater fish and wildlife. FWC encourages divers, anglers and commercial harvesters to remove lionfish in Florida waters to limit negative impacts to native marine life and ecosystems.
Florida State and Federal Regulations
||Gulf State Waters
||Atlantic State Waters
|Minimum Size Limit
|Daily Bag Limit
A recreational fishing license is not required for recreational fishers targeting lionfish while using a pole spear, a Hawaiian Sling, a handheld net or any spearing device that is specifically designed and marketed exclusively for lionfish.
A recreational fishing license (unless exempt) is required for all other methods of harvesting lionfish including hook and line.
The sale of commercially harvested lionfish requires a saltwater products license.
A permit is required to harvest lionfish in the no-take zones of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Permits are issued by the Sanctuary following training given by the Sanctuary and the Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF).
The FWC also issues permits to tournaments, derbies and other organized events that allows lionfish and other invasive species to be removed by spearfishing in areas where spearing is not allowed.
Legal Gear: hook and line, spear, hand-held nets and any otherwise legal harvest gear
Spears may not be used:
- Within 100 yards of a public swimming beach, any commercial or public fishing pier, or any part of a bridge from which public fishing is allowed.
- Within 100 feet of any part of a jetty that is above the surface of the sea - except for the last 500 yards of a jetty that extends more than 1,500 yards from the shoreline.
- In Monroe County from Long Key north to the Miami-Dade County line.
- In any body of water under the jurisdiction of the Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Recreation and Parks (Florida Park Service). Possession of spearfishing equipment is prohibited in these areas, unless it is unloaded and properly stored.
- Other spearfishing rules may apply under Special Acts of Local Application.
Harvest by hand-held nets is allowed in all of these situations.
Divers using rebreathers are permitted to spear and remove lionfish.
Lionfish as Pets
The importation of live lionfish is prohibited. Breeding lionfish and the harvest and possession of lionfish eggs and larvae for any purpose other than destruction will be prohibited soon. Learn more about these changes.
State Waters Harvest Seasons: Open year-round
Gulf of Mexico Atlantic
Habitat and Fishing Tips
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 have even been found as far north as Rhode Island in the summer months, but they do not survive the winter that far north. 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.
Use care when handling lionfish, as they have up to 18 venomous spines on their dorsal, pelvic and anal fins that can cause painful stings. Stings can cause swelling, blistering, dizziness, necrosis and even temporary paralysis. If stung, immerse the wound in hot (not scalding) water for 30 to 90 minutes and seek medical attention if necessary.
Report Lionfish Sightings
Lionfish sightings or harvest data can be reported to the FWC on your smart device via the "Report Florida Lionfish" app or on the MyFWC.com website.
Learn more by watching this video.
The first 250 people to successfully complete the Report Florida Lionfish app reporting form in its entirety will receive a “Lionfish Control Team” t-shirt (one T-shirt per household). Staff will send all winners an email from Saltwater@MyFWC.com to the email address provided in the app. Participants must reply with their complete mailing address and shirt size (small – extra large) within 30 days of receiving the email in order to receive a shirt. Photos must be recent. Photos of lionfish in tanks or aquariums are not eligible. Staff are not eligible to win a t-shirt.
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 without getting stuck with a venomous spine. Another option is to wear puncture-resistant gloves. Some also choose to cut the spines off 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. 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.
View this video to learn more about how to fillet a lionfish.
While there is no official state record for lionfish, they have been found in their non-native ranges up to 18.5 inches and as small as 1.1 inches. Average size is 12 to 15 inches and their maximum size in their native range is 13 inches.
Gulf Federal Waters Rules
Atlantic Federal Waters Rules