Lionfish Recreational Regulations

Lionfish Challenge and Panhandle Pilot Program

Mark your calendars: Lionfish Removal and Awareness Festival May 20-21


Lionfish drawingLinks:

Lionfish Derbies and Events

State Records

Reef Rangers

Wholesale dealer interested in selling lionfish? Tell us. 

Lionfish: Pterois volitans aka Red Lionfish and Pterois miles aka Devil Firefish

Lionfish are an invasive species that have a potential negative impact on native species and habitat. 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

RegulationsGulf State WatersAtlantic State Waters
Minimum Size Limit None
Daily Bag Limit Unlimited

State Waters Harvest Seasons: Open year-round

Gulf of Mexico Adobe PDF AtlanticAdobe PDF


Licensing Requirements

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.Lionfish spears

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.

Interested in selling lionfish? Check out this list of Florida Wholesale Dealers Adobe PDF    who are interested in purchasing lionfish.

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.

Gear Requirements

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.

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, breeding lionfish and the harvest and possession of lionfish eggs and larvae for any purpose other than destruction is prohibited. Learn more about these changes.

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.Lionfish being netted

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.

Safe Handling

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.


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.


Size RangeSmall lionfish

Lionfish have been found in 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.

If you think you have caught a state record lionfish, submit an application!


Lionfish Species Information

Lionfish FAQs

Florida Rule External Website

Gulf Federal Waters Rules External Website

Atlantic Federal Waters Rules External Website

Lionfish BrochureAdobe PDF

Lionfish Comment Form



FWC Facts:
In order to stick to plants, larval spotted gar have suction snouts that later become the long, teeth-filled snout.

Learn More at AskFWC