Smallest-ever lionfish caught in tournament

Jason Washington takes a close-up photo of a lionfish held by Zach Larrabee. – PHOTO: KATIE O’NEILL

Lionfish cullers braved windy conditions over the weekend to pull in a near-record haul, including the smallest lionfish ever caught in Cayman’s waters.

This 19mm fish, pulled in by Aaron Hunt, is the smallest ever caught in Cayman. PHOTO: KATIE O'NEILL
This 19mm fish, pulled in by Aaron Hunt, is the smallest ever caught in Cayman. PHOTO: KATIE O’NEILL

In the first tournament of the year for the Cayman United Lionfish League, sponsored by Foster’s Food Fair, 13 teams took to the waters in an effort to rid Cayman’s reefs of the invasive species.

A team from Divetech pulled in the most fish, 368, while freediving team Green Water took the most fish per culler, with the three-man team catching 276 fish in total.

Aaron Hunt, with the Lobster Pot team, set a new record for the smallest fish, catching a 19mm (0.7 inches) lionfish.

Tournament organizers encourage cullers to catch smaller fish because of the extent of damage they could do if left on the reef.

“If you wait until they get big, then they could have eaten somewhere between 20,000 and 50,000 fish to get to that size,” said Mark Orr, one of the tournament organizers.

Mr. Orr said his team, Green Water, specifically targeted smaller fish for that reason.
The team pulled in 152 fish on day one of the tournament with a net weight of less than 2kg. By contrast, other teams, pulled in 20 fish with a net weight of more than 8 kg.

Mr. Orr believes Mr. Hunt’s 19mm catch, which shaved 3mm off the previous record, will be hard to beat.

Radley Watler learns how to fillet lionfish from Chef Thomas Tennant. PHOTO: KATIE O'NEILL.
Radley Watler learns how to fillet lionfish from Chef Thomas Tennant. PHOTO: KATIE O’NEILL.

He said the overall haul of 1,339 lionfish culled over the weekend was the second highest since the tournament series began.

“We had rough seas and cold weather which was a challenge for the teams, so it was an amazing result.

The flip-side of the high numbers of fish culled is that it demonstrates that after years of culling, lionfish are still seen on Cayman’s reefs in large numbers.

Mr. Orr believes pressure from cullers is helping to contain the population of the invasive species. He said tournaments are important because they encourage cullers to look outside the usual dive sites.

Tournament Results

Smallest Lionfish
1st – Lobster Pot (new tournament record) 19 mm
2nd – Divetech 31 mm
3rd – Green Water 33 mm

Largest Lionfish
1st – Neptune Divers 302 mm
2nd – (TIED) Neptune Divers 298 mm
2nd – (TIED) Ocean Frontiers 298 mm

Most Weight
1st – Divetech 22.5 kg/culler
2nd – Lobster Pot 15.8 kg/culler
3rd – Ambassador Divers 14 kg/culler

Most Lionfish
1st – Green Water 92/culler
2nd – Divetech 73.6/culler
3rd – Lobster Pot 55/culler

Total Lionfish culled off reef: 1,339
Total Weight: 321.25 kg or 708.24 lbs

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  1. I have said this before and I will say it again, if this coral / rock is removed it would be the biggest mistake both would make . This rock has been there protecting from erosion for over 60 years that I know of, and I believe that it has been there for hundreds of years doing the same job protecting the shoreline from erosion.

    The flat rocks has always been in the same spot and hurricane Ivan did not move them , it should show us how much protection these rocks do for the shoreline in certain areas of the 7 mile beach .
    we have to be very careful about correcting what nature did .

    I would have to see more than one scientific research report before I believe any different.