How many lionfish have I caught?


Me on the bow of our boat with a container full of lionfish.

So far I have caught a grand total of 10,874 lionfish

Lionfish came to Grand Cayman in 2009 and we spotted our first one here in September of that year. However, I didn’t start recording my kills until 17th June 2010.

In August 2012 I bought my own small boat so we could go out lionfish hunting on our days off. Sadly at the end of 2018 I sold the boat so the number of lionfish I kill now is a tiny percentage of what I used to catch.

So how many lionfish have I caught in each year? I have caught:

  • 2009 = Zero (I didn’t start recording my kills until June 2010).
  • 2010 = 314
  • 2011 = 463
  • 2012 = 635
  • 2013 = 1,379
  • 2014 = 2,286
  • 2015 = 2,034
  • 2016 = 2,285
  • 2017 = 962
  • 2018 = 469
  • 2019 = 10
  • 2020 = Zero
  • 2021 = 37.

How many lionfish have I caught?

The 37 lionfish that I have caught so far in 2021 were split as follows:

  • Zero in January 2021
  • Zero in February 2021
  • 8 in March 2021.
  • 8 in April 2021.
  • 14 in May 2021.
  • 7 in June 2021.
  • 0 in July 2021.

My best ever total on one dive was an incredible 54 lionfish.

On two dives I caught a mighty 88 (38 plus 50) lionfish.

And on three dives I caught 98 lionfish which was the same day as the two dives record! I actually did a third bonus dive of just 23 minutes as we had caught so many lionfish already that day. I used what was left in my wifes first tank as she always has more air left in her tank than myself.

And my best monthly total was 402 lionfish in July 2016.

The highest poundage I ever caught was the day I caught 98 lionfish, they weighed a mighty 84 pounds.

We have found that over the years the lionfish we saw on average did get bigger and bigger, however, this did change in 2014. From then we started to see fewer small and large individuals, with the majority a medium size.

However, in 2017 we saw a big change in the number of lionfish on our reefs. We started seeing far fewer than in previous years, but I do not know why??? Maybe us cullers are really having an impact or perhaps something has started eating the lionfish, particularly the tiny ones. Or perhaps fewer egg sacks are arriving at the Cayman Islands for whatever reason, or has the massive increase in sargassum seaweed had some kind of effect on the floating egg sacks? The biggest way to limit the increase in the number of lionfish is if something starts to eat all the egg sacks before they hatch!

2018 continued how 2017 ended with not many lionfish sightings and therefore very few kills. I only hunted once in 2019 and in 2020 not at all. But we did get back on it in 2021.

Our Department Of Environment (DOE) asks us each month to report to them when we catch lionfish. For each dive where we catch lionfish, the DOE wants to know the date, the dive site, the number of lionfish caught and their size, as follows:

  • Small lionfish are less than 6 inches long.
  • Medium lionfish are between 6 and 12 inches long.
  • Large lionfish are over 12 inches long.

Of the 0 lionfish I caught in July 2021, their sizes were as follows:

  • 0 was small.
  • 0 were medium.
  • 0 were large.

The way our DOE measures the lionfish is a little different from the way they are measured for the official country and world records. The Cayman DOE measures the lionfish, excluding the tail, while the official island and world records measure the WHOLE fish.

When I caught my TEN THOUSANDTH lionfish on the 30th July 2017 I did get some press coverage here in the Cayman Islands. I was front-page news as you can see below:

The Cayman Compass is a daily newspaper but the Fun News paper is a six-monthly edition, so I was front-page news every day for SIX MONTHS.

And finally, if you want to catch lots of lionfish like me then it helps to have good air consumption. If you can improve your air consumption on each dive then you’ll get better value for money AND have more time to catch more lionfish. So why not buy MY pdf ebook Save Your Breath which highlights dozens of ways to improve your air consumption – click on the link here for Save Your Breath and read all about it.

Lionfish are a truly beautiful fish but also a huge menace in the Caribbean. That's why I've killed over 10,000 of them!

I have caught over 10,000 lionfish from small ones to big ones. This is one I actually didn't catch. It was the winner for the smallest lionfish caught in the February 2016 lionfish culling competition on Grand Cayman.

Here's a beautiful lionfish just before I killed it. Sorry in the Caribbean they are a truly terrible invasive problem. I've now killed over TEN THOUSAND.

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About Nigel Coles

Hi my name is Nigel Coles. I used to live in Bristol, England but after a change in direction we moved overseas to work in the scuba diving industry. After a time in Thailand, for the last 8 years I have been living with my wife Deby, in the East End of Grand Cayman, The Cayman Islands. I’m a dive instructor, working for Tortuga Divers, part of the Red Sail group. I spend my day on dive boats, training students and taking our guests on dive trips. It’s a hard life but someone has to do it

2 Responses to How many lionfish have I caught?

  1. Sara Curry says:

    Great website and information!! Always a pleasure to dive with you at Tortuga Divers!!