Lionfish – a group shooting strategy

Ten of the biggest ones of the days catch

Have you ever swam up to an area completely covered in lionfish and thought LOTTERY WIN? Or if you haven’t got a polespear then you probably thought NIGHTMARE! Here in Grand Cayman we have a lot of rock structures mainly in the form of a mini wall somewhere between about 25 / 30 ft deep going down to about 50 / 55 ft deep. This is where I do most of my hunting and sometimes I do swim up to an area and there are loads of lionfish all grouped together in one small area. It may be a male with his big harem of females, but it may just be that they like to congregate together in the same hole because it is a great place to hide out. It normally is an overhang or small cave with rock sides, a rock ceiling, a bolt hole at the back and a sandy bottom (and as my friend Dave says – No one likes a sandy bottom).

When you look into this hole you’ll usually find some lionfish on the ceiling, the sides, definitely on the sandy bottom and some just floating mid-water. So what do you do next?

  1. Without scaring the lionfish by getting too close, have a good look exactly where each of them are.
  2. Ignore the sandy bottom and start picking them off with your polespear on the ceiling and sides. I normally do the ceiling first and then the sides. That way once you have cleared the ones off of the ceiling you don’t need to worry about keep looking up to make sure you don’t end up with a lionfish as a prickly hat.
  3. Now some of the lionfish may swim into hiddie holes. Don’t worry. Try and get them last, once you’ve concentrated on the rest.
  4. Some may move towards the bolt hole at the back. They are making their way to the lionfish safe area. Again ignore them.
  5. Now once you have shot all the ones on the ceiling and sides go for any floating about mid-water. Having barbs on your polespear comes in handy here.
  6. Now go for any on the sandy bottom. Head shots, or basically a shot to the brain is what is required here as otherwise you are likely to end up with a desert storm of sand in the hole as the lionfish thrashes about on the end of your polespear.
  7. Desert storm like conditions normally means that’s it for your lottery win. However, if you are doing a back to boat dive and you are on your outward leg, then when you turnaround later in the dive, make your way back to the hole, and the desert storm viz may / should have cleared, giving you another chance to get a few more.
  8. If you follow these simple guidelines you should be able to get 75% plus of however many are in a hole. My best ever was 15 out of 15 in one area but they really didn’t have anywhere to bolt.
A cooler box of lionfish

A cooler box of lionfish

Remember do NOT go for the obvious BIG one first, as I did when I first started as they always seemed to be on the sandy bottom and guess what I missed their brain!

However, sometimes people really do win the lottery. Look at this video where really not much of a strategy is required. This video is also very sad. How do any other fish in this area stand a chance?

How many lionfish in one area?

How many lionfish in one area?

When you go on a hunt and you see loads of lionfish it’s great to have awesome air consumption, so that you can spear them all. 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.

Happy hunting!

And don’t forget kill ’em and grill ’em.

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
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