Florida diver praised after spearing record lionfish

·2 min read

A Florida diver set two records recently by spearing and removing a large lionfish from the Gulf of Mexico.

The lionfish measured 18.7 inches and weighed 3.77 pounds, making it the longest and heaviest of its species speared in Florida’s Gulf waters.

Whitfield, while diving June 10 off Okaloosa County, was participating in a state-sponsored program that encourages the removal of invasive lionfish by any legal means of fishing.

“Wow, nice, good riddance,” reads one of several Facebook comments praising Whitfield for his catch.

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, two species of lionfish native to the Indo-Pacific have “invaded” Florida waters and may pose a significant threat to native wildlife and habitat.

ALSO ON FTW OUTDOORS: Woman shatters cutthroat trout record; ‘I’m in the books boys!’

The predatory and venomous reef fish were first discovered off Florida’s Atlantic Coast in 1985. They’ve since multiplied and spread northward in the Atlantic, into the Caribbean, and into Gulf waters.

Lionfish tips scale at 3.77 pounds. Photo: FWC

In 2014 the FWC began to evaluate the lionfish population and develop outreach programs and remove regulatory barriers regarding the removal of lionfish.

The state now offers prize incentives and sponsors tournaments specific to lionfish. The annual Lionfish Challenge is an integral link in the population control effort.

In 2019, 25,000 lionfish were removed during the Challenge. In 2020, 21,569 lionfish were harvested and David Connerth was proclaimed Lionfish King after he removed 1,141 lionfish via recreational fishing methods.

Gary Whitfield (right) poses with record lionfish. Photo: FWC

Isidoro Bedoya was named Commercial Champion after removing 1,196.5 pounds of lionfish.

The state also recognizes weight and length records in spearfishing and hook-and-line categories for Atlantic and Gulf waters.

Whitfield’s speared lionfish, at 3.77 pounds, is the heaviest overall. The angling weight record stands at 2.3 pounds, set by Darren Parker in the Gulf in 2016.