All About Lionfish Removal in Pensacola Beach ~ Southern Vacation Rentals

You may have seen lionfish in a fish tank in an office building, but did you know these beautiful fish are actually harmful to our waters? That’s right; in recent years, their population has quickly taken over the Florida Panhandle. They pose an overwhelming thread to the reefs that local fish rely on, making them one of the area’s largest predators. Outside of their native habitat, they have no known predators, hence why they thrive in our waters. They also populate quickly, with female lionfish releasing around 2 million eggs per year in warm waters. That’s a lot of lionfish! As you can see, it’s important to regulate the lionfish population in the Florida Panhandle and to protect our reefs. Our beach communities do an incredible job of regulating the lionfish population, with championships and cleanup days in places like Destin and Pensacola Beach. Pensacola Beach is known for its efforts to control the lionfish population, with a Lionfish Removal & Awareness Festival and other championships. Learn more about lionfish removal in Pensacola Beach and what you can do below!

Why Remove Lionfish?

Lionfish don’t discriminate when it comes to what fish to eat. They’ll go after just anything in their path, putting just about over 70 different fish in harm’s way. Their spines ensure they won’t become prey themselves, so an overpopulation is dangerous for Gulf waters. Plus, their stomachs can expand up to 30 times their normal size! Lionfish aren’t just found in the Gulf, either. They’re also located in brackish waters and riverines, and can withstand temperatures as low as 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Fishermen love removing lionfish as there is no minimum size or daily bag limits set by the Florida Wildlife Commission (FWC). Not to mention, it’s open season all year long on lionfish!

If you’re wanting to catch lionfish yourself, the most effective methods are by spearing or using a hand-held net. Some fishermen report accidentally catching lionfish in lobster or crab traps. The lionfish swim into the trap and can easily come and go, but are harvested when they happen to be in the trap as it’s being pulled up.

Lionfish Tournaments in Pensacola

Pensacola is no stranger to lionfish removal efforts, with tournaments throughout the year to keep our waters continually free of lionfish. The Lionfish Removal & Awareness Day at Perdido Key’s Flora-Bama draws divers, celebrity chefs, and thousands of visitors. This year’s Lionfish Removal & Awareness Day festival took place at AJ’s Seafood & Oyster Bar in Destin. More than 4,000 people attended, with over 19,000 lionfish removed from the Gulf! Next year’s Lionfish Removal & Awareness Day is slated for May 16, 2020 in Destin. Book your vacation rental in Destin, Florida for us for the tournament! Our vacation condos at Breakers East will put you just minutes away from the festival in addition to offering a beautiful beachfront location.

Didn’t make it out to the awareness day festival this year? This year’s Pensacola Lionfish Classic takes place October 4th-6th at The Oar House in Downtown Pensacola. Fishermen from all over will be out in Pensacola’s waters from sunrirse to sunset on October 5th in search of lionfish. Weigh-ins are free and open to the public, taking place on October 6th from 8-11 AM. Cash prizes are awarded to those who catch the most, largest, and smallest lionfish. In addition, you’ll have the chance to purchase raffle tickets to win other exciting prizes! Learn more and register here.

Can I Eat Lionfish?

Actually yes, you can! Once you get past those spiny fins, lionfish is incredibly tasty. Their meat is tender, white, and flaky – think of it like eating triggerfish or scamp grouper. Many of the championships centered around lionfish removal in Pensacola Beach all feature lionfish dishes prepared by area-famous chefs. You can also find lionfish at a couple of restaurants along the Gulf Coast during lionfish removal season. Jackson’s in Downtown Pensacola serves lionfish during the season, and so does The Bay in Santa Rosa Beach. If you can find it on the menu, it’s certainly something to try!