Florida’s efforts to raise awareness about lionfish, a voracious, invasive species with no natural predators, has taken hold. Donald Vautrinot was spearfishing for red snapper in Destin on Oct. 16 and decided to “snag a few lionfish” before calling it a day.
“I saw a monster lionfish and immediately knew I wanted to measure it,” Vautrinot said in a statement released by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. “I got really excited because I knew the Gulf record was around 18 inches but I didn't know exactly and we didn't have a cell signal to check it out there.”
Okaloosa County coastal resource manager Alex Fogg measured the fish and confirmed that at 18.19 inches, Vautrinot became the new Florida state record holder for the longest lionfish caught in the Gulf of Mexico. The prior record was 18.07 in the Gulf; Vautrinot’s Gulf record is still shy of the overall state record of 18.78 inches caught by Capt. Jimmy Nelson in 2015 off Islamorada.
The FWC encourages anglers to remove lionfish, offering prizes and competitions. Its record program includes categories for both length and weight in spearing, hook and line, and junior (ages 16 and under) divisions. Click here to enter.