(Photo : Creative Commons)
So the Lionfish, otherwise known in scientific circles as the pterois, is the spiny, striped fish that scientists say has become the next great invasive threat to other sea life and human sea-based markets along the United States East Coast, down to the Caribbean Sea.
With estimated population growth in the region of about 700 percent between 2004 and 2008, the Lionfish --- which is indigenous to the Indo-Pacific, the swath of ocean waters that stretches from the Indian Ocean to the mid-Pacific Ocean and generally includes Indonesia and neighboring countries --- has become the new marine bully of area coral reefs.
The fish has no known natural predators but itself has a voracious appetite, prompting game officials in Florida to declare open season on the spiny critters and many other government officials and marine experts to encourage the stepped-up capture and consumption of the Lionfish.
Though the spines are venomous, the rest of the fish is not only safe to eat, but considered a prized delicacy by many.
"Lionfish are here to stay, and it appears that the only way to control them is by fishing them," recently said marine researcher John Bruno.
But catching, preparing and cooking a Lionfish is indeed a specialized process, according to a post at lionfishhunter.blogspot.com, which notes the best way to catch a Lionfish is to spear it, and the only other support equipment necessary to accomplish that would be snorkeling gear, gloves and a bathing suit.
CATCHING A LIONFISH:
Lionfish, according to the blog, are typically found close to rocks or reef croppings, so bottom fishing for them would likely lead to a jumble of snagged line and hooks. On the other hand, or fin, as it were, Lionfish do not normally hide under rocks, but swim out in the open, where they are easily seen.
The piece also recommends waiting to cast your spear until a Lionfish is approximately 3-4 inches away, a reasonable distance since the fish apparently don't spook easily.
Lionfish do not spook easily, so get as close as you can before you make your shot. I wait until my spear tip is 3-4 inches away from the fish before I make my shot, making it a guaranteed hit.
The Website further recommends that once a Lionfish has been speared, the successful angler should either keep it lodged at the end of the end of your spear until everybody is back inside the boat or put the fish in a custom bag or stringer that would contact with the fish's spines, which are, by the way, poisonous to humans.
CLEANING THE LIONFISH:
Once the Lionfish is dead, the venom in the spines stays potent for up to an hour, so preparers must be cautious.
The blog notes two ways to clean a Lionfish: First, one can simply filet the fish and remove the skin, discarding the spines and the other unused parts of the carcass.
A second option is to grab the fish by its eye sockets with a pair of pliers, take a filet knife and cut the head and belly off in one slice, then cut the remaining fins off with a pair of shears and lastly scale the fish.
And, viola, a fillet of Lionfish, ready to prepare.
COOKING THE LIONFISH:
Of course, there are myriad ways to cook Lionfish. Here are three ideas, compliments of LionfishHunters.org:
Ingredients: Lionfish meat, spicy pico de gallo, soft or hard taco shells, black beans, olive oil, shredded cheese, blackened seasoning, sour cream and shredded lettuce
Preparation: Use soft flour or crunchy corn tortillas. Spice the Lionfish fillets with blackened seasoning.
Cooking: Sear fish on a hot pan with olive oil. Place Lionfish in tortillas. Add shredded lettuce, pico de gallo, warmed black beans, shredded cheese, sour cream to taste.
HOT LIONFISH POPPERS
Ingredients: Lionfish meat, pancake batter, olive oil, pickled cherry peppers, your favorite spice, bacon bits, flour and shredded jack cheese
Preparation: Lightly grill the Lionfish fillets in the olive oil and spice, meanwhile cook some bacon and chop it into bits. Slice a pickled cherry pepper half-way through, remove the seeds, then stuff the pepper shell with the jack cheese, grilled Lionfish and bacon bits.
Sprinkle the stuffed pepper with flour and dip it into the pancake batter.
Cooking: Deep fry until golden brown.
Dip in marinara sauce, or some other dipping sauce of your choosing, and enjoy.