All day on the boat till about 1800 with a surprise for us all: LION FISH!! That’s right, we had Lion Fish tonight. We speared it, filleted it, cooked it, and ate every last bit of it.
The reason why we had Lion Fish for dinner is because we decided we might as well eat it if we are going to eradicate it from this reef while boating in between research sites. Lion fish are an invasive species on this side of the world. They originate from the Indo-Pacific and made their way to Florida. How? The word goes that they were brought over for an aquarium (do not know if private or public) and either released into the ocean or the aquarium broke/flooded during a storm and ended in the ocean. A similar story to the snakes in the everglades. Now they are multiplying in the Caribbean waters and are down to Bermuda currently.
They have spines all over the fin portions of their bodies. Most of the time, they are stationary creatures, suspending in the water under crevices and ledges. Their diet consist of anything they can get into their mouths and have no active sea predators in this region. So they devastate a reef by eating anything smaller than them. In The Bahamas, there are now Lion Fish Derbys and cooking contests to encourage fishermen and locals to spear them on site. Groups and organizations encourage these contests to destroy the thought that Lion Fish cannot be eaten. They are technically safer to eat then a puffer fish when you think about it.
The way to a perfect Lion Fish begins with the spearing. Make sure you aim straight for the head/brain or through the gills. The brain shot almost guarantees an instant kill. As long as it can pierce through without drawing blood. If you spear through anything but the head area, there is a possibility of blood and a higher risk of some hungry sharks showing up.
Once you spear, place in a cooler till ready to prep. My colleague began to use a kitchen knife and scissors to cut through the spines. Unfortunately, they weren’t strong enough so he went for the big guns: a cutlass and hammer. Once the spines are removed the fish is fine to eat.
The spines are where the poison for the fish is, not the entire body like a puffer fish. The spines are tough to snip through so using the hammer and cutlass provided enough force to cut through the spines at the base. Be careful while doing this, gloves are highly recommended just in case the poison is still active in the spines. Remove the scales and guts, and cut the meat how you desire to cook it.
We had them dredged and deep fried along with some Blue Stripped grunts. Some white rice and steamed cabbage and spinach, huzzah! The meat is white and flaky similar to salmon. For me, the meat took on the seasons flavor used instead of its natural flavor popping out. So it’s a very mild flavor that tends to take on whatever seasoning is used. The meat is soft and the bones are not hard.
Throughout our regularly routine sites, we encountered several bottlenose dolphins and a sperm whale today. Some poop samples as well came our way for the whale.
Overall, 4 very happy and full day for us scientists.