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Licensing Requirements

A recreational fishing license is not required for recreational fishers targeting lionfish while using a pole spear, a Hawaiian Sling, a handheld net or any spearing device that is specifically designed and marketed exclusively for lionfish.

A recreational fishing license (unless exempt) is required for all other methods of harvesting lionfish including hook and line.

The sale of commercially harvested lionfish requires a saltwater products license.

A permit is required to harvest lionfish in the no-take zones of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Permits are issued by the Sanctuary following training given by the Sanctuary and the Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF).

The FWC also issues permits to tournaments, derbies and other organized events that allows lionfish and other invasive species to be removed by spearfishing in areas where spearing is not allowed.

Gear Requirements

Legal Gear: hook and line, spear, hand-held nets and any otherwise legal harvest gear

Spears may not be used:

Within 100 yards of a public swimming beach, any commercial or public fishing pier, or any part of a bridge from which public fishing is allowed.

Within 100 feet of any part of a jetty that is above the surface of the sea - except for the last 500 yards of a jetty that extends more than 1,500 yards from the shoreline.

In Monroe County from Long Key north to the Miami-Dade County line.

In any body of water under the jurisdiction of the Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Recreation and Parks (Florida Park Service). Possession of spearfishing equipment is prohibited in these areas, unless it is unloaded and properly stored.

Other spearfishing rules may apply under

Harvest by hand-held nets is allowed in all of these situations.

Divers using rebreathers are permitted to spear and remove lionfish.

Lionfish as Pets

The importation of live lionfish, breeding lionfish and the harvest and possession of lionfish eggs and larvae for any purpose other than destruction is prohibited.

Habitat and Fishing Tips

Native to the Indo-Pacific and Red Sea, lionfish can be found year-round in Florida waters and from North Carolina to South America, including the Gulf of Mexico. They have even been found as far north as Rhode Island in the summer months, but they do not survive the winter that far north. They can be found in almost all estuarine and marine habitat types and have been found in waters up to 1,000 feet deep.

Rarely caught on hook-and-line, the most effective methods of removal are spearing and using a hand-held net. Care should be taken when spear fishing so that the spears do not impact and damage reefs.

Lionfish are also caught as bycatch in the commercial lobster and stone crab trap industry.  There is evidence that lionfish are not actually getting stuck in traps but can come and go as they please, only being harvested when they happen to be inside the trap as it is being pulled up. 

The practice of feeding lionfish to other predatory species while diving should be avoided because it is dangerous and illegal. It is also proven to not be effective.

Source: Fl. Dept. Fish and Wildlife