I should let everyone know that prior to eating my first Lionfish I was very apprehensive about it. I know that I, like many others, thought, "Am I going to eat an aquarium fish that has venomous spines? Will this poison me?" These are reasonable fears, but after much research, through both the internet and interviews with leading experts, I came to realize that the Lionfish is a common table food in many parts of the world and that even scientists at NOAA are now eating them. This research led me to take the plunge and now Lionfish is my main food source from the sea.
You too can safely catch, prepare and enjoy this delicious fish by following these few steps.
CATCHING THE FISH:
All that you need to catch a Lionfish is snorkeling gear, gloves and a spear.
The best way to catch a Lionfish is by spearing them.
Lionfish are normally found close to rock or reef croppings, so bottom fishing for Lionfish could lead to many snagged hooks.
Lionfish do not normally hide under rocks, they are almost always out in the open and easily visible.
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.
Once you've speared the fish, make sure to keep it at the end of your spear until you can place it on your boat. In the case that you don't have a boat, put the fish in a custom bag or stringer that would not allow the spines to sting you. Be careful not to point your spear upwards because the Lionfish can slide down and sting you.
CLEANING THE FISH:
Once the fish has died, the venom in the spines remains active for up to an hour, so be cautious when handling and preparing the fish. This venom is ONLY in the spines however, not in the flesh.
There are two ways to clean a Lionfish:
First, you can simply filet the fish and remove the skin, throwing the rest of the carcass away.
The second option is to grab the fish at his eyeballs with a pair of pliers, then take a filet knife and cut the head and belly of the fish off in one slice. Cut the remaining fins off with a pair of kitchen shears and scale the fish. The scales come off so easily that you can remove them by spraying the scales backwards with a water hose.
You now have beautiful white meat that is completely safe to eat.
COOKING THE FISH:
Here are some easy, quick cooking tips.
Lemon Pepper Lionfish:
Take a Lionfish filet, sprinkle it with lemon pepper, and put it in a pan of hot olive oil. Lightly sear on both sides.
Cut your Lionfish filets into thin strips and place into a bowl of fresh squeezed lime juice. Add thinly sliced onions, bell peppers and carrots. Top with capers. Let it sit for at least five minutes before eating.
deep fried lionfish:
If you haven't filleted your Lionfish and still have the body, bones and all, you can simply score the flesh, dip it in batter and give it a fry until golden brown.