The College vs Lion Fish

 

The College vs Lion Fish
Keeping with a new but vital tradition here on Utila, Honduras we at The Bay Islands College of Diving geared up our 42 pro diving boat with all the essentials: spears, containers, first aid, oxygen, camera's, EANx (Nitrox) and of course smiles to hunt the evasive Lion Fish that is trying to take over Caribbean waters. Not on our watch!   The day started well with the sun shinning and everyone revved up on the boat to hunt. We were unfortunate on the dive sites that were drawed for us, as rarely Lionfish are spotted in those waters, but with spears and smiles at hand we decided to make a drift dive from one of the three Utila marine protected area's, Raggedy Key.   The two teams descended into the waters, and our loyal customers who joined us on the boat for support got the pleasure of snorkeling with dolphins. Right when we hit the blue, a pod of rough tooth dolphins surrounded us, a sure recipe for a great day. The drift dive was absolutely beautiful, and lasted 59 minutes for the first 5 minutes the sounds of the dolphins sonar surrounded us. About 15 minutes into our dive one of the biggest spotted eagle rays we have ever seen in these waters approach us from from the blue and swam in slow motion so close that everyone got an amazing view of the animal. Good thing we accidentally left the camera on the boat in the hype of the dolphin activity,  there is always next time. After the eagle ray bid us farewell his friend of equal size came swooping down along side us even closer then the first one. Sometime I think things like this only happen when you forget your camera on the boat!   The main objective had still not been met and we were all more then excited when the first Lionfish was spotted. With complete success our trusted spearer managed to get a perfect clean shot right behind its eyes. After our amazing dive we still only manged to see and kill one Lionfish. The College 1  Lionfish 0. I suppose its not a bad thing that the one thing we are hunting is not abundant enough in certain parts of our waters.   The second dive of the day was again not a great spot to slay Lionfish, however it is one of Utila's greatest dive spots, The Maze, which is located true north side. The ride alone was picture perfect and when we jumped into the water the visibility was the way it normally is in our summers at 50 meters of pure clear visibility. Here we had more luck seeing Lionfish however as they are used to being hunted they occupied the dark cracks and caves at 26 meters. A great advantage point to those being hunted they wormed themselves into area's that even with an extended arms reach the spear tip was still at least one foot to far away. Similar to an annoying cousin you love, we had our own personal Queen Trigger Fish that was curious in every action we took. When we were hovering sideways trying to find ways to reach the Lionfish the Ol'wife, the local name for the Queen Trigger fish, swam in front of us, around our spears, and blocking our aim every time. For the duration of our dive the Ol'wife swam beside as and around us as acting as our personal guide through the Maze. Finally we spotted one Lionfish out in the open, and a big one at that. Again the spearer managed a perfect blow but this time the Lionfish wiggled off the spear and lodged himself into the crevice of a crack to die ... even a dead Lionfish was out of our reach. The dive lasted 40 minutes and it was a perfect dive, accept the capture of Lionfish. Back on the boat the second team ascended 5 minutes later with the great news they saw and captured the only Lionfish they saw.   The next day at one of the dock bars here on Utila we gathered with our students to feast on all the Lionfish that were speared the day before. For those who have never gotten a chance to eat Lionfish I greatly urge you to try it as it tasted delicious in everything it was cooked in: lionfish ceviche, red thai curry with lionfish, breaded lionfish balls and much much more. The fish itself tastes similar to a light white fish, with a very mild "fishy" taste it falls apart in your mouth, and has quite an nice taste to it.