Contest aims at invasive species off the Florida coast.
An Ormond Beach man became the “lion fish’s greatest nightmare” this summer, said Mayor Bill Partington at the Dec. 6 City Commission meeting.
David Garrett was recognized by a City Commission proclamation for catching the most lion fish in a contest sponsored by Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. Lion fish are an invasive species that are having a negative impact by eating native fish off the Florida shore.
During the 4.5 month contest, 16,608 fish were killed and Garrett killed 3,324.
He received a commemorative coin after killing 50, and for winning the contest, he was named “Lion Fish King” and received a lifetime saltwater fishing license. His picture will be on the 2017 edition of Florida Fishing Regulations.
Garrett said there probably are commercial fishermen who caught more, but did not take the time to participate in the contest.
Garrett took up scuba diving and spear fishing after his retirement from the Army in 1998 as a major. He sells the fish he spears to help pay for his activity.
“It’s an expensive sport,” he said.
He also teaches scuba diving at Atlantic Scuba in Holly Hill.
The contest said a reef would be named after anyone who caught 500 lion fish, but the fine print said they had to be caught off the Panhandle. All of Garrett’s fish were caught in Volusia and Flagler county waters.
“You should have a reef named after you,” Partington said at the commission meeting.
As a fisherman, Garrett has noticed the impact of lion fish on native fish.
“You see hundreds of them hanging around the reefs,” he said. “There are thousands out there.”
A couple of years ago he started an organization to try to get government grants to hire people to go out and kill the fish, but it has been unsuccessful.
“They think we are going to eat our way out of the problem,” he said.
The government encourages restaurants to serve lion fish.
Garrett said there is a market for the fish, saying they are tasty like sea bass or hog fish.