NICEVILLE, Fla — Donald C. Vautrinot of Niceville was spearfishing for red snapper off Destin October 18 when he went back down to snag a few lionfish. And there it was.
“I saw a monster lionfish and immediately knew I wanted to measure it,” Vautrinot said. “I got really excited because I knew the Gulf record was around 18 inches, but I didn’t know exactly and we didn’t have a cell signal to check it out there.”
Once back at shore, they took it to Okaloosa County coastal resource manager Alex Fogg for an official measurement. Fogg confirmed, at 18.19 inches (462 mm), Vautrinot was the new Florida state record holder for longest lionfish caught in the Gulf of Mexico.
“I was pretty excited and messaged my wife the news right away,” said Vautrinot.
Vautrinot beat the former Gulf of Mexico record of 18.07 inches, caught off Escambia County and held by Joshua Falkner.
Vautrinot’s Gulf record is still shy of the overall state record of 18.78 inches (477 mm) caught by Capt. Jimmy Nelson in 2015 in the Atlantic off Islamorada.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) encourages removal of lionfish, which are an invasive species that could have a negative impact on native fish and wildlife.
The FWC lionfish record program includes categories for both length and weight in spearing, hook and line, and junior (16 and under) divisions.
Record holders will be recognized on MyFWC.com and may receive prizes as well.
Enter your record fish today by visiting MyFWC.com/Lionfish and clicking on “State Records Program.”
Make sure to review the application form thoroughly before submitting your catch. Potential record lionfish must have been harvested using legal methods.
For state records on other saltwater fish besides lionfish, visit CatchaFloridaMemory.com.