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117 Lionfish culled

5 March 2016

Great three tank Lionfish cull today with Ocean Frontiers. When I first started doing these culls we would easily get 150-200 fish per outing. The fish are becoming cannier (we are seeing the survival of the fittest in action here) but I believe there are definitely fewer of them out there.

There was a little bit of rain today so I was hoping that the Lionfish would be out from their tunnels and overhangs a little more than usual.

As the aim on these dives is to hit places where the Lionfish have not been culled so frequently, we did three anchored dives, the first up near Lost Valley, the Second near Ironshore Gardens and the third opposite the famous Cayman Blowholes (no official dive site anywhere near there). Cayman is funny, it is advertised as having 365 dive sites, but this is really a marketing gimmick – 365 shore dives or moorings to prevent anchor damage but the sites between are just as beautiful and often more pristine.  On these culls it often feels like you are the first person to ever dive that site.

The first dive was a bit of a bust when it came to the Lionfish, I only managed to catch one (but a 100% record on a dive is not bad for m y ‘skills’) but the sight was beautiful, diving off the wall on the way out, and seeing rays and a nurse shark on top of the wall on the way back. Everyone else did equally badly on that dive, we probably only got twenty on the whole boat. I burned through my air rather quickly on this dive, it’s been over a month since we have been on a proper cull and I was keen to get ahead of another group rather than pick up the leftovers. There also seems a marked reluctance in carrying the container – partly because people think it is the Lionfish carcasses that draw the sharks in, but really it’s quite useful to share the donkey duties out, particularly if people aren’t that good with the spears.

The second site was also on the wall, with some reaclly cool overhangs and passages. There should have been more Lionfish here but I only got 3 (at a 75% hit rate). The one that I missed was a real sitter, between a small coral finger and the reef but he just disappeared, I hesitated too long and hadn’t really got my hand in with just one on the fist dive. Beautiful dive site though and we had the time to enjoy a turtle, a couple of rays and some massive lobsters. We were a bit more organised as a boat, sending divers off into different groups and got a better total this dive.

The third dive site, despite not being near any marked (and therefore official) dive sites was stunning. We anchored in a shallow patch of sand (about 45 feet) and were told that the top of the wall was only around 60 feet. We were all diving nitrox so, despite doing two wall dives already, we headed back to the wall, and I’m glad we did.

On the way, coral islands rose out of the sand, providing positive overhangs to explore, where I managed to hit two Lionfish in short succession. When we reached the wall, the sand dropped from around 50 feet down to 100 feet in a forty five degree sandy incline that ended in caves, swim throughs and overhangs galore. There should really have been Lionfish grotto after grotto. I found two hanging out together, but as I got the larger one the other decided that discretion was the better part of valour. We had great fun exploring the swim throughs and soaring overhangs but only managed to bag one more large specimen (who thought he could escape into a narrow overhang) leaving me with a 100% record for that dive, and 8 in total.  A little disappointing, but the quality of the dive sites made up for it.

That said, from a culling perspective, I should have hit the shallows, the team that did game back with full containers, reporting grotto after grotto, some containing up to seven Lionfish that waited to be picked off (resulting in a much better total figure for the boat than my team’s strategy). That would have been satisfying, but I want to return to this site again and couldn’t resist the wall!

117 in total, just 8 for me this time, but some great sites explored.

Check out why we cull the Lionfish here…

 

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