Shooting lionfish and missing The Shot

Non-native lionfish are a threat to Florida’s marine environment, so I recently went diving in the Keys to kill a few.

Most photographers and videographers know what it’s like to miss The Shot.

Let’s say you’re out in a swamp shooting photos or video of wading birds and your camera battery dies; while you’re changing batteries, a Florida panther bounds in, grabs a great blue heron and is gone before you can utter your favorite curse word.

That’s missing The Shot.

So, here’s what happened July 18 while I was diving in the Keys with Jon Hazelbaker of Fort Myers Beach and his 13-year-old granddaughter Annie.

My goal was to kill lionfish with my pole spear and get video with a head-mounted GoPro (lionfish are non-natives that eat huge quantities of juvenile native fish, so killing them is a good thing; they also taste great).

On the fifth and final dive of the day, after I’d killed and videoed four lionfish, I shot the biggest lionfish I’d ever seen, a 16-incher — maximum size for lionfish is about 18 inches.

Unfortunately, I didn’t stone it (that’s when the spear instantly kills the fish), and it was thrashing like crazy, so I couldn’t get it into my lionfish containment unit (or LCU, a PVC cylinder into which you put speared lionfish so you won’t be stung by any of its 18 venomous spines).

During the excitement, I was thinking, “This is going to make great video: Big lionfish fighting to stay out of the LCU, Jon grabbing and stabbing it, fish blood in the water. Cool.”

Back on shore, I eagerly downloaded the individual video clips and realized that, before spearing the 16-inch lionfish, I’d somehow set my GoPro on photo mode.

Instead of exciting video of an intense underwater struggle between men and fish, I had a fuzzy still image of the reef.

I missed The Shot.

On a brighter note, I did get clear head-mounted video of me carefully aiming at a lionfish and completely missing it.

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