Florida Keys

He came face-to-face with a big lionfish. By spearing it, he set a new record.

Timothy Blasko speared this record-setting lionfish on Aug. 6, 2018, in the Florida Keys.
Timothy Blasko speared this record-setting lionfish on Aug. 6, 2018, in the Florida Keys. Timothy Blasko

A Long Island, New York, man set a state record this month for spearing the heaviest lionfish in the Atlantic Ocean while diving in the Florida Keys.

It weighed in at 3.10 pounds, or 1,408 grams.

Timothy Blasko, a corrections officer in Cutchogue, on the eastern end of Long Island, was diving the Tennessee Reef, three miles south of Long Key State Park, on Aug. 6 at mile marker 67.5, when he speared the lionfish.

Blasko was on a chartered trip with Captain Tony Young’s Forever Young and diving in about 85 feet of water when he came face-to-face with the lionfish, an invasive species that wildlife officials say harms the reef habitat.

“It wasn’t until he turned sideways that I realized he was the Godzilla of lionfish,” Blasko said in a Facebook message. “As soon as he turned and I saw how big he was, I motioned for the pole spear and Tony handed it to me. I swam up to him and got a clean head shot.”

The lionfish definitely fought Blasko, but it was stuck.

“Wasn’t until we dumped him out into the cooler that we thought he might be a new record once we saw the sheer size of him,” Blasko said.

The men decided to take the fish to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s biology department in Marathon to have it weighed and measured.

Blasko now holds the record for the heaviest lionfish in the spearing division in the Atlantic Ocean. The heaviest lionfish ever caught in the Gulf of Mexico was 3.38 pounds.

The predatory lionfish eats native fish, which can reduce native populations and have negative effects on the overall reef habitat, according to FWC.

“Lionfish are the perfect invader: 18 venomous spines; absence of natural predators; high reproductive output; voracious appetite; and can tolerate wide ranges of temperature, salinity, depth, and water quality,” according to Reef Rangers, a lionfish control program that encourages divers to remove lionfish from Florida reefs.

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