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Record-breaking lionfish caught in Gulf of Mexico off Florida Panhandle

Huge lionfish measured at 18.19 inches
Record lionfish caught in Gulf of Mexico Oct. 18, 2020
Posted at 1:50 PM, Nov 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-06 13:53:47-05

DESTIN, Fla. — A spearfisherman on the hunt for red snapper in the Florida Panhandle ended up snagging a record-breaking lionfish.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said Donald C. Vautrinot was spearfishing off Destin on Oct. 18 and decided to catch a few lionfish during his time in the water.

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"I saw a monster lionfish and immediately knew I wanted to measure it," Vautrinot told the FWC. "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, he took it to a resource manager in Okaloosa County for an official measurement. The huge lionfish was measured at 18.19 inches.

Record lionfish caught in Gulf of Mexico Oct. 18, 2020
Donald C. Vautrinot, right, with Okaloosa County, Florida, coastal resource manager Alex Fogg

FWC said this is the new Florida state record holder for the longest lionfish caught in the Gulf of Mexico.

"I was pretty excited and messaged my wife the news right away," Vautrinot told FWC.

The former Gulf of Mexico record was 18.07 inches, caught off Escambia County in the Panhandle.

The overall state record of 18.78 inches was caught in 2015 in the Atlantic Ocean off Islamorada in the Florida Keys.

Lionfish are an invasive species in Florida that harm native wildlife and habitat. They can be caught year-round with an unlimited bag limit.