The Mississippi Department of Marine Resources recently announced two new state records harvested earlier this year. Samuel Sandoz of Biloxi broke the record for tilefish with an 18-pound, 4.17-ounce fish on April 3, crushing the previous record set by Mike Salvetti in 2011, which weighed 14 pounds and eight ounces.
Similarly, Jason Jones, also of Biloxi, broke the state record for lionfish with a one-pound, 11.20-ounce specimen he harvested on February 7. Jones previously told the Sun Herald that he was initially fishing for wahoo and tuna south of Dauphin Island. Instead, the fish he hooked may turn out to nab the world record as well.
“It was a normal trip my friends and I try to make about twice a month. We were fishing at the popular MP-265 rig,” Jones told the Herald. “I didn’t have any idea it may be a record, but a buddy on the trip was a professional spear fisherman and he knew right away it had to be a record.”
According to the International Game Fish Association (IGFA), the current world record for lionfish belongs to a one-pound, 10-ounce fish caught by Mike Murias in 2013 off the coast of Miami. Since lionfish are considered an invasive species, IGFA did not start keeping records for the colorful fish until 2013. Mississippi officials also kept the species off the books until 2015, making the fish caught by Jones the first record entry for that species.
Wildlife officials generally encourage the harvest of lionfish by anglers, spearfishermen, and divers whenever possible. These spiny fish may be pretty to look at, but they are also voracious predators for native forage fish, which are essential to the food chain. Lionfish also have venomous ray fins that can be hazardous to divers.
Images courtesy Mississippi Department of Marine Resources