Each team only could have one lionfish spear. Our lionfish spear had three barbs on one side and a rubbery loop on the other. To use it, you put your thumb in the loop, and pull it forward. You aim at the front of the lionfish, and let go. The loop jumps back, propelling the spear forward into the lionfish.
I was in charge of holding the lionfish spear. Our team collected our gear, and after several switches from boat to boat, pushed our wooden craft into the water. We asked our boat captain where a good location for lionfish was, and he said he knew of a place. We arrived at our watery destination, and rolled backwards into the ocean.
The reef was about 50 feet down, and had the most coral I have ever seen. As we descended, I noticed that the reef sloped downwards into bluish darkness on all sides like we were observing one hemisphere of a bizarre coral planet. We swam just above the coral, and began systematically searching for lionfish. After a few minutes of no lionfish, lots of coral, and one accidently maimed sponge, we spied our first one. I fired the spear, but alas, I missed. The lionfish speedily swam into a crevice, never to be seen again. We continued.
Ben was the one who found the only fish we brought back. He took the spear and stabbed the lionfish in the head, and rammed the shiny metal barbs through its body into the sand. It might have been silt. I didn’t check. I think it was probably sand because silt gets whisked away by the currents very quickly. At that point, Ben ran low on air, so he surfaced, leaving us to figure out how to put the lionfish in the lionfish bag. We had never actually practiced using a lionfish bag before, so Matthew and I were a little hesitant. I stuffed the spear with the fish on it into the sack, and Matthew held it shut. I tried to squeeze the fish off the spear, but the barbs held it on. I took the bag from Matthew so that I held both the spear and the bag, and grabbed the spear through the bag. That worked, and the spear came out sans lionfish. I looked at my gauge, and I was low on air. It was time to surface. I tried to alert Matthew, but he was swimming away, and I was already ascending. I didn’t have enough air to go back down, so I kept going up. As I burst out of the water, I informed Ben that Matthew was still under the water. Neither of us had enough air to go down again, but we knew that he was low on air too, so it was just a matter of minutes until he would surface. Soon enough, we saw him come up about 30 feet away from the boat. The three of us reunited in the boat and we headed back, 40 minutes early.
In the end, when the prizes were announced we didn’t win anything (except Matthew, who won a phone in the raffle). However, we had caught one lionfish, and now there is one lionfish less in the Caribbean because of us. We were happy.