Manatee County man uses gun to hunt lionfish underwater

Posted at 10:01 PM, Sep 23, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-23 22:01:08-04

A Manatee County man is under the national spotlight. He's using a gun to take out an invasive fish underwater. His video, showing him hunting, went viral overnight.

He's got the perfect name. That's because when he's not working as mortgage broker, Courtland Hunt is on the hunt for lionfish. At first, he didn't take up arms to protect the environment. He just wanted to see if he could shoot his Glock underwater.

"I think of myself as an extreme outdoorsman," said Hunt.

Many tries later, he got it. His lead-free bullets can go six feet in distance and his gun more than 100 feet underwater.

Make no mistake, these fish are a menace. They've spread uncontrollably over three decades. As a diver, Hunt has seen the damage himself.

"I saw tons of lionfish. No fish, no bay fish, no grouper. They eat everything," he said.

They also threaten coral reefs and have no natural predator. What started out as a hobby diving in with a beefed up Glock, has turned into a real mission to protect the environment.

So far, Hunt has killed more than 100 lionfish.

These stripped predators are such a threat, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commissions awards fishermen who kill the most. The hunt not without danger.

"For two hours, I had difficulty breathing," Hunt described the moment he touched one of their venomous spine, "It was one of the most excruciatingly painful times of my life."

The experience a reminder on the importance of taking these fish out of Tampa Bay.

Hunt's next project is to modify a semi-automatic weapon. One, he hopes, will be able to kill more of these fish faster.