The Purse Trap for Lionfish Catching aka “Gittings Gobbler”

An exclusive interview with Dr. Steven Gittings, Chief Scientist for NOAA, designer of the Purse Trap.

Dr. Gittings Purse Trap

A rendering of The Purse Trap designed
By Dr. Steve Gittings of NOAA

One innovation in lionfish hunting is the Purse Trap that is now undergoing tests as a lionfish catcher, also known as a fish aggregation device. The Purse Trap is designed by Dr. Steve Gittings, Chief Scientist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and its National Marine Sanctuary System in Silver Springs, Maryland.

Dr. Gittings’ Purse Trap, known to some divers as Gittings Gobbler, is an inexpensive trap to remove lionfish from areas divers can’t reach. Unlike other traps that can also trap indigenous fish, the Purse Trap is designed to only attract lionfish, which seem to hover near structures, Dr. Gittings says. The Purse Trap could be a valuable tool for commercial fishermen to catch and sell lionfish.

“It’s at the point where it’s ready for commercial evaluation,” Dr. Gittings says. “We’ve done a lot of testing of it to prove the concept of the design.”

How does the Purse Trap work? Well, like a change purse. Since Lionfish like to hang around structures, Dr. Gittings includes a plastic structure inside the trap to attract the lionfish.

“So, I built this trap,” Dr. Gittings says. “It looks like a lady’s change purse. It’s 6-feet across and extending is a curved piece of steel. It hits the bottom and lays flat and leaves a netting. There’s a piece of plastic called the attractor and lionfish will just hang out there, swim, go hunt and swim back to it later.”

An attractive aspect for fishermen to try the Purse Trap is the price. Stacy Frank of Lionfish University says that fishermen can make the trap with supplies from the local hardware store.

“They’re quite inexpensive,” Frank says. “You can go to Home Depot and buy PVC pipe and netting for about $150.”

Until the Purse Trap – and other lionfish traps like the Dome Trap – are on the market and commercial fisherman are including them in their search for the catch of the day, lionfish hunters like Muller are taking it upon themselves to slip below the surface and continue the lionfish hunt with spear and containment receptacle.