The Lionfish Challenge will come to a close Sept. 30, but that is still plenty of time to take and turn in the 50 lionfish it takes to qualify in the program. Every lionfish tail submitted helps control the invasive population.
And for every 50 you submit, you get an additional chance to win a Neritic polespear, a $100 dive tank refill or a Gold Sportsman’s License.
If the end of September is too soon for you, try your hand at the Panhandle Pilot Program which will continue through May 2017 or until 130 cobia or red grouper tags are issued. The Panhandle Pilot Program rewards divers for every 100 lionfish removed from Escambia through Franklin counties, where lionfish densities tend to be higher.
By the Numbers
Since the May 14 kickoff, 70 divers have entered 10,208 lionfish in the statewide Lionfish Challenge. Thirty-three people have qualified for the Panhandle Pilot Program.
This month’s Lionfish Challenge raffle winners include (from Aug. 15 and Aug. 29 drawings):
William Stewart won a Neritic polespear.
Barry Shively, TJ Huff and David Garrett won $100 dive tank refills.
Alex Page won an annual Saltwater Fishing License with lobster permit.
Terrance Pitcher won a $200 fuel card.
David Garrett is in the lead for being named Lionfish King with 1,468 harvested so far, followed by John Dickinson with 626.
Three teams participating in the Panhandle Pilot Program have qualified to name an artificial reef by removing 500 lionfish from Escambia through Franklin counties.
Learn more about how each program works below or online at MyFWC.com/Lionfish by clicking on “Lionfish Challenge and Panhandle Pilot Program.”
Remove 50 or more lionfish between Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day (May 14, 2016) and the end of September to enter the Lionfish Challenge.
A commemorative coin to mark membership.
An event T-shirt.
Lionfish Hall of Fame recognition on the MyFWC.com website.
Being entered in drawings to win prizes including fishing licenses, lionfish harvesting equipment, fuel cards and dive tank refills.
The person who “checks in” the most lionfish will be crowned Florida’s Lionfish King or Queen and will receive a lifetime saltwater fishing license, have his or her photograph featured on the cover of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) January 2017 Saltwater Regulations publication, be prominently featured on MyFWC.com’s Lionfish Hall of Fame, and be recognized at the November 2016 FWC Commission meeting.
How to Enter
Email photos of your first 50 qualifying lionfish to Lionfish@MyFWC.com and include the name of the harvester, the date harvested, your signature in the photo (written on a piece of paper next to the fish, for example) and your mailing address in the email. You can also submit your first 50 at an FWC-approved checkpoint.
All tails in excess of the initial 50 must be brought to an FWC-approved checkpoint (see list at MyFWC.com/Lionfish by clicking on “Lionfish Challenge and Panhandle Pilot Program”).
Panhandle Pilot Program
The Panhandle Pilot Program focuses on lionfish removal efforts off Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton, Bay, Gulf and Franklin counties. For every 100 lionfish checked in from this seven-county region between May 2016 and May 2017, the harvester will be eligible to receive a tag allowing them to take either a legal-sized red grouper or a legal-sized cobia that is over the bag limit from state waters. The state will issue up to a total of 100 red grouper and 30 cobia tags to successful participants in the pilot program. So far, 20 tags have been issued. In addition, the first 10 persons or groups that check in 500 or more lionfish during this one-year period will be given the opportunity to name an artificial reef.
To qualify for this program, tails of any lionfish harvested must be brought to an approved FWC checkpoint (list at MyFWC.com/Lionfish by clicking on “Lionfish Challenge and Panhandle Pilot Program”.