At its December meeting in Panama City Beach, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) presented trophies to the first-place winners of the 2019 Lionfish Challenge. The Lionfish Challenge awards participants for their efforts in removing lionfish from Florida waters. Participants who remove the most lionfish are crowned the Recreational Lionfish King or Queen and the Commercial Champion.
In the recreational category, this year’s first-place winner and Lionfish King is Ken Ayers of Bay County with 1,194 lionfish removed. In the commercial category, this year’s first-place Commercial Champion is Joshua Livingston of Okaloosa County with 3,192.8 pounds.
“We are always amazed at the hard work and dedication of those who are actively removing lionfish from Florida waters,” said Eric Sutton, FWC executive director. “FWC cannot control the lionfish population alone, and it is your efforts that are at the heart of keeping lionfish populations in check. Thank you.”
Lionfish are a nonnative invasive species that have a potential negative impact on Florida’s native wildlife and habitat.
Also included this year was a new largest and smallest lionfish component, with prizes up to $3,000. Ron Surrency of Duval County had the largest lionfish at 434 millimeters (about 17 inches) and Nikkie Cox of Franklin County had the smallest at 37 mm (about 1 ½ inches).
23,451 lionfish removed.
349 people registered.
148 people submitted lionfish (134 recreational, 14 commercial).
The Lionfish Challenge ran from May 18-Sept. 2.
The Lionfish Challenge rewards harvesters with prizes for their lionfish removals. This year, participants who submitted the largest and smallest lionfish were eligible to receive up to $3,000 in cash prizes. The Lionfish Challenge could not be possible without support from the following sponsors: American Sportfishing Association, Yamaha Motor Company, Marine Industries Association of Palm Beach County and National Marine Manufacturers Association. Thanks to these and the Lionfish Challenge Raffle sponsors including Florida Underwater Sports, Toothless Life, Lionator Pole Spears, Neritic Diving, Stream2Sea, ZooKeeper and Customatic Optics. Learn more at FWCReefRangers.com.