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Lionfish Challenge eliminates 23,000 fish

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During the fourth annual Lionfish Challenge, held May 18 to Sept. 2, 23,451 lionfish were taken out of the ocean. There were 349 people registered for the challenge, and 148 people submitted lionfish – 134 recreational and 14 commercial.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will honor the first-place winners in each category at its December meeting in Panama City Beach. Also, those with the largest and smallest lionfish are eligible to win up to $3,000 in cash prizes, thanks to sponsors, including the Marine Industries Association of Palm Beach County and the National Marine Manufacturers Association.

Ken Ayers is the 2019 Lionfish Challenge recreational winner. Photo courtesy of Ken Ayers

First place winner in the recreational category, Ken Ayers of Bay County, turned in 1,194 lionfish. First place winner in the commercial category, Joshua Linvingston of Okaloosa County, turned in 3,192.8 pounds of lionfish. Winner of the largest lionfish category was Ron Surrency of Duval County with a 433 mm fish, while the winner of the smallest lionfish category was Nikkie Cox of Franklin County with a 37 mm fish.

Lionfish, which are native to Indo-Pacific waters, are an invasive species in Florida. The FWC encourages divers, anglers and commercial harvesters to remove lionfish because of their negative impact on local marine life and ecosystems.

A recreational fishing license is not required for recreational fishers targeting lionfish with a pole spear, Hawaiian sling, handheld net, or any other spearing device specifically designed for lionfish. However, a recreational fishing license is required for all other methods of harvesting lionfish, including hook and line, and spear guns. 

For more information, visit FWCReefRangers.com.

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