Let the Lionfish Challenge begin; may the odds be ever in your favor

June 10, 2016

 Interested in removing lionfish from Florida waters? Participate in the 2016 Lionfish Challenge or the Panhandle Pilot Program reward programs. You could be the next winner of a Neritic polespear like Richard “Tott” Thomas, a Zookeeper lionfish containment unit like Alex Page or a $100 dive tank refill like Brian Belzer, our most recent Lionfish Challenge winners.

Since the kick-off on May 14, 29 divers have entered 4,338 lionfish in the statewide Lionfish Challenge, which rewards those who remove 50 or more lionfish from waters across the state. Nineteen of those qualified for the Panhandle Pilot Program, which rewards divers for every 100 lionfish removed from Escambia through Franklin counties, where lionfish densities tend to be higher.

Learn more about how each program works below or online at MyFWC.com/Lionfish.

Lionfish Challenge
Remove 50 or more lionfish between Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day (May 14, 2016) and the end of September to enter the Lionfish Challenge.
Rewards include:
• 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;
• if qualified before the relevant harvest season starts, the opportunity to take an additional spiny lobster per day during the 2016 mini-season (July 27-28);
• and, 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 FWC’s 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 and 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, 32 tags have been claimed. 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”).