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FWC opening the 2022 Lionfish Challenge

Posted at 3:07 PM, May 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-21 11:05:02-04

NAPLES, Fla. — They may be beautiful, but lionfish are non-native and invasive fish to Florida waterways. To help in the removal of the Florida Fish and Wildlife opened the 2022 Lionfish Challenge on Friday.

This is the 7th year of the lionfish challenge with the goal of removing as many lionfish as possible in 3 and half months.

And despite lionfish having eighteen venomous spines, they are considered quite tasty to eat. The only difficult part is catching the fish.

Michael Sipos is with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Science Extension in Naples. He says the problem is that they are almost impossible to catch the fish on hook and line and are mainly caught by divers and spearfishermen.

“If you have one, they will quickly become your favorite fish, because there is little to no red on the fish on the fillet,” said Michael Sipos, Florida Sea Grant agent for UF/IFAS Extension. “No fishy flavor whatsoever. The problem is just a supply problem because people must harvest them by hand. So, every lionfish was touched by a diver, rather than having some kind of longline or trap or something like that.”

As an incentive, FWC is offering several awards for the number of harvested lionfish caught recreationally and the number of pounds caught commercially.

Tournament details:

Timeline: May 20 to Sept. 6.

Categories: Participants will compete in either the commercial or the recreational division.

Prizes will be awarded in tiers as follows:

  •  Tier 1 ­- Harvest 25 lionfish (recreational category) or 25 pounds of lionfish (commercial category). Custom FloGrown shirt and commemorative coin 
  •  Tier 2 - Harvest 100 lionfish (recreational category) or 250 pounds of lionfish (commercial category). Dive flag, DAN cutting sheets, ZooKeeper heat packers, and Sting Master cream 
  •  Tier 3 - Harvest 300 lionfish (recreational category) or 500 pounds of lionfish (commercial category). ZooKeeper, Neritic polespear, and puncture-resistant gloves 
  •  Tier 4- Harvest 600 lionfish (recreational category) or 1000 pounds of lionfish (commercial category). YETI 45 hard cooler