LEE COUNTY, Fla. -- The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has announced the winners in the 2019 Lionfish Challenge.
The challenge ran from May 18th through September 2nd in Florida waters, with the goat to removed as many of the invasive fish from the state's waters.
Overall, they say the 349 registered participants removed 23,451 lionfish.
The winner of the recreational division was Ken Ayers of Bay County, in the panhandle. He removed 1,194 lionfish during the challenge.
In the commercial category, Joshua Livingston of Okaloosa County won, having removed 3,192.8 pounds of fish.
There were also challenges to catch the largest and smallest specimens. Ron Surrency of Duval County caught a 17" lionfish for the largest, and Nikkie Cox of Franklin County found the smallest, just under 1.5" long.
The invasive exotic lionfish are native to the Pacific Ocean. But they're now appearing more frequently in Florida waters, where they have no known predators. FWC is encouraging divers to declare year-round “open season”, reminding that fishing licenses are not required and there are no bag limits on lionfish.
- First place Lionfish King: Ken Ayers, Bay County, 1,194 removed.
- Second place: John McCain, Gilchrist County, 983 removed.
- Third place: Shea Lowe, Escambia County, 942 removed.
- First place Commercial Champion: Joshua Livingston, Okaloosa County, 3,192.8 lbs. removed.
- Second place: Ron Surrency, Duval County, 1,720 lbs. removed.
- Third place: Alex Fogg, Okaloosa County, 1,210.5 lbs. removed.
- First place: Ron Surrency, Duval County, 433 mm.
- Second place: Joshua Livingston, Okaloosa County, 420 mm.
- Third place: Koa Viravong, Pinellas County, 414 mm.
- First place: Nikkie Cox, Franklin County, 37 mm.
- Second place: Ken Ayers, Bay County, 45 mm.
- Third place: Alex Fogg, Okaloosa County, 52 mm.
- 23,451 lionfish removed.
- 349 people registered.
- 148 people submitted lionfish (134 recreational, 14 commercial).
- The Lionfish Challenge ran from May 18-Sept. 2.