A record-setting nearly 30,000 lionfish were removed from Florida waters during the 2018 Lionfish Challenge. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission announced the winners of its annual challenge Thursday. The fish came from waters off eight Florida counties including Bay and Franklin.
John McCain is the Lionfish King, he caught more than 1,000 lionfish to become the challenge’s recreational winner. Ron Surrency is this year’s Commercial Champion, he caught more than 5,000 lionfish during the challenge. Invasive lionfish can negatively impact native species across the state. Amanda Nalley works for the FWC.
“One thing that we really consider a success here is the fact that people are talking about lionfish. This is a species that because you can’t see it every day, it’s kind of hard to always know how it can have an impact," Nalley says.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s challenge included a new component where participants caught specific lionfish tagged by the FWC. Amanda Nalley says the tagged lionfish added to this year’s success.
“This program was very successful in encouraging people that maybe were already out in the water to continue their efforts, to continue removing lionfish, and we felt it really helped bolster our numbers," Nalley says.
She says the lionfish competition has been steadily growing each year. Many of its most loyal participants come from Northwest Florida. Although this year’s Lionfish Challenge is over, residents can still catch lionfish year-round.