2022 Lionfish Challenge underway

Published: May. 30, 2022 at 1:13 AM CDT
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BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - With summer right around the corner, an annual fishing competition has found its way back to the area.

”This challenge has been going on since 2014 - so it’s something FWC did to get rid of the evasive species,” Kim Christian, Diver’s Den Store Manager said.

This makes the seventh year, the Lionfish Challenge has returned to the area and the goal is still the same: remove as many lionfish as possible in just three and a half months.

With events like the Lionfish Challenge, shops like the Panama City Dive Center, say they are able to play just a small part in helping their community.

“It’s actually very rewarding, in two ways. You know It allows other divers that come in and help with these preservation efforts and it’s a very positive feeling to be able to give that back to the community. So that future generations can enjoy the wildlife as we do,” Cade King, Panama City Dive Center Dive Master said.

Now many may be wondering, what is a lionfish?

“Lionfish are beautiful fish and when you see them in the wild, while you’re diving, even while you’re snorkeling. You do not want to approach or touch them, they have poisonous or venomous spines. They are an invasive species.”

For those unsure of what it means to be an invasive species.

“They have no natural predators, because of their spines. They reproduce amazingly fast, and they consume 50 different species of fish in their native habitat in the Caribbean and Atlantic,” Christian said.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Florida-based fishing and outdoor apparel company FloGrown have partnered together to work to fight the lionfish invasion.

Local dive shops, like Panama City Dive Center and Diver’s Den, help assist competitors in registering their catches.

“You bring a bag with the tails with a little bit of meat left on there. The bag will have your name, it will have how many lionfish and the date that it was harvested and we will verify that. Fill out your entry form and once we feel that out, they are giving away some awesome prizes,” Christian said.

Prizes will be awarded in four tiers:

•Tier 1 - Harvest 25 lionfish (recreational category) or 25 pounds of lionfish (commercial category).

•Tier 2 - Harvest 100 lionfish (recreational category) or 250 pounds of lionfish (commercial category).

•Tier 3 - Harvest 300 lionfish (recreational category) or 500 pounds of lionfish (commercial category).

•Tier 4- Harvest 600 lionfish (recreational category) or 1000 pounds of lionfish (commercial category)

This year’s tournament shirt was custom-designed and printed by FloGrown and will be awarded to participants who reach the first prize tier.

Additional prizes are provided by FloGrown, Neritic, ZooKeeper, Divers Alert Network, Shearwater, Smith Optics, GoPro, YETI, and MORE!

The challenge will last through September 6th.

To read the full tournament rules or register, visit this website.

Keep up with The Challenge on Facebook.

For more information on FloGrown, visit this website.

For more information on Diver’s Den, visit this website.

For information on Panama City Dive Center, visit this website.

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