Lionfish Challenge 2017

Saltwater Marine Fishing Regulations Florida Saltwater Fishing

Another successful year!

FWC’s second annual Lionfish Challenge saw more participation and brought in even more lionfish than last year’s inaugural summer incentive program. A total of 26,321 lionfish were removed from Florida waters as part of the four-month challenge that started on Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day (May 20) and ended on Labor Day (Sept. 4). A total of 8,901 lionfish were removed by participants in the recreational category and another 15,800 pounds (poundage equates to about 17,420 fish) were removed by those in the commercial category.

Ken Ayers Jr. of Panama City became this year’s recreational Lionfish King with a total of 1,250 lionfish harvested and submitted. Ken is a retired member of the U.S. Air Force and spent much of his summer diving for the invasive fish.

The challenge also included, for the first time, a commercial category. Captain Joshua Livingston of Destin was named Florida’s first ever Commercial Champion, winning the commercial category by harvesting 4,560 pounds of lionfish (poundage equates to about 5,027 fish). Between fishing charters and commercial dive trips for other species, the owner of DreadKnot Charters still managed to remove a significant amount of lionfish.

This year’s Lionfish Challenge rewarded all participants who submitted at least 25 lionfish (25lbs. for commercial harvesters) with a Lionfish Challenge t-shirt, a commemorative coin, and the opportunity to take an additional spiny lobster each day during the two-day sport season. To encourage continued removals, divers who submitted additional lionfish had the opportunity to receive additional tiered prizes including customized neck gaiters, reusable heat packs for lionfish stings, customized Yeti tumblers, Neritic pole spears, and ZooKeeper “Lionfish Control Team” containment units.


On top of the other prizes earned throughout the Challenge, this year’s winners were presented with a custom-made Fish Bone Design trophy, a “No Shoes Reefs” Engel 85 cooler, and a $500 gift card for air tank refills.

A total of 120 recreational and commercial harvesters headed for the water and participated in this statewide lionfish removal incentive program. A special thanks to the 34 dive shops that served as checkpoints for recreational submissions and for the generous donations from sponsors like Engel Coolers, ZombieStickz, and Mote Marine Lab and Aquarium.

To see a full list of participants and prize winners from this year’s Challenge, visit the Hall of Fame page at MyFWC.com/Lionfish and click on “Lionfish Challenge” and then “Hall of Fame.”

Lionfish Challenge Recreational Category


Number of Lionfish Caught

1st place Lionfish King

Ken Ayers Jr.


2nd place

John McCain


3rd place

Dawn Richitt


Lionfish Challenge Commercial Category


Number of Lionfish Caught

1st place
Commercial Champion

Joshua Livingston

4,560 lbs.

2nd place

Ron Surrency

3,811 lbs.

3rd place

Doug Wiggin

3,054 lbs.