Saltwater Marine Fishing Regulations Florida Saltwater Fishing

The FWC is excited to announce that the Lionfish Challenge has continued to grow in its third year with increased diver participation and lionfish removals. A total of 166 recreational and commercial harvesters removed thousands of lionfish from Florida waters during the four-month Challenge that started on Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day (May 19) and ended on Labor Day (Sept. 3). Through a variety of initiatives, including the Lionfish Challenge, FWC has tracked the removal of over 514,000 lionfish from Florida waters since 2014.

All participants who submitted 25 lionfish (25lbs. for commercial harvesters) were rewarded with a Challenge t-shirt, a commemorative coin, and the opportunity to take an additional spiny lobster each day of the two-day sport season. Divers who submitted additional lionfish had the opportunity to receive other prizes such as harvesting gear, reusable heat packs for lionfish stings, customized apparel, and more.

The 2018 Challenge also included a new tagged-lionfish component. Lionfish were tagged at 50 public artificial reef sites between the depths of 80-120’ statewide. Divers that harvested a tagged lionfish were rewarded with cash prizes of up to $5,000, Engel Coolers, GoPro Cameras and customized performance fishing shirts. A total of 27 divers harvested 56 tagged lionfish along the Atlantic and Gulf coast and all lionfish were harvested from the same location as they were tagged.

This year’s recreational Lionfish King is John McCain of Gilchrist and Columbia counties. McCain earned this designation after harvesting a total of 1,137 lionfish. McCain, who works for Dive Rite, has participated in the Challenge since its inception. He won third place in 2016 and second place in 2017.

This year’s Commercial Champion is Ron Surrency of Duval county. Surrency harvested a total of 5,017 pounds of lionfish (poundage equates to about 5,531 fish). Surrency targets lionfish and other reef fish species commercially with his partners Jason Whetmore and Mark Irwin on the vessel Joyce Marie.

McCain and Surrency were each presented with a custom-made glass lionfish trophy from Zen Glass Studio, a customized Engel 65-quart cooler, and a $500 gift card for scuba tank air refills.

A special thanks to the 53 dive shops that served as checkpoints for recreational submissions and for the generous donations from our program sponsors: American Sportfishing Association, Marine Industries Association of Palm Beach County, Boat U.S., National Marine Manufacturer’s Association, Yamaha Motors, Coastal Conservation Association of Florida, Dive Rite, Lionator Polespears, Narked Scuba, Florida Underwater Sports, Customatic Optics, and Toothless Life.

To assess current lionfish control efforts and prioritize actions for the future, the FWC held the 2018 Lionfish Summit in Cocoa Beach Oct. 2-4. Over 100 researchers, resource managers, divers, and ocean conservationists attended the meeting that included oral presentations, expert panels, poster displays and facilitated discussions. Attendees provided and received updates on lionfish research, control efforts, outreach and education, the commercial market, and policy. The significant amount of progress made in lionfish research, control, and outreach since the last Lionfish Summit was held in 2013 was notable. The 2018 Summit yielded productive discussions on current efforts and prioritizing future efforts in Florida and throughout the invaded range.

To learn more about the Challenge and see a full list of participants and prize winners, visit the Hall of Fame page at MyFWC.com/Lionfish by clicking on “Lionfish Challenge” and then “Hall of Fame.” For a copy of the 2018 Lionfish Summit Report, email Lionfish@MyFWC.com.

Lionfish Challenge Recreational Category


Number of Lionfish Caught

1st place
Lionfish King

John McCain


2nd place

Carlos Orozco


3rd place

Kevin Ward


Lionfish Challenge Commercial Category


Lionfish Caught

1st place
Commercial Champion

Ron Surrency

5,017 lbs.

2nd place

Doug Wiggin

1,969.45 lbs.

3rd place

Kevin Ward

1,555 lbs.