Saltwater Marine Fishing Regulations Florida Saltwater Fishing

FWC celebrates the 2019 Lionfish Challenge

The FWC is excited to announce that the Lionfish Challenge removal incentive program has continued to grow in its fourth year with solid diver participation and lionfish removals. A total of 148 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 18, 2019) and ended on Labor Day (Sept. 2, 2019). Through a variety of initiatives, including the Lionfish Challenge, FWC has tracked the removal of over 689,000 lionfish from Florida waters since 2014.

The 2019 Lionfish Challenge recreational Lionfish King is Ken Ayers of Bay County. Ayers earned this designation after harvesting a total of 1,194 lionfish. Ayers has participated in the Challenge since its inception and was the recreational Lionfish King in 2017.

This year’s Commercial Champion is Josh Livingston of Okaloosa County. Livingston harvested a total of 3,192.8 pounds of lionfish (poundage equates to about 3,520.2 fish). Livingston targets lionfish and other reef fish species commercially out of Destin on the vessel Dreadknot.

Ayers and Livingston were each presented with a custom-made glass lionfish trophy from Driftwood Galleries, an HP 100 SCUBA cylinder, and a $500 gift card for SCUBA tank air refills.

The 2019 Challenge also included a new largest and smallest lionfish category. Participants could submit lionfish to regional FWC offices for entry. The three largest and three smallest lionfish submitted by the conclusion of the Lionfish Challenge were awarded cash prizes donated by generous sponsors. First place for large or small received $3,000, 2nd place received $1,500, and 3rd place received $500. Twenty divers across the state submitted 30 lionfish for the largest and smallest category.

The largest lionfish submitted was 433 mm by Ron Surrency, 2nd largest 420 mm by Josh Livingston, and 3rd largest 414 mm by Koa Viravong. The smallest lionfish submitted was 37 mm by Nikki Cox, 2nd smallest 45 mm by Ken Ayers, and 3rd smallest 52 mm by Alex Fogg.

A special thanks to the 50 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, National Marine Manufacturer’s Association, Yamaha Motors, Florida Underwater Sports, Toothless Life, Lionator Pole Spear, Neritic, and Stream2sea, Zookeeper, Customatic Optics, and Engle.

To learn more about the Challenge, including dates for next year’s event, and to see a full list of participants and prize winners, visit FWCReefRangers.com. For questions, email Lionfish@MyFWC.com

Lionfish Challenge Recreational Category


Number of Lionfish Caught

1st place
Lionfish King
Ken Ayers 1,194
2nd place John McCain 983
3rd place Shea Lowe 942

Lionfish Challenge Commercial Category


Number of Lionfish Caught

1st place
Commercial Champion
Josh Livingston 3,192.8 lbs.
2nd place Ron Surrency 1,720 lbs.
3rd place Alex Fogg 1,210.5 lbs.