At its September meeting in Tallahassee, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) announced the winners of the 2018 Lionfish Challenge.

A total of 28,260 lionfish were removed from Florida waters as part of this year’s challenge, which included recreational and commercial categories as well as a new tagged-lionfish component, rewarding participants with prizes up to $5,000 for removal of FWC-tagged lionfish.

“This is another commendable effort by Florida’s recreational and commercial divers to help control lionfish populations and remove the invasive species from our waters,” said FWC chairman Bo Rivard.

Recreational winner and Lionfish King John McCain of Gilchrist County removed 1,137 of the lionfish. Although he was unable to attend the meeting, this is McCain’s third year participating in the challenge, in which he won third place the first year and second place the second year. McCain works for Dive Rite.

Ron Surrency of Duval County is the Commercial Champion for his removal of 5,017 pounds of lionfish (which equates to about 5,531 fish). Surrency targets lionfish and other reef fish species commercially with partners Jason Whetmore and Mark Irwin on the vessel Joyce Marie.

Both winners will receive a Lionfish Challenge Trophy for their efforts, as well as a feature article in our Saltwater Regulations Publication, a $500 gift card for dive tank refills and a customized Engel 65-quart cooler.

The Lionfish Challenge and the 2018 tagged-lionfish component could not have been possible without the support of sponsors including the American Sportfishing Association, Marine Industries Association of Palm Beach County, Boat Owners Association of The United States, the National Marine Manufacturers Association, Yamaha Motor Corporation, the Coastal Conservation Association Florida, Dive Rite, Lionator Pole Spears, Narked Scuba, Florida Underwater Sports in Sarasota, Customatic Optics LLC

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