Grab your gear fishermen and women; an angler's challenge for prizes and a good cause is coming to the Sunshine State soon! The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and sponsor Zookeeper have officially announced the return of the Lionfish Challenge in June of 2023 for its 8th year, but this time with a new prize on the line.
The Lionfish Challenge is a free summer-long tournament open to both recreational and commercial competitors of all ages from across the Sunshine State. The challenge remains the same as in previous years: remove as many invasive lionfish as you can in just four months. Participation is completely free but does require registration.
2023's state-wide tournament begins on June 1 and will stretch through October 1. Participants will compete in one of two divisions, either commercial or recreational, with prizes awarded in tiers to the top competitors in each division.
This year will also introduce a new grand prize called the Military Prize, which will be awarded to the top active Military or Veteran competitor in either division. A tournament tee will also be given to registered participants who reach the first prize tier, with this year’s tournament shirt featuring a custom-designed print provided by sponsor Zookeeper.
The existing prize tiers are as follows:
According to a release from FWC, as a Florida-based lionfish hunting gear and apparel outfitter, the Zookeeper team is aware of the negative impacts lionfish have caused and stepped up to sponsor this year as a result of wanting to support the organizations and divers working to fight the lionfish invasion.
Invasive species often over-crowd indigenous ones, disrupting the balance of eco-diversity in affected waterways. Previous iterations of this ocean conservation event have proven successful, with an astounding number of lionfish being removed as a part of the challenge — a current running total of more than 165,000.
The challenge announcement comes on the tail of community policing efforts in Collier County, where thousands of pounds of invasive fish were removed from Florida waterways. Click here to learn more.
So what do you say — are you up for the challenge? To read the full tournament rules and register for the 2023 Lionfish Challenge, visit FWCreefrangers.com/lionfish-challenge. You can learn more about the sponsor, Zookeeper, on their website here.
Article by Rachael Volpe