21,146 lionfish removed during FWC's annual challenge

Special to Gannett

At its October meeting, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) announced the winners of this year’s Lionfish Challenge.

The 2021 Lionfish Challenge winners were honored at the FWC Commission meeting Oct. 6 in St. Augustine. Pictured from left are FWC Executive Director Eric Sutton; Commissioners Steven Hudson, Gary Nicklaus and Sonya Rood; Lionfish King/recreational winner Brooks Feeser; Chairman Rodney Barreto; Commercial Champion Rachel Bowman; and Commissioners Robert Spottswood, Gary Lester, and Michael Sole.

The lionfish removal and incentive program ended Sept. 6 (Labor Day). A total of 21,146 lionfish were removed during the three and a half month program. In addition, 471 people registered and 185 people submitted lionfish, the highest participation number since the Challenge began in 2016.


Recreational Category

2021 Lionfish King, Brooks Feeser.

First place Lionfish King: Brooks Feeser, Palm Beach County, 1,632 removed.

Second place: Carl Antonik, Santa Rosa County, 1,582 removed.

Third place: Christina Raber-Jehn, Palm Beach County, 1,475 removed.

Commercial Category

2021 Commercial Champion, Rachel Bowman.

First place Commercial Champion: Rachel Bowman, Monroe County, 730 pounds removed.

Second place: Paul DeCuir, Escambia County, 725 pounds removed.

Third place: Alex Fogg, Okaloosa County, 657 pounds removed.

First place winners received a customized trophy, $150 for SCUBA air fills, an HP 100 SCUBA cylinder, and will be featured in the 2021 Saltwater Regulations publication and in the FWC Lionfish Hall of Fame.

Final Stats

21,146 lionfish removed.

185 people submitted lionfish (172 recreational, 13 commercial).

The Lionfish Challenge is a summer-long (May 21-Sept. 6, 2021) tournament that rewards divers for their lionfish harvests. The tournament is open to everyone, is completely free to enter and participants can compete from anywhere in the state. Divers receive prizes based on the amount of lionfish they harvest and compete for the title of the Lionfish King/Queen or Commercial Champion.

Support Florida lionfish control programs by purchasing a Rep Your Water lionfish hat at the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida.