Emerald Coast Open lionfish tournament is set for May 14-16 at AJ's

Special to Gannett

The seventh annual Lionfish Removal and Awareness Festival is set for May 15-16 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at AJ’s Seafood and Oyster Bar and HarborWalk Village in Destin. 

The outdoor event is free and open to the public. It will feature socially-distanced family-friendly activities, art, diving and marine conservation booths, live music, filet demonstrations, and the world’s largest lionfish tournament, the Emerald Coast Open. 

Lionfish awareness is the focus for May.

The Emerald Coast Open will run from May 14-16 and include categories for most lionfish, largest lionfish, and smallest lionfish.  

Entry fee is $100 per participant.  

A mandatory captains' meeting will begin at 7 p.m. May 13 at AJ’s.  

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Harvesting of lionfish will begin at first light on Friday, May 14, and Saturday, May 15. The weigh station at AJ’s will be open from 3-6 p.m. both days. 

On Sunday, the weigh station opens at 7 a.m. and closes at 11 a.m. 

The awards ceremony will follow at about 3 p.m. 

Protective gloves should be worn when handling lionfish. Participants are encouraged to carry a first aid kit specific for lionfish stings. 

2021 Lionfish Festival May 15-16 in Destin

The summer-long Lionfish Challenge tournament is open to everyone and is free to enter. Participants in last year’s challenge harvested almost 22,000 lionfish from Florida waters. 

To register for the tournament, go to