Locals take top spots in FWC Lionfish Challenge

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Lionfish (FWC photo)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WMBB) — Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s fourth annual Lionfish Challenge has come to a close, and a couple locals earned top spots in recreational and size categories.

The invasive lionfish species has infiltrated state waters and are negatively impacting Florida’s reefs and wildlife, according to FWC. These fish not only prey on native saltwater species, they also compete for food with economically important species such as grouper and snapper.

The challenge lasted just over 3 months, and during that time Ken Ayers of Bay County managed to harvest 1,194 lionfish which earned him the top spot in the recreational category.

Ken Ayers is the 2019 Lionfish Challenge recreational winner/Lionfish King. (Photo courtesy of FWC/Ken Ayers)

Ayers also took second place in the smallest lionfish category, with the smallest catch coming in at 45 mm. Nikkie Cox of Franklin County managed to harvest a slightly smaller lionfish (37 mm) to beat Ken and take the top spot in that category.

FWC says the Lionfish Challenge rewards harvesters for their lionfish removals and this year, participants who submitted the largest and smallest lionfish were eligible to receive up to $3,000 in cash prizes thanks to support from sponsors.

The first place winners will be honored at FWC’s December meeting in Panama City Beach.

Lionfish Closeup

Here’s how each category breaks down:

Recreational Category

  • First place (Lionfish King): Ken Ayers, Bay County, 1,194 removed.
  • Second place: John McCain, Gilchrist County, 983 removed.
  • Third place: Shea Lowe, Escambia County, 942 removed.

Commercial Category

  • First place (Commercial Champion): Joshua Livingston, Okaloosa County, 3,192.8 lbs. removed.
  • Second place: Ron Surrency, Duval County, 1,720 lbs. removed.
  • Third place: Alex Fogg, Okaloosa County, 1,210.5 lbs. removed.

Largest Lionfish

  • First place: Ron Surrency, Duval County, 433 mm.
  • Second place: Joshua Livingston, Okaloosa County, 420 mm.
  • Third place: Koa Viravong, Pinellas County, 414 mm.

Smallest Lionfish

  • First place: Nikkie Cox, Franklin County, 37 mm.
  • Second place: Ken Ayers, Bay County, 45 mm.
  • Third place: Alex Fogg, Okaloosa County, 52 mm.

Final Stats

  • 23,451 lionfish removed.
  • 349 people registered.
  • 148 people submitted lionfish (134 recreational, 14 commercial).

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