Lionfish Removal in Florida Now Comes With a $5,000 Bounty

The FWC's Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day Challenge offers fishermen and women the chance to score up to $5,000.

Lionfish removal in the Sunshine State just got a little more exciting.

The state's FWC has begun the Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day Challenge, 2018 starting on May 19 and running through Labor Day.

Qualifying men and women can apply to fish Florida waters for the invasive lionfish in either the recreational or commercial category by visiting the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission website. The awareness festival was created to shed more light on these aquarium refugees that may have once been pets, but now pose real problems to the aquatic ecosystem in Florida.

Florida anglers from Pensacola to Miami are encouraged to have the mantra, "The lionfish: wanted dead, not alive." Anglers—or perhaps hunters in this case—must take photos of the their first 25 fish, then after that, the tails must be submitted to checkpoints throughout the state of Florida. These include Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Pompano Beach, Islamorada, Tavernier, Marathon, Key West, Boca Raton, and many others.

While it may seem counterintuitive, the FWC is also giving out rewards for tagged lionfish as well, saying, "to provide important information about lionfish movement and to encourage others to remove far greater quantities and sizes of lionfish than FWC tagged."

One of the good side-effects of the invasive lionfish has been the improved opportunity to share them as a great table fare. Restaurants are now providing fillet demonstrations and lionfish tastings for this invasive species that has almost no native predators.

The Florida diving community generally uses spearfishing gear and hunts these fish in shallow waters where they prey heavily on native fish. Florida law has no bag or size limit and anyone "targeting lionfish while using a pole spear, a Hawaiian Sling, a handheld net or any spearing device that is specifically designed and marketed exclusively for lionfish," is not required to purchase a recreational fishing license.

People with a desire for some extra cash may now be one of the only predators of this Gulf and Atlantic scourge, so get out there and score some lionfish!

Looking for a little more? Follow my webpage, or on Facebook and Twitter.