[Orange Beach, Ala.–]Scuba diving 90 feet deep on the sunken coastal freighter “The LuLu”, I was completely surrounded by a curtain of fish: shimmering minnows; fairly large amberjacks …
Whacking Lionfish for Fun, Food & Prizes….and Helping the Marine Ecosystem
The month of May in Florida produces spring flowers, increased showers, warmer waters—and the kick-off of lionfish derby season.
From now through September, Floridians and visitors have more opportunities than ever to help control burgeoning populations of these invasive pests from the Indo Pacific by spearing, catching, documenting, photographing, and eating them while winning prizes and other incentives.
For the third year in a row, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will celebrate “Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day” May 20 with events around the state. Here’s a partial rundown:
– The Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day Festival will be held at Plaza de Luna in Pensacola, with a removal tournament hosted by the Gulf Coast Lionfish Coalition (www.lionfishworldchampionship.com) plus refreshments, a children’s art contest, and sponsor booths –including Guy Harvey Magazine.
– South Florida Diving Headquarters in Pompano Beach, a Guy Harvey Outpost Outfitter, will conduct a lionfish derby in conjunction with the Vone Lionfish Research Team. Prizes will be awarded at an apres-dive party, plus a raffle and a lionfish tasting. (www.southfloridadiving.com).
– The Northeast Florida Lionfish Blast will be held at Brown Creek Fish Camp in Jacksonville (www.lionfishblast.com).
–The Florida Skin Divers Association will host the 2017 Lionfish Calcutta at Belleair Causeway Boat Ramp near St. Petersburg. (www.floridaskindivers.com/events). To book your stay at Guy Harvey Outpost in St. Pete Beach, go to HERE.
For a complete list of Lionfish Awareness Day events, go to MyFWC.com/Lionfish and click on “Lionfish Derbies and Events”.
May 20 also marks the kickoff of Florida’s revamped Lionfish Challenge program which runs through Labor Day Sept.4. New this year: lionfish hunters may participate in either the recreational or commercial category where rewards include prizes, public recognition, and– if qualified before July 26–the opportunity to take an additional lobster over the bag limit during the 2017 mini-season July 26-27. The top harvesters in both categories will be crowned Lionfish King or Queen and Florida Commercial Champion at the Lionfish Safari Sept. 10 in St. Petersburg. To register, go to MyFWC.com/Lionfish.
In the Bahamas, the island chain’s longest-running and most popular lionfish derby will be held June 23-24 at the Green Turtle Club, a Guy Harvey Outpost Expedition Lodge on Green Turtle Cay in the Abacos. To register, go to www.friendsoftheenvironment.org. To book your stay at the Green Turtle Club, call 1-800-513-5257.