FLORIDA –– The 2023 Lionfish Challenge has recently ended, and the winners were announced after an intense competition that lasted until the last submission on October 1.
This year’s competition broke previous records as participants eliminated invasive lionfish from Florida waters and claimed the highly sought-after titles of Lionfish King or Queen and Commercial Champion.
An astounding 281 registrants submitted lionfish for the ZooKeeper-sponsored 2023 Lionfish Challenge, which saw an unprecedented surge in participation. This number is nearly double the program’s highest participation number on record.
These participating divers embarked on 917 trips throughout the state during the four-month tournament, removing a staggering 30,494 lionfish from Florida state waters, nearly 5,000 more than last year.
This is the highest tournament total since the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Lionfish Control Team’s inception in 2014.
Among these awe-inspiring results, two participants from Duval County emerged as the victors: Baye Beauford is the 2023 Lionfish King, and Jerry Butler is the Commercial Champion.
Here are the winners of the 2023 Lionfish Challenge:
Lionfish King (First Place Recreational Division):
Baye Beauford, of Duval County; 1,514 lionfish.
Second Place Recreational Division:
Dale Wolber, of Duval County; 1,145 lionfish.
Third Place Recreational Division:
David Connerth, of Martin County; 773 lionfish.
Commercial Champion (First Place Commercial Division):
Jerry Butler, of Duval County; 1,208 pounds of lionfish.
Second Place Commercial Division:
David Garrett, of Volusia County; 744 pounds of lionfish.
Third Place Commercial Division:
Alex Fogg, of Okaloosa County; 516 pounds of lionfish.
Eric Larson, 591 lionfish.
“I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to every individual who participated in the Lionfish Challenge and a special congratulatory thank you to our 2023 Lionfish King and Commercial Champion,” said FWC Commission Chairman Rodney Barreto.
“Our Lionfish Challenge participants have become environmental heroes, defending our marine ecosystems against invasive lionfish and exemplifying the spirit of conservation.”
The Lionfish Challenge is a summer-long 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 throughout the challenge based on the number of lionfish they harvest and compete for the prestigious Lionfish King/Queen or Commercial Champion title.