2022 Lionfish Challenge!
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) announces the 2022 Lionfish Challenge tournament, which ends Sept. 6. The Lionfish Challenge is a summer-long lionfish tournament open to competitors around Florida. The goal is to remove as many lionfish as possible in just three-and-a-half months.
Participants will compete in either the commercial or the recreational division. Prizes will be awarded in tiers as follows: Tier 1, harvest 25 lionfish (recreational category) or 25 pounds of lionfish (commercial category); tier 2, harvest 100 lionfish (recreational category) or 250 pounds of lionfish (commercial category); tier 3, harvest 300 lionfish (recreational category) or 500 pounds of lionfish (commercial category); and tier 4, harvest 600 lionfish (recreational category) or 1000 pounds of lionfish (commercial category). To read the full tournament rules or register, visit FWCReefRangers.com/lionfish-challenge.
Return ‘Em Right; Conserve our Fisheries for the Future!
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has launched Return ‘Em Right, a multi-entity effort in our Gulf to promote best fishing practices that increase the survival of released reef fish. The initiative is led by Florida Sea Grant, University of Florida, Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission, NOAA Fisheries, and a coalition of anglers, industry groups, universities, government and non-government organizations committed to maintaining healthy fish stocks and fishing access.
Return ‘Em Right includes proper fish handling and use of venting tools or descending devices to mitigate barotrauma, a condition seen in many fish caused by the expansion of gases in the swim bladder when brought up from deeper depths. Barotrauma can be fatal for fish and signs include the stomach coming out of the mouth, bulging eyes, bloated belly and distended intestines.
Weighted tools such as descending devices (inverted hooks, lip clamp devices, and crates or boxes) can help fish suffering from barotrauma overcome buoyancy issues and return them back to depth, increasing long-term survival of released fish.
Visit ReturnEmRight.org to review best release practices. Gulf Anglers 18 years and older who target reef fish can receive a free package of release gear from Return ‘Em Right.
Obtain your State Reef Fish Angler designation before heading out! If you plan to fish for or harvest certain reef fish species in Gulf or Atlantic waters from a private recreational vessel (includes anglers over 65 years of age), you must sign up for this no-cost designation and renew it annually. Learn more at MyFWC.com/SRFS and sign up today at GoOutdoorsFlorida.com or anywhere you can purchase a Florida fishing license.
Major Milestone: Genetically Pure Hatchery-Raised Shoal Bass Release
Freshwater fisheries researchers and managers with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) successfully released 3,300 hatchery-raised shoal bass fingerlings (young fish) into the Chipola River in May.
In 2018, Hurricane Michael depleted more than 90% of its shoal bass population, the last genetically pure population of shoal bass in the world. Afterward, the FWC passed an Executive Order that suspended harvest and possession of shoal bass that in 2019, was adopted into rule.
Shoal bass are one of four of Florida’s native black bass species, also a Florida Species of Greatest Conservation Need, which refers to native animals whose populations are of concern and are at risk or declining. This effort marks the first time genetically pure shoal bass have been successfully raised in an FWC fish hatchery and released. By raising and releasing these fish, this can enhance the wild population of shoal bass to help keep the population’s genetic purity intact and aid in the long-term conservation of the species.
The Chipola River is the only waterbody in Florida with a known naturally reproducing shoal bass population. FWC’s freshwater fisheries biologists will continue to monitor the Chipola River shoal bass population and evaluate the contribution of these stocking efforts through genetic testing.