Panhandle lionfish hunters only have until May 19 to compete in the Panhandle Pilot Program. This yearlong lionfish removal incentive program rewards divers for harvesting lionfish off Escambia through Franklin counties. The program may be ending, but lionfish are open for harvest year-round and there are no bag or size limits.
For every 100 lionfish removed, divers receive a tag that allows them to take an additional cobia or red grouper in state waters, but this tag must be used before May 19. The first 10 teams who remove 500 or more lionfish also qualify to name an artificial reef in the Panhandle. To date, six groups have qualified to rename an artificial reef.
The program ends the day before the annual Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day Festival, which is May 20-21 at Plaza de Luna in Pensacola.
A revamp of the statewide Lionfish Challenge will also be launched that same weekend. More information on this program will be coming soon.
Learn more about the Panhandle Pilot Program and how you can get rewarded for your lionfish removals by visiting MyFWC.com/Lionfish.