The first Southwest Florida Lionfish Derby will be charting throughout the Fort Myers Beach waterways this weekend, April 11 to 13, with home base set up at Big Game Waterfront Grill, 2200 Main St.
The FGCU Spearfishing Club is hosting the first of a hopefully annual lionfish derby, starting with a mandatory captain's meeting at Big Game Friday, as well as a lionfish handling safety seminar.
Saturday, April 12 is a full day of hunting (from dawn to dusk), and Sunday, April 13 will be lionfish count and awards ceremony at the Main Street establishment.
Teams can register up to four divers, for a cost of $200 per team, and each team receives $300 in gear, including a large Zookeeper containment unit (retail $99.95), and the first six registered teams receive a SafeSpear Lionfish Polespear (retail $175. All teams who register after the first six will receive a Frapper Lionfish Polespear, Hex-armor puncture-proof gloves (retail $39.95), and a tournament shirt for each team member.
Prizes will include four round-trip tickets aboard the Key West Express; four Florida Freedivers gift cards worth $100 each; GoPro Hero Silver and a Travel/Dive Master Zookeeper containment unit.
During this single-day derby event, only lionfish may be taken by hook and line, hand-held net, pole spear, Hawaiian sling, or other spearing device specifically designed and marketed exclusively for lionfish. No chemicals, traps or other collecting mechanisms will be allowed.
"I chose Fort Myers Beach because I felt it was the best place to reach out to locals or tourists who were not involved with diving or spearfishing to educate them about the negative effects of lionfish, as well as the positive benefits of eating lionfish," said Charles Duffie, lead coordinator of the soon-to-be annual tournament. "These fish are very abundant throughout the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic and the Caribbean. However, they are not native to these waters and are invasive, due to their enormous appetite and rapid reproductive capabilities."
The lionfish brought back will be used toward population studies.
For more information on this upcoming tournament, or to register, contact CJ Duffie, 305-815-5728 or email Cjduffie@eagle.fgcu.edu.