Twenty teams took to the water and collected 1,215 invasive lionfish during the 2021 Florida Keys Lionfish Derby & Festival, hosted by Reef Environmental Education Foundation. Teams fished from sunrise to sunset on Sept. 10 and Sept. 11.
More than $6,000 in cash and prizes were awarded to teams who brought in the most, largest and smallest lionfish. The “Most Lionfish” category included the competitive Apex Predators division and the Reef Defenders division for casual lionfish hunters. Team Forever Young led the Apex Predators with 564 lionfish — a new record for the derby. Team Pain Killer finished second with 265 lionfish and team Massai Warriors placed third with 142 lionfish. Fourth place went to team Salty Spine Slayer with 18 lionfish.
In the Reef Defenders division, team Squid INK won first place with 50 lionfish. Team Good Will Spearfishing brought in 43 lionfish for second place, while team Wild Hogs Dive Club took third place with 35 lionfish, and SWC Inc. placed fourth with 22 lionfish.Competition was extremely close in the largest and smallest lionfish categories. Team Massai Warriors won first place in the “Largest Lionfish” category with a 436-millimeter lionfish, more than 17 inches long. Team Pain Killer’s second-place fish measured 421 millimeters, and team Forever Young took third place with a 404-millimeter fish. The smallest fish of the derby was 69 millimeters, harvested by team SWC Inc. Team Gini’s Tonic won second place with a 70-millimeter fish, and team Wild Hogs Dive Club brought in a 77-millimeter fish to receive third place. Team Wild Hogs Dive Club also brought in a 77-millimeter live lionfish to be displayed in an educational exhibit at the REEF Campus. Full results from the 2021 derby are posted online at https://www.REEF.org/past-derby-results.