KEY LARGO, Florida Keys — Divers are to convene in Key Largo Friday and Saturday, April 3-4, for the Reef Environmental Education Foundation’s 2020 Winter Lionfish Derby Series in the Florida Keys.
Divers can sharpen their spears and take aim at non-native lionfish to preserve Keys reefs during this fun, competitive event to capture and remove as many as possible from Keys waters.
Derby diver teams vie for prizes for capturing the most lionfish as well as the largest and smallest. Teams of two to four people can register for $120 per team.
A mandatory captains meeting for all team participants is set for 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 3, at REEF headquarters, mile marker 98.3 in the Overseas Highway median. Lionfish biology, ecology, impacts, derby rules and safe handling and collecting techniques are to be reviewed.
At sunrise Saturday, derby hunters can begin collecting lionfish by netting or spearing while on scuba, snorkeling or free diving. Participants can dive from a private vessel or with a professional dive operator.
At 5 p.m. Saturday, the public is invited to watch derby scoring and awards at Sharkey’s Sharkbite Grill, 522 Caribbean Drive. The event’s other attractions are to include games, raffle prizes, lionfish filleting, dissection demonstrations and sample tastings.
The invasive species was introduced to Florida waters during the 1980s. Efforts to offset the growing population include conservation through consumption.
Although commonly served as ceviche or sushi, lionfish fillets can be prepared like any other fish, and have been likened to halibut or grouper in texture and flavor. Keys restaurants often include lionfish as menu items.
Event information and registration: reef.org or 305-852-0030
Key Largo visitor information: fla-keys.com/keylargo or 800-822-1088
Florida Keys diving information: fla-keys.com/diving