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Record-breaking lionfish caught during Emerald Coast Open despite bad weather conditions

The Emerald Coast Open (ECO) 2024, the world’s largest lionfish tournament, concluded with impressive numbers and a new record for the largest lionfish caught, despite facing adverse weather conditions.  Although […]

Largest lionfish caught during the Emerald Coast Open (ECO)

The Emerald Coast Open (ECO) 2024, the world’s largest lionfish tournament, concluded with impressive numbers and a new record for the largest lionfish caught, despite facing adverse weather conditions. 

  • The event, which took place in Destin, included a pre-tournament, main event, Restaurant Week, and a festival, all dedicated to raising awareness and promoting the removal of lionfish from local waters.

Although the area experienced inclement weather on Friday and Saturday, impacting the divers’ ability to hunt lionfish during the main event, the tournament participants persevered and managed to remove a total of 11,844 lionfish. 

  • The pre-tournament, which ran from February 1st to May 16th, accounted for 4,433 lionfish, while the main tournament, held on May 17th and 18th, added another 7,411 to the total.

Alex Fogg, Coastal Resources Manager for Okaloosa County and event organizer, praised the participants’ resilience and dedication. 

“The Emerald Coast Open 2024 faced its share of challenges with the weather, but our divers and volunteers showed incredible resilience and adaptability,” Fogg remarked. “Despite the storms, they remained focused on our mission (and prizes) to combat invasive lionfish and protect our native ecosystem. The fact that we not only removed a substantial number of lionfish but also set a new record for the largest lionfish caught is a great testament to the dedication and skill of our community.”

The tournament saw a new record for the largest lionfish caught, with team “Deep Water Mafia EL GATO NEGRO” bringing in a massive 475mm (18.70 inches) specimen. This impressive catch surpassed the previous record and highlighted the ongoing growth and maturation of the lionfish population in the region. This lionfish also tied the gulf of Mexico record and was only 2mm (0.08 inches) shy of the world record! 

Restaurant Week, which featured local restaurants showcasing lionfish dishes and educated customers about the impact of this invasive species, crowned La Paz as the winner for the second consecutive year. 

The Emerald Coast Open Lionfish Festival at HarborWalk Village offered various activities and attractions for attendees, including conservation vendors, lionfish jewelry and art, and educational experiences for kids and families.

  • The “Guess the Lionfish” competition, where participants estimated the total number of lionfish that would be removed during the event, was won by Kyle Corbitt, who guessed 7,001.

In the most lionfish removed category, VJL Seafood took the top spot with an impressive 1,776 lionfish, followed by Rubber Duck with 1,716 and Slightly Deeper Mobsters with 806. The pre-tournament winners, Bob Brown (590 lionfish), Tim Shivers (510), and Brandon Hust (287), also made top picks at the prize table, which featured over $65,000 worth of gear.

The 2024 Emerald Coast Open showcased the unwavering commitment of the community in the battle against invasive lionfish, even in the face of challenging weather conditions. As the event continues to evolve and grow, organizers and participants remain dedicated to protecting the native ecosystem and promoting conservation efforts along Destin-Fort Walton Beach.

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