The event initially was planned for 2020, but COVID-19 postponed it until May 27 and 28, 2023. On Saturday, more than 40 fishers in 19 teams dived into the depths of the sea and caught more than 246 of the invasive predators.
On Sunday, The Department of Planning and Natural Resources Fish and Wildlife Division, Reef Responsible, and the Caribbean Oceanic Restoration and Education Foundation, event sponsors, hosted a family fun day at Leatherback Brewery and awarded $9,000 in prizes for the most, largest and smallest lionfish.
Two of the biggest fish caught before being filleted in front of the crowd by Mike Funk.
Kynoch Reale-Monroe, Director Nicole Angeli, Liandry De La Cruz and Hilliard Hicks hand out gifts and information for CORE, Reef Responsible, and DPNR Fish and Wildlife.
CORE treasurer and lionfish expert Mike Funk demonstrated how to remove venomous spines and filet lionfish before cooking.
The fish were donated to chef Ashley Ellis of Yaardie in St. Croix who prepared them in fritters, in salsa with kale and avocado over a Johnny cake, and pan-seared over risotto.
With 50 lionfish, Team Me-shell won the prize for the most fish in the recreational division.
Team Sanchez won $1000 for the most lionfish caught (51) in the commercial division.
Adam and Brittany Diorio display the necklaces, earrings, rings, and other items for sale at the awards event. Brittany makes each piece with lionfish fins, she purchases from fishers, and stainless steel. “Every piece is unique and it’s saving the reef,” Adam said.
Some of the committee members who organized the Lionfish Derby. “ With the success of this event, we are absolutely planning to do it next year,” Matthew Sims, back right, organizer, said.