A Franklin County fishermen took first place in the 4th annual lionfish challenge for catching the smallest lionfish in the competition.
Lionfish are a nonnative, invasive species that threaten Florida’s native saltwater fish and wildlife.
They were introduced into Florida waters in the late 1980s but their population has boomed in recent years – and that is causing real problems for native species in Florida waters.
The Lionfish challenge was created to allow fishermen to remove as many lionfish from Florida waters as they can and to win prizes while doing it.
This year148 people submitted lionfish in the competition removing nearly 23,500 lionfish.
Franklin County's own Nikki Cox took first place for the smallest lionfish removed at only one and a half inches.
The biggest lionfish caught was over 17 inches.
Nikki is eligible to receive up to $3,000 in cash prizes and will be recognized by The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at its December meeting in Panama City Beach.
The First place Lionfish King this year is Ken Ayers of Bay County who caught 1,194 lionfish during the event.
The First place Commercial Champion is Joshua Livingston of Okaloosa County who caught 3,192.8 lbs. of lionfish since the event began on May the 18th.