2023 Florida Keys Lionfish Derby & Festival
REEF's 14th annual event will include two full days of lionfish fishing, followed by a family-friendly festival at picturesque Postcard Inn Resort & Marina. The festival is open to the public and will include lionfish scoring, fillet and dissection demonstrations, lionfish tastings, lionfish games and crafts, raffle prizes, plus booths from environmentally-minded vendors. Chefs will be providing lionfish cooking demonstrations and special dishes and drink special will be available.
CONSERVATION FESTIVAL - Sunday September 10, 2023 12PM - 4PM, Postcard Inn Beach Resort & Marina
Limited festival vendor space is available for nonprofits, government organizations, and artisanal vendors.
Thursday, Sept. 7: Captain's Meeting* for registered derby teams - 6:30-7:30PM (6:15 PM final check in), REEF Campus Key Largo & virtual (link sent out to registrants); gear rental begins
Friday, Sept. 8: Fishing sunrise to sundown
Saturday, Sept. 9: Fishing sunrise to sundown
Sunday, Sept. 10: NO FISHING; Lionfish Festival and Awards Ceremony at Postcard Inn Beach Resort & Marina; Final Team Weigh-in Drop off by 12:30PM; Awards Ceremony at 3:30PM;
*The Captain's Meeting is mandatory for the team captains, and all team members are encouraged to attend. The team captain must be one of the four participants in the derby, but does not need to be the captain of the boat. Safe collecting and handling techniques and derby rules will be reviewed. The Captain's meeting will be offered in-person and virtually.
IMPORTANT: Teams wishing to fish in the areas that fall under the FKNMS, FWC, and DEP permit must schedule a time to come to the REEF Campus to pick up packet materials, permits, and flags during the week of September 5 or pick up at the Captain's Meeting.
How much does it cost?
Early Bird Registration Discounts Available
$75 per team through August 10, 2023
$100 per team on or before September 7, 2023 (6:30PM)
Minimum 2 people per team, maximum 4 people
Registration fee is nonrefundable.
How to Participate
Step 1: Gather your team. Derby teams can be made of 2-4 divers. Decide on what level you will participate (Apex Predators or Reef Defender).
Step 2: Register your team and pay the Registration Fee.
Step 3: All members of your team need to complete the waiver.
Step 4: Make sure everyone on your team understands the rules of the Derby.
Prizes will be awarded for MOST lionfish, SMALLEST and LARGEST lionfish and a Golden Fish raffle award for all participating teams.
During registration, teams must choose to compete in one of two divisions for the MOST Lionfish Prize.
Apex Predators Division (More Competitive Division; Greater Prize Money)
Reef Defenders Division (More Casual Division; Lower Prize Money)
All teams will compete together for LARGEST and SMALLEST lionfish categories.
• 1st place team members in Apex Most Category wins Custom Zookeeper
• 2nd Place team members in Apex Most Category wins Zookeeper Spear
• 1st Place team members in Reef Defenders Most Category wins Custom Zookeeper
• 2nd Place team members in REEF Defenders Most Category wins Zookeeper Spear
- Teams that will be fishing in the areas that fall under the FKNMS and FWC permit must schedule a time to come to REEF campus to pick up packet material, permits and flags during the week of September 4, 2023.
- Teams will be able to take at least 80% of their catch after it is measured (REEF will keep some lionfish to use towards education and outreach activities).
- Fish MUST be dropped off at 12:30 PM Sunday September 10, 2023, no exceptions (can begin dropping off at 9AM).
- Teams can also submit their catch through FWC's Commercial Lionfish Harvest Program.
- Teams must attend the awards ceremony at Postcard Inn Resort and Marina to win prizes.
- All lionfish should be well packed on ice and teams must provide enough ice for lionfish, particularly those that will be held overnight.
Don't have a boat? Local Charters are available. Call shops for rates and to reserve space.
Quiescence Diving, Key Largo, FL (305 451-2440) - Current availability AM and PM Friday and Saturday. Private charter (6 people for $495 half day, $850 Full Day (additional cost $90/$180 for guide) -must book entire boat. Boats limited book early.
Tilden's Scuba Center, Marathon, FL (305 743 7255) - Lionfish Dive trips PM Friday and Saturday.
Looe Key Reef Resort and Dive Center, Looe Key, FL (305 872-2215, Curtiss Carter) - Lionfish Dive Trips AM Friday and Saturday
Key Dives, Islamorada, FL (305 664 2211, Amanda Hudon) - Lionfish Dive Trip AM only Saturday
REEF will be following all CDC guidelines and we encourage participants who are eligible to get vaccinated to protect themselves and others from COVID-19. Participants are also encouraged to wear masks when in large crowds, maintain social distancing, and frequently wash hands. All Derby events will be held outdoors or be offered virtually. REEF will be increasing sanitization, providing numerous hand sanitizing stations, and following best practices for sage food handling. We are continuously monitoring the status of COVID-19 within the region and the safety of our REEF Family is our priority.
Special Thanks to our 2023 Program Sponsors