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Save the date: FWC and Destin–Fort Walton Beach host 9th Annual Lionfish Festival May 20-21

participant holding lionfish at lionfish event
Media contact: Emily Abellera, Release Date: 03-28-2023   All Articles Tags:

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and Destin–Fort Walton Beach will celebrate the ninth annual Lionfish Festival May 20-21 (10 a.m.-5 p.m. CT) at AJ’s Seafood and Oyster Bar and HarborWalk Village in Destin.

This outdoor event is free, open to the public and will feature family-friendly activities, art, diving and marine conservation booths, live music, fillet demonstrations, and the world’s largest lionfish tournament, the Emerald Coast Open.

Tournament Details

Are you a diver interested in registering for the world’s largest lionfish tournament? The Emerald Coast Open will run May 19-20, and include categories for most lionfish, largest lionfish and smallest lionfish with nearly $100,000 worth of prizes up for grabs! For official tournament rules and registration instructions, visit

Lionfish Restaurant Week

Sample lionfish at one of Destin–Fort Walton Beach’s featured restaurants during the Emerald Coast Open Lionfish Restaurant Week. Local chefs will highlight lionfish in unique dishes in the week leading up to the event to help bring awareness to the lionfish invasion in the Gulf of Mexico.


  • The Boathouse Landing, Valparaiso – May 12.
  • The Harbor Tavern – May 13.
  • Dewey Destin’s Harborside – May 14.
  • Crab Trap Destin – May 15
  • La Paz – May 16.
  • Harbor Docks – May 17.
  • Brotula’s Seafood House & Steamer – May 18.
  • AJ’s Seafood & Oyster Bar– May 20.

What is LRAD?

To increase public awareness about the lionfish invasion and encourage removal efforts, the FWC signed a resolution creating Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day in February 2015. LRAD is celebrated the first Saturday after Mother’s Day each year. 

Lionfish Challenge

The 2023 Lionfish Challenge is quickly approaching. This summer-long tournament is open to everyone and is completely free to enter. Participants in last year’s Challenge reached a significant milestone of over 1 million lionfish harvested from Florida waters since the program began in 2014! Are you up for the Challenge? Visit to register for the Lionfish Challenge.


Contact the FWC Division of Marine Fisheries Management at 850-487-0554.