Emerald Coast Open Lionfish Tournament Rules

Rules are Subject to Change. All changes to the rules and final instructions are given at the mandatory Captain’s Meeting which takes place Thursday, May 18, 2023 at 7:00 pm. Changes shall be posted on the Emerald Coast Open website and social media pages

Entry Fee is $75 per participant through March 31, 2023. On April 1, 2023, the entry fee is $100 per participant. Teams consist of a maximum of 4 participants. Registration and fees include the ECO Pre-Tournament from February 1 – May 18, 2023

Tournament Dates: Friday, May 19, 2023 – Sunday May 21, 2023

Thursday, May 18 Mandatory Captain’s Meeting – 7:00 pm, AJ’s on the Harbor, Destin, FL or Tune in to Facebook live (see below) Registration ENDS at 7:00 pm

Friday, May 19 Harvesting begins at first light and ends at last light. Weigh Station opens at 3:00 pm and closes at 6:00 pm

Saturday, May 20 Harvesting begins at first light and ends at last light. Weigh Station opens at 3:00 pm and closes at 6:00 pm

Sunday, May 21 Weigh Station opens at 7:00 am and closes at 11:00 am ** NO FISH MAY BE HARVESTED ON SUNDAY ** Awards ceremony – Approximately 3:00pm 


A. Registration will be available on the Emerald Coast Open website (EmeraldCoastOpen.com) through an online registration system. All participants must read and understand the Tournament Rules prior to registering. Payment is due at time of registration. Payment and completed registration shall constitute a representation by each participant that he/she has read and fully understands the tournament rules and that he/she will abide by such rules and decisions of the tournament committee.

B. Non-refundable registration fees are $75 per participant for Early registration through March 31, 2023 and $100 per participant thereafter.

C. Each registrant will receive a tournament packet, including a tournament T-Shirt. Packets can be picked up by the participant at the Captain’s meeting. If you are not attending the Captain’s meeting, you can pick up your packet at the awards ceremony on Sunday. If you are unable to pick up your packet, please designate someone to pick it up for you. Packets will not be mailed to participants after the event.

D. To qualify for prizes and awards, participants must be registered, paid and show proper identification. All applicants must be registered completely by 7:00pm Thursday May 18th, 2023.

E. Teams will be limited to 4 persons; though more than one team may be present on the same boat. Additionally, teams may split onto multiple boats. Each member must declare a team name upon registration. Once registration is closed, teams are locked. Teams may not substitute participants during the tournament for any reason, and will be subject to disqualification. Individuals can register as a single person team to be eligible for prizes.

F. Team names must not be offensive in nature. “Offensive” will be determined by the Tournament Director and may require teams to modify their names at any time.

G. Registration includes entry into both the Emerald Coast Open Pre-Tournament and 2-day Lionfish Tournament.


A. The mandatory captain’s meeting will be held from 7:00 – 8:00 pm at AJ’s on the Harbor in Destin, Florida on Thursday, May 18, 2023.

B. A designated representative from each team must check in at the official Captain’s safety meeting for rule changes and tournament instructions. The Captain’s meeting will also be livestreamed on Facebook Live on the Emerald Coast Open Facebook Page. [LINK] The team representative must either be present in person or comment on the Facebook page that they are watching the livestream event.
C. Registered teams who do not check in at the mandatory captain’s meeting will not be eligible for participation.


A. Lionfish (Pterois volitans/miles) eligible for entry may only be taken during the tournament hours. No previously caught or frozen lionfish will be allowed, however, please keep all lionfish on ice.

B. Only legal means of capture in areas allowing use of those gear types will be allowed. All existing federal, state, and local laws must be followed.

C. All lionfish must be in whole condition (no missing heads or tails). Largest and smallest fish will be determined by total length of the fish in millimeters measuring from tip of snout to tip of tail. If the tail is damaged, scientifically-recognized standard length may be used as determined by the weighmaster.

D. Lionfish caught during the tournament may be donated for sampling, research or for consumption during the event days. Fish must be preserved on ice. All other lionfish not donated or sold must be disposed of properly by the individual capturing the lionfish.

E. Protective gloves should be worn when handling lionfish. Participants are encouraged to carry appropriate first aid kits specific for lionfish stings.


A. Teams may start from any waters where lionfish are legal to harvest. Tournament Hours are first light until last light Friday 5/19/2023 and Saturday 5/20/2023. All fish must be present at the scoring station by 11 am on Sunday 5/21/2023. Any fish not present at the scoring station by the designated time will not be counted for the tournament.

B. All waters are eligible for tournament harvest. The tournament shall take place regardless of weather conditions. Captains make their own decisions about whether to venture out.


A. Lionfish may only be taken during tournament hours and the fish must be presented to the scoring station. Scoring station will be located at AJ’s on the Harbor in Destin, Florida. The Scoring Station will open on Friday and Saturday 5/19/2023 – 5/20/2023 from 3:00 – 6:00 pm and Sunday 5/21/2023 from 7:00 am – 11:00 am. All fish must be present at the scoring station by 11:00 am Sun 5/21/2023 to be counted.


A. All fish must be present at the scoring station by 11:00 am on Sunday 5/21/2023. Teams must have lionfish in coolers and properly iced.

B. Team captain or designee must deliver the coolers to the designated scoring location and check in with the scoring station staff, who will verify the number of coolers and place tape across the lid of the cooler indicating the team name and number of coolers associated with the team. Teams need to declare at this time whether lionfish will be sold, donated or kept.

C. The team captain or designee must be present when the fish are being counted and measured by scoring station staff. If there is a backup at the scoring station, you do not have to stand next to your coolers, but stay close enough where scoring station staff can locate you quickly.

D. Scoring station staff will direct the team coolers to a specific counting station. Staff will remove the lionfish from the cooler, measure and record the total length of each fish according to current scientific established methods.

E. An overall count, minimum and maximum size will be recorded by the scoring staff on the team scoresheet and submitted to the weighmaster.

F. If there is a discrepancy over measurement or count, the team captain should bring it to the weighmaster immediately while the fish are still at the scoring station table. Decisions of the weighmaster and rules committee are final.


A. Only one winning entry per team will be allowed in EACH category. In the event of a tie the winning team or individual will be determined by the earliest check in of its lionfish at the scoring station.

B. Cash awards will be presented to the team according to the following schedule:

Most Lionfish (Team)

1st Place   $TBD
2nd Place   $TBD
3rd Place   $TBD
4th Place   $TBD
5th Place   $TBD
6th Place   $TBD

Largest Lionfish (Team)

1st Place   $TBD
2nd Place   $TBD
3rd Place   $TBD
4th Place   $TBD
5th Place   $TBD
6th Place   $TBD

Smallest Lionfish (Team)

1st Place   $TBD
2nd Place   $TBD
3rd Place   $TBD
4th Place   $TBD
5th Place   $TBD
6th Place   $TBD

C. Teams that wish to donate their catch may do so for the raffle prize drawing. One lionfish equals one raffle ticket during the two day tournament.

D. Raffle prizes will be drawn randomly until all prizes have been distributed


A. All cash prizes will be awarded by bank check.

B. Each team must designate a representative payee to receive payment of all team cash awards. For winners of cash awards a single check will be written to the boat’s representative payee for the total of tournament cash awards.

C. Checks will be written after the Tournament Awards Ceremony on Sunday.

D. The Tournament accepts no responsibility for the division of any cash awards between team members.


A. The Lionfish tournament is an honor system tournament with all registrants being responsible for compliance with the rules.

B. Any violation of these rules resulting in disqualification will result in forfeiture of entry fee, prizes and cash awards, and at the sole discretion of the tournament officials, prohibited from entry in any future tournaments.

C. If non-compliance with tournament rules are suspected, the tournament committee reserves the right to conduct a polygraph. Without a successful polygraph the team will forfeit all prizes.

D. All protests must be presented in writing along with a $500 deposit by the team captain to the tournament committee no later than 15 minutes after results are posted on the final day of the tournament.

E. Tournament committee will refer to submitted count sheets for any protests relating to count or size. If teams are not present during the counting, they forfeit their ability to protest the accuracy of the count sheets.

F. Poor sportsmanship will be grounds for disqualification from this tournament.


A. All entrants agree to allow tournament officials and Emerald Coast Open to use participant’s name, awards, and photos for any media and promotional purposes.