A trail of gaffed, dragged and dead tarpon – and you care about WHAT?

PTTS Protest May 19, 2013PTTS host Joe Mercurio has seemingly convinced himself the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission law enforcement officers who were on hand Sunday to, in their words, “observe and report,” are going to rush back to Tallahassee where they will breathlessly report they observed someone yelling something through a bullhorn.

A bullhorn? Seriously? Sorry Joe. The FWC didn’t send those officers all the way to Boca Grande for bullhorns. These are trained and experienced professional wildlife officers. Bullhorns?

They are going to report on the tarpon they observed being dragged through the pass rather than, as you promised, measured immediately and released unharmed. They are going to report on the hook placements you, they, and everyone else observed and photographed. They are going to report on the two fish that didn’t make it. They observed that, too.

They are, of course, also going to report on the way your guys and your camera crews were observed “handling” those boats. This is what they are going to report. Because these are all problems they know the FWC commissioners can readily fix with a simple voice vote and a stroke of a pen.

Snagged PTTS Tarpon

This tarpon, snagged in the neck by a “Boca Grande tarpon jig,” was one of many fish documented by Save the Tarpon protesters. Although the PTTS rules clearly call for disqualification of any fish hooked outside of the mouth, this tarpon was still weighed for points.

As far as those bullhorns go, that’s a more difficult nut to crack. If you would rather make bullhorns the issue, the FWC officers won’t be left with much choice. If asked, they’ll have to tell the seven commissioners the truth. They will tell the commissioners, if asked, there’s really only one practical way within their power to get rid of the bullhorns. Because the FWC is a fish commission, not a constitutional convention, the only sure (and legal) way to get rid of the bullhorns, they’ll quietly suggest, is to get rid of what the bullhorns are pointed at.

And yes Joe, that would be you. Doesn’t seem quite fair, does it? But either is dragging those dead and dying tarpon on clandestine sightseeing tours of the pass. Either is breaking the promise you made to those seven commissioners to immediately measure and release those tarpon unharmed.

And, of course, those two dead tarpon might argue with your promise to the commissioners that your TV tournament is all about conservation. Don’t bother trying to promise away the foul-hooking. The folks who didn’t have bullhorns in their hands on Sunday were wielding cameras. Lots and lots of cameras. You did a good job trying to hide and sink the evidence. Just wasn’t quite good enough.

Snagged PTTS Tarpon - 2013

The lip-lock, aka clip-on gaff, moves in to officially weigh a foul-hooked tarpon in the opening event of the 2013 Professional Tarpon Tournament Series. The leader was cut and the hook was left in the fish during the measuring process.

The “report” part of “observe and report” should make for some interesting reading. We’ll get you a copy. And who knows? Buried among the gaffing, the dragging, the dead fish, the foul-hooking, the wrap boats and REC Media’s full reverse slice and dice job on that tarpon, you might just find a few words about bullhorns. Don’t bet the gold chains on it, however.

The new PTTS is the same old PTTS – May 19th 2013 protest from Save the Tarpon on Vimeo.


  1. t says

    Here’s a question to ponder; why is there a release boat anyway? They are FISH, they know how to SWIM. IF they were in good condition after the weigh-in, they could be released right there….the survival rate of these fish MUST be so low, that they have to release them offshore so there aren’t dead fish all over the place. Disgusting.

  2. John Grant says

    I am an avid fly fisherman for tarpon, I also fish with live bait and yes I have fished with a jig. Over many years of catching tarpon I can say no matter the method I used some fish died its part of fishing. The same goes for any species of fish. We as anglers should do the best we can to revive the fish before release. After the new rule changes the PTTS put in place I find no difference in the survivability of the fish. By watching your video and viewing the event myself I feel as though they are doing more than the average angler to ensure the best chance of success for the fish to live. You should be ashamed of yourselves for attacking a boat for slowly moving forward in order to move water across the gills. Releasing any fish immediately without an attempt to revive the fish fully is counterproductive to the chance of full recovery. Many of the ideas and change you advocated I agreed with. Until now I have been a supporter of Save the Tarpon but I feel as though your organization has gone too far and lost sight of your initial objectives.

  3. Glen says

    Try any fishing around the outskirts of those jigging and your run off the fish in a 10 count. They run over your lines as soon as they notice rolling fish, I cast to these fish in hopes of immediate hook-up only. Fish are pressured so bad they run up on the hill a nervous wreck as a place of solace not the usual pattern. Could one actually believe for a minute these fish prefer a piece of lead and rubber yet they won’t strike live crab or threadfin? The jigging style of snatch and grab goes way beyond release of the Tarpon. No it goes way beyond the release of a fish to “Fed Up”. It’s personal and if you think it’s not try a morning on the water at 5:30 am it’s very taxing to watch the frenzy of boats pressuring fish and anyone who threatens to get in the way all day long. There is no room for this style of fishing in the relatively small corridor of Boca Grande Pass when at times this is the only congregation of fish depending on time of year, wind direction, surf, tide, food, etc… Then again why should we fish somewhere else? Sat by the first channel marker one morning this year with fish in a natural pattern all around, screen black with fish on the bottom, looked back at the jig hungry fisher oblivious to the natural beauty of surroundings and serene presence Boca Grande had to offer. You know you’ve reached a pinnacle at Tarpon fishing when you count jumps and are happy to grab the spool and release the fish. You won’t see this in the jig repertoire as I’ve witnessed many hours within casting distance of the snatch and grab attitude. I say attitude with a capital “A” because this is what you’re presented with on a leisure day of fishing. No, it’s way beyond the release then again it’s not, it’s a developed culture who’s time has come. What I am saying is no to the whole process of swinging lead into a Tarpon and winding as fast as you can when it goes bump. The gloves are off there is no such thing as going to far within the confines of law, men were given knowledge and rule over animals as a means of protection not exploitation. In my book there are two kinds of people, those who really don’t know and need to be educated and those who do know, are just plain rude and need to be told! There are tarpon all over the state which lends to the fact that if Tarpon are not stacked up the jig can’t catch (snag) squat or this would be the preferred method in the rest of the State of Florida. The mission statement hasn’t changed and needs to be shouted from roof tops “We’ve had Enough!” Ethical treatment does not include what’s going on in the jigger world I’m not even going to dignify it by calling it jig fishing or jig fisherman because I’ve watched these jiggers try to fish when the game is over. Don’t leave it up to this forum we should all be writing the FWC, congressman, governor, and anyone else who will listen. From what I’ve witnessed Save the Tarpon isn’t perfect but they care.

  4. Jason Sherwood says

    If we are out to Save the Tarpon and Boca Grande Pass is a sanctuary for thousands of tarpon to spawn every year, let’s make Boca Grande Pass a refuge where Tarpon Tournaments are no longer allowed live bait or artificial bait. We can then take it another step and relieve some pressure off the fish by monitoring the amount of commercial guiding that takes place so that the tarpon are not pressured 24 hours a day 7 days a week to fill charter captains pockets full of money. We are all at fault here and have taken advantage of these fish while they congregate to spawn. Let’s take a step back and not blame one side or the other, or whether tarpon eat metal and plastic, as many fish are caught on chicken feathers ( something not natural for the tarpon to eat) and take the appropriate measures to Save The Tarpon and the fishery in Boca Grande Pass.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *