Save the Tarpon discussed on WENG Radio Broadcast

Captain Tom McLaughlin, one of the founding members of, was a guest co-host on The Boating Life radio show with Captain Tom Healy.  In this recording, he discusses what the Save the Tarpon movement is about and how to take part in it.


Who Owns the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series (PTTS) in Boca Grande Florida?

ingman marineThe Professional Tarpon Tournament Series (PTTS) in Boca Grande Florida.

(Originally posted by On )

The gift of world-class Tarpon fishing in Boca Grande is a precious resource given to all of us to enjoy and be enriched by.  It is a gift we must all work together to preserve and respect.  However, some for-profit businesses have decided to make a fishing tournament designed to “enrich” their own pockets while unnecessarily compromising this resource for their own financial gain.  If you think the PTTS (Professional Tarpon Tournament Series) is cool, that’s because it has been cleverly designed to achieve this response.  It is through the emotional response triggered by “good TV” that you happily turn your money over to them in one way or another.  And every time they have an angler or professional guide defend their tactics or participate in their tarpon tournament,  they laugh all the way to the bank.  They are disrupting and damaging a fishery that doesn’t exclusively belong to them–it belongs to all of us and our children.

What’s wrong with a tarpon tournament in Boca Grande, you ask? Well, nothing. (Here’s a link to one of the conservation-minded tarpon tournaments.)  There are plenty of other Tarpon tournaments which pose no threat to the waterways or fishery.  However, the PTTS is not one of them.  It has purposely adopted unethical fishing practices to help facilitate higher TV ratings–fishing practices that have long been known to the angling community (and almost all other fishing tournaments) as outdated and unsportsmanlike.

The gaffing, dragging, weighing, and often subsequent death of the Tarpon are for nothing more than increased TV ratings and shows a blatant disregard for the fishery. By glorifying this damaging process on National television,  it also actively promotes the same contemptuous behavior to recreational anglers who use the TV show as a guide for how to fish for Tarpon in and around Boca Grande Pass.  Now, outside of the hours of the tournament, you are seeing recreational anglers, and even their fishing guides, dragging exhausted Tarpon to the beach for a photo op.  Additionally, the dangerous and disrespectful boat operations also promoted through the PTTS television show has created an entire group of individuals who try to emulate these behaviors upon their visit to Boca Grande.  This endangers the lives and livelihood of the residents and law-abiding citizens who also use Boca Grande Pass and its surrounding waters.

The PTTS is owned and operated by the Tarpon Anglers Club.  Again, don’t be fooled.  This is not a non-profit anglers club happily created to promote sportfishing. It is a for profit LLC registered in the State of Florida.  Here are the current State records available on


Registered Agent Name & Address


Manager/Member Details

INGMAN, GARY (President of Ingman Marine)

MIZE, GARY (Vice President of Ingman Marine)

The PPTS (Professional Tarpon Tournament Series) Television Show is owned and operated by SILVER KING ENTERTAINMENT, LLC.  Here is the info from as well:

Registered Agent Name & Address


Manager/Member Detail

Title MGRM

Title MGRM

Title MGRM

Title MGRM

For many of the locals, you know Gary Ingman as owner and President of Ingman Marine, a boat dealership in Sarasota, Placida and Port Charlotte.  Many in support of ethical angling have directly asked Gary to change these harmful, unsportsmanlike, and outdated aspects of the tournament in regards to the handling of the Tarpon.  He has declined to make changes.  It is because of this I ask for your support in boycotting the services and products offered by Ingman Marine.  An alternate choice for Yamaha service is The Boat House on Placida Road. They are located only minutes from the Placida Road location of Ingman Marine.   I also personally recommend using Abels Marine on Gasparilla Road. They are also close-by and good local people who do solid work.  In fact, it is very likely both of these alternatives to Ingman Marine will save you money on any service performed to your boat.  Let them know why you are using them instead of Ingman Marine, and they may even show appreciation by offering a discount.

Another helpful tactic would be to contact Grady-White Boats (Ingman Marine is an exclusive dealer of this boat manufacturer) and let them know you will not support Ingman Marine or their products because of their destructive attitude towards the Boca Grande Tarpon fishery and local environment.  Their contact information is as follows:

Grady-White Boats Inc 5121 Martin Luther King Jr Hwy, Greenville, NC 27834 (252) 752-2111 ‎

Or email them at .

Eddie Smith, Jr., CEO of Grady-White Boats has this posted on the company’s website:

“Dedication to Fisheries Resources and Coastal Environment
Eddie Smith has led Grady-White to be recognized as the boating industry’s leader in recreational fishing and coastal environment issues. Eddie himself has been recognized for lifetime achievement by the American Sportfishing Association, and has also been honored by the International Game Fish Association and many others for his commitment. Many of the managers and other employees at Grady-White are similarly dedicated to the long-term health of fisheries and coastal areas. A Grady-White boat is truly a symbol of dedication to the best kind of future for our children, our fisheries and our waterways.”

Dear Yamaha Motors, Your Actions are Disgusting Us. Stop Sponsoring the PTTS!

Yamaha Motors Puts Profits before PrinciplesBelow is yet another letter sent to Yamaha Motor Corporation regarding their participation in the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series (PTTS).    Call, email, or post a comment at the bottom of this post.  Let Yamaha Motors know Mr. Cannella is not alone on this.

And thank you Mr. Cannella for taking the time to voice your concerns to Yamaha Motor Company and allowing us to post a copy for our audience.

To all of the backers of the Save the Tarpon movement: Lets hold these companies and their brands accountable.  Oh, and please remember, Yamaha Motors also owns Skeeter Boats. Skeeter Boats are given as the Grand Prizes in the tournament.

From: Norman Cannella
Sent: Thursday, June 07, 2012 2:22 PM
Subject: Boca Grande Pass, Florida and the Tarpon

Mr. Speciale:

Allow me to introduce myself. I am nearly seventy years old. A lawyer for the last thirty-nine years. A retired United State Navy Commander. A life-long fisherman. A resident of Tampa, Florida for all of my life save the time I was on active duty with the Navy.  I own property on Gasparilla Island and travel weekly from my Tampa home to Boca Grande. I fish every weekend.

At a very early age, and before the bridge was built to allow vehicle access to Gasparilla Island, I was fishing the waters around the Island. In the late nineteen fifties a bridge and causeway were built and the Island changed. For many, many years preceding the bridge Boca Grande, as the Island is known, was historically world known for tarpon fishing in the pass. The method of tarpon fishing developed beginning in the early nineteen twenties involved live bait and a controlled drift.

Approximately fifteen to twenty years ago breakaway jig fishing was unfortunately introduced. More unfortunate was the influx of out of the area guides employing outboards in an nontraditional and dangerous fashion. Because of the “success” of breakaway jig fishing and the advent of outdoor television shows, Joe Mercurio, along with Gary Ingman, a man I am certain you know, created several corporations which sponsor and sell the film of their Professional Tarpon Tournament Series.

Tarpon, for over one hundred years, have been favoring Boca Grande Pass on their yearly migrations.Most all of the tarpon over one hundred pounds are females. Moreover, a tarpon of one hundred pounds an larger are old. Of course it is impossible to precisely age the fish, it is not uncommon for a large tarpon to be fifty to sixty years in the water. Therefore, many of the fish visiting Boca Grande have been doing so for quite some time.

I doubt if you have been present for one of the PTTS events. If you haven’t, you should attend. After all, you do lend your corporate name to the list of sponsors. The event is nothing but a spectacle. The method and means of fishing is embarrassing to say the least. Well over fifty outboards continuously motor about looking at bottom machines for the sign of tarpon below. You do know outboards exhaust underwater. As soon as fish are located, down go the jigs fished on light line in order to maintain the line as vertical as possible, If the fish move, the fleet moves; that beat goes on for hours. Officers from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission are usually present for the spectacles. One, however, never sees these enforcers of the law venture into the midst of the melee to check for compliance with rules and regulations of the Commission. Why? It simply is too dangerous.

A great majority of the hook-ups are from outside in rather than the traditional inside out. An outside in hook-up would be snagging but for the law defining snatching which requires a treble hook.

Tarpon are not dumb. To put it bluntly, if the fifty or more outboards continue to hover over these tarpon, they will soon alter their migration habits and there will be no more tarpon of Boca Grande.

The heat is on PTTS. Mr. Mercurio recently wrote a team is in place at the shore where the tarpon are weighed and photographed after being towed for distances of up to seven and eight hundred yards. Mercurio writes the team is present to see the fish survives. It has been documented over the years that after each tournament slaughter dead egg filled females are found either washed ashore or floating interestingly without the required tarpon tag.
Many supporters of PTTS take the position the resource is public and for everyone’s use. If the PTTS continues, there will be no resource for the public.

I own a Yamaha outboard. If the PTTS is not stopped, I will never own another Yamaha product not will I drink another Miller product or step foot into one of the boats manufactured by a boat sponsor or any other product or service associated with a sponsor of the PTTS. Many concerned people, not just tarpon fisher people, feel the same way. Do the right thing for the future of the tarpon fishery at Boca Grande. Say good bye to Joe Mercurio and Gary Ingman’s PTTS.

Boycott Sea Hunt Boats

Sea Hunt Boats

 Boycott The Sea Hunt Boat Company

Let them know you will not purchase a Sea Hunt Boat Company product because of their continued affiliation and sponsorship of the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series (PTTS).

Sea Hunt Boats is one of the primary sponsors of the PTTS.  Therefore, we call for an immediate boycott of all Sea Hunt Boats and products as long as Sea Hunt continues to promote, sponsor or in any way affiliate with the PTTS.  For more information on our demands, please refer to our recent post Our Letter to the PTTS and its Sponsors.

For a list of all of our boycotted brands and businesses, please see our Boycott the PTTS and its Sponsors page.

Josh Olive, publisher of WaterLine Magazine, we expected better from you

Waterline Magazine and Mr. Josh Olive,

Apparently you did not receive the memo published directly by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission regarding safe Tarpon handling in Boca Grande Pass.  You also seem to have fallen victim to the bright lights and fame of seeing your magazine’s name adorn the side of a tournament sponsored boat.  Has your interest in the tournament actually clouded your judgement this badly?


Taken directly from, Tarpon and Boca Grande Pass:Waterline Weekly Magazine

• Never gaff a fish unless you are going to harvest the fish.  “Gaff and release” is a practice that may leave the fish with an open wound making them vulnerable to predation.

• Leave fish in the water while photographing, removing the hook, or cutting the leader.  Boating large fish is dangerous to you and your crew, and can injure the fish. Don’t boat your fish, if you can help it.


In order for you to have “proof,” why must one use DNA testing to prove the PTTS is killing fish when obviously their handling of the fish is outside the bounds of what is acceptable to every single conservation oriented organization that has an interest in Tarpon fishing?  What is worse, is you personally know that this deviation from the norm is for nothing more than increased drama to boost television ratings and is entirely unnecessary.  Why is it unnecessary you ask? Mr. Olive are you not a supporter, promoter, and sponsor of the Guy Harvey Ultimate Shark Challenge?  The shark tournament that you tout as bringing tournament shark fishing inline with conservation?  How do you handle your sharks for the tournament? I believe you do not gaff the fish and drag them to a weigh in, but rather briefly hold them up to the side of the boat while they are still in the water whilst a film crew or observer records the length.  I personally have made this suggestion to Mr. Gary Ingman, owner of the PTTS and it has fallen on deaf ears.

If safe fish handling practices tell you that you are likely to have an increase in mortality, and these practices are not condoned by any conservation entity, then why would you continue those practices when they cause so much animosity towards the tournament and its participants, not just by fellow fishermen, but also the hundreds of visitors who sign the Save The Tarpon petition each and every day? The answer is simple: TV Drama, ratings, and money. I guess once your business is plastered on the side of one of the boats on TV no one is above the influence.

I would have expected better from you Mr. Olive, it is sad to see your publication fall to this level of disgrace.


Captain Tom McLaughlin, Founding Member of



It has come to my attention that Waterline does not in fact sponsor a boat for the tournament.  One of the contributors for the Waterline operates a “Waterline” wrapped boat in the Pass, but captains a different team during the actual tournament.  After an extensive conversation with Mr. Olive by one of our founding members, we stand by our assertion that Mr. Olive sold out his journalistic soul to Ingman Marine, his largest advertiser and the focus of our Boycott.  Here is some more information for your reading Mr. Olive if you think that handling a tarpon the way the PTTS does and operating their boats the way they do has no effect on the fishery, but those same actions are unacceptable when it comes to your shark tournament.  A true reporter of “facts” would have no problem finding information such as Dr. Adams has provided in his opinion letter below.

We are also not here to discuss the merits of the Boca Beacon, Dr. Adams is widely considered the worlds leading Tarpon biologist. His opinions are clear though he does not mention the PTTS by name.

Our letter to the PTTS and its Sponsors

It has come to our attention, in an attempt to do “damage control,” Joe Mercurio, spokesman for the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series (PTTS), has contacted the tournament sponsors, affiliates and participants to inform them of our cause.

The following is the email from Joe Mercurio:

Dear PTTS Competitors, Fans, Family and Friends,
As you may know, there is a group of individuals that are directly attacking not only our organization but the content of all our characters. If we could band together by professionally refuting these false claims based on untruths and propaganda, we could stand up for our rights and work toward ending this problem once and for all.
As we continue to discover misleading material, we will be sending all of our members emails that include links to the derogatory postings on Facebook, YouTube, News Media sites etc. to make it quick and easy for you to flag or make a quick professional comment to help defend and uphold our integrity. (Please find  3 links below)
Please share with your friends and family as the more people we have behind us the better.
In order to make posting on YouTube you must have an account. For your convenience a link to create a YouTube account can be found on the bottom of this email. It is quick and easy to set up and should not take more than a minute. Thanks again!
Below are a few key bullet points about issues our tournament values:
�         Circle hooks are required
�         Release teams are in place specifically to ensure the fish are healthy
�         A minimum of 50lb main line is required to reduce fight times
�         If on the rare occasion that a fish is not hooked in the mouth it is disqualified promptly

A response from one our founding members:

Mr. Mercurio, Mr. Ingman, and Mr. Mize,

Please let us be very clear about what the Save The Tarpon movement is about.  This is not an argument about whether or not jigs snag fish. What happens under the water in this regard is a heated topic and we each hold to our own convictions as to whether or not the fish are snagged.  This however is not where most of the contention lies for the members of the Save The Tarpon movement. We have made no accusations or claims about what happens on the business end of the fishing line, but rather about what happens in plain view of each and every one of us who frequent Boca Grande Pass.  It is obvious from your “key bullet issues” that you have not taken the time to consider what Save The Tarpon is actually about. What type of hook you use or the breaking strength of your fishing line is of no consequence to us. So before you jump to conclusions please take the time to read this letter from one of our founding members, and yes Mr. Mercurio you are correct…this is a direct attack on the content of your character as well as that of Gary Ingman, Gary Mize, and others who profit off of the destruction of a valuable and precious public resource:

The relentless, high speed, hyper-agressive pursuit of Tarpon in Boca Grande Pass portrayed during the PTTS events has carried over to much more than just tournament day.  These techniques are obviously disruptive and destructive, and the fish handling after the catch can only be described as deplorable by even the novice angler.  It is well documented that high speed boat operation of this magnitude has a profound negative effect on the habits of fish during pre-spawn rituals. You also will find volumes of scientific data by numerous respected marine scientists, both private and state sponsored, that indicates that the way in which the fish are gaffed, dragged by the lower draw, what is at times a considerable distance, and hoisted into the air drastically decreases its chance of survival no matter how skilled or caring your “release teams” are.  For an organization who is so quick to use science to defend their actions, the PTTS sure falls short in this aspect. It should be clear to viewers that the actions taken by the PTTS to ensure higher TV ratings and profits would be illegal in the state of Florida would it not be  for the kill tag inserted into the Tarpon.  This is not a “temporary possesion until later released” tag, but is rather a tag meant to be  permanently affixed to the fish designating your intent to harvest the fish.  The state of Florida and its biologists have made it very clear through both increased regulations and several public memos that handling Tarpon in these ways will very often lead to the death of the fish.  The glorification of the “weigh in photo” in the television series has lead to the wholesale slaughter of tarpon outside tournament time as viewers who travel to Boca Grande after watching the show demand their shot holding a soon-to-be-dead Tarpon as well.  It takes only moments online to find literally dozens of recent examples posted by many members of the PTTS.

Let us also not forget that the Tarpon fishery of Boca Grande is a gift of nature to be treasured and enjoyed be each and every one of us.  The actions and techniques portrayed, or rather glorified, on the PTTS television series have over run their bounds of simply a three to six hour, once weekly tournament and are now a seven day a week problem.  No other fishing style employed for Tarpon, not just at Boca Grande but all Tarpon fisheries, specifically excludes others from their pursuit of these fish.  It is often said that this is a conflict between two user groups, or an overcrowding problem.  It is neither.

Those that frequent the pass not just during a few weeks in May and June, but rather year round, will tell you that it is wonderful to see many more boats than the numbers participating in PTTS working together in harmony, using fishing tactics as varied as the individuals themselves at many times throughout the year as well as at times other than when the “pack” is present.  Those same people will tell you that should you attempt to employ any technique other than those portrayed in the tournament just about any morning in May or June, you are simply a fool.  Not only will the actions of the “pack” have a negative impact on your success, but often the boats will intentionally step up their already agressive actions in order to intimidate or frustrate other anglers.  Is this level of disrespect what the sponsors have in mind when they plaster their names and websites along the sides of the boats whos operators are treating fellow fishermen this way?

To make matters worse, the mentality fostered and supported by the PTTS and its participants is spilling over to other areas of fishing and at other times. Few now are the days of many boats of all different styles and sizes working in harmony while the fish peacefully move offshore in the evenings.  We now must contend with the same “wrap boats,” as they have come to be known, frantically rushing around at high speed on top of the fish in shallow water, much to the dismay of those who cherish these moments that were already exceedingly rare.  Even a small number of these mini “packs” can make quick work of disbanding an otherwise ‘happy group of fish?’ Gone are the mornings when the quiet march of boats up and down the beaches carefully navigate amongst each other as each vie for their opportunity to toss a bait or fly to the holy grail of beach Tarpon fishing, the daisy chain!  The beaches are now run amuck with a parade of brightly colored sponsored boats flying up and down the beach or across the harbor, the thought of their negative impact on others fishing the area not even a flicker in the minds of their operators.

These are not issues pertaining to the number of boats or their fishing style, but rather to the respect of their operators for both other anglers and the fish themselves. These actions are not carried out by all PTTS participants nor are all those who carry out these actions participants of the PTTS.  The most unfortunate part is that these actions are not necessary for, or even conducive, to any particular type of fishing, jigging or otherwise.   That being said, this mentality has been born, bread, and raised by the PTTS to become the problem that it is today.  The negative impacts on both the fishery and the community are numerous and extensive.  These impacts are a direct result of the promotion and glorification of unethical and unacceptable behavior by the PTTS not in the name of sportsmanship, but in the name of profit. This resource belongs to all of us and is here to be enjoyed and cherished by all of us.  It is not here to be exploited by Gary Ingman, Gary Mize, and Joe Mercurio for the sake of lining their own pockets.

Who is Save The Tarpon?  Save The Tarpon is the voice of local residents, visitors, anglers, guides, parents, children, and anyone who wishes to preserve this historic fishery for generations to come through the promotion of ethical and responsible angling.  The heart of this fishery beats deep within all of us who have fallen in love with Boca Grande, residents and visitors alike.  We will not be detered by your feeble attempts to preserve your revenue stream at our expense.

Capt. Tom McLaughlin

Founding Member,

To the sponsors and participants of the PTTS

Beginning tomorrow, we will start our official boycott campaign.  The campaign will consist of picking one unique sponsor each day to spotlight in the boycott.  We will create a webpage–specific to that sponsor– and explain why the public should participate in a boycott of the brand, products and/or services.   We will also actively promote this boycott in the news media, on Facebook, as well as other social-media outlets.  This boycott will remain active until you meet the following demands:

1. Permanently terminate your sponsorship of the PTTS and its affiliates, effective immediately.

2. Provide with adequate evidence of this termination.

If you are able to meet the above demands, we will happily remove you from the boycott list and remove all mention of your brand on our site and Facebook page.


Randy Wayne White Withdraws His Sponsorship of the PTTS

Below is a copy of the letter written by Novelist Randy Wayne White to the PTTS informing them of his decision to withdraw his sponsorship.

Thanks to the BocaBeacon for being the first to present this.


This message is to “Professional” Tarpon Tournament Series, Ms. Sheli Sanders, Mr. Joe Mercurio, PTTS Sponsors and participating anglers

This is to inform you that neither I nor the Doc Ford Restaurants will participate as sponsors in any fishing tournament that allows snag-fishing (‘jig fishing’ is the common euphemism) for tarpon or other game fish. Snag-fishing has, justifiably, been banned to protect numerous game fish world wide, and I am, frankly, mystified why the tarpon (among Florida’s most valuable natural resources) has not been granted the same protection by governing state bodies.

As a former Sanibel Island fishing guide, I do not hold participating captains in any way accountable for using whatever means allowable to bring a tarpon to the boat. Their job is to catch fish. If tournament rules allow the use of snag-fishing techniques, a working professional is necessarily obligated to give his clients an equal chance. I also understand that snag-fishing is a boon to film makers and TV producers because snag-fishing all but guarantees that tarpon will be landed. As reprehensible as the technique is, it does provide the sort of action demanded by producers of the Jerry Springer ilk.

However, sponsoring such an event is a very different matter. Sponsorship tacitly endorses snag-fishing, and snag-fishing is contrary to every historic ethic associated with sport fishing – a fact I hope to communicate unequivocally to other sponsors. It is too late to pull our ads this year, but we urge all sponsors to join us by withdrawing from future tournaments and/or video productions that promote snag-fishing by turning a blind eye, by using silly euphemisms (‘jig-fishing’), by failing to ban this most “unprofessional” of techniques.

Randy Wayne White

PTTS – Profitable Televised Tarpon Slaughter

Thanks to Sun-Herald Columnist Gary Dutery for this article.

If news is defined as something that doesn’t happen every day, then what happened this past Sunday at the entrance to Charlotte Harbor qualifies as news. It’s likely a few of the military veterans, Wounded Warriors invited to gather on the beach in front of the Port Boca Grande Lighthouse, recognized the aircraft flying overhead as a Piper L-4C. Perhaps, considering their day began with four skydivers, a color guard and the national anthem, they likely figured the flyover by the L-4C was part of the Memorial Day observance.

It wasn’t. Not officially. But maybe it should have been. Trailing behind the plane, more commonly known as a Piper Cub, was a large banner. You know the kind. They’re usually found being towed into the wind just beyond the breakers wherever people gather to go blanket-to-blanket and shoulder-to-shoulder on a stretch of hot sand. But this one wasn’t touting Coppertone or salt water taffy or some boardwalk saloon.

The message on the banner read “Save Boca Grande Tarpon. No Jigs. No Killing.” Down below, their buzz boats churning the waters of Boca Grande Pass, were 31 teams of “anglers” playing dress up in their NASCAR-style costumes covered in NASCAR style logos of NASCAR-style sponsors, both real and imagined. They were part of a cable TV infomercial posing as a sporting event known as the “Professional Tarpon Tournament Series.” Or, as the locals have tortured the acronym, the “Profitable Televised Tarpon Slaughter.” The banner was meant for them.

It’s a debate that’s been raging in the Tarpon Fishing Capital of the World ever since someone came up with the notion of attaching a green latex tail and a brightly painted lead weight to a miniature grappling hook way back when. It worked. The thing caught tarpon. Literally. While traditional live bait methods of fishing tarpon tended to involve some participation on the tarpon’s part — like actually eating the bait — the device all but eliminated the need for the fish to get involved. The jig, as it’s known, doesn’t so much attract fish. It attacks them. Through what can charitably be called a “design flaw,” the jig grabs whatever part of the tarpon’s anatomy it happens to find. The tail, the gills, the outside of the jaw. Even, sometimes, the mouth. Doesn’t really matter.

The thing is even more effective when the jig angler, sensing a fish has bumped his line, begins wildly reeling up. Drag a weighted barbed hook towards the surface through a stack of a few thousand tarpon and, like the carnival game with the metal tub and little plastic fishies, you’re bound to wind up with something. That something, more often than not, is shark food. Jiggers discovered the device worked best when combined with lightweight monofilament line rather than the heavy stuff favored by the traditionalists. As a result, it takes nearly twice as long to bring your tarpon to the boat — if, that is, the hook embedded in its tail doesn’t fall out after the first 30 seconds or so. The fish, of course, is exhausted and — when sharks are in the water — easy pickings. Chomp. They even proudly post video of these attacks on Youtube. ROFLMAO!

The jig, ultimately, begat the PTTS. Which begat a cable TV show modeled after all those popular professional bass fishing things. To make good TV, the PTTS needed good TV. And this came in the form of tarpon being gaffed, roped, dragged across Boca Grande Pass, hoisted out of the water and, as the anxious NASCAR-style team looked on, weighed. Then there were the photos of the happy anglers posing with their fish. This naturally begat people who reckoned that when tarpon are gaffed, roped, dragged across Boca Grande Pass, hoisted out of the water, weighed and asked to smile for the camera, they would likely wind up dead. The tarpon, that is. The anglers would go out drinking.

Bill Bishop is a Tampa wildlife artist and author. He is also an avid tarpon fisherman. “I have a love affair with the sport,” he says. “It’s been a love affair of mine for a very long time. I probably fish 150 days of the year.” Bishop paid to have the 65 hp L-4C tow “Save Boca Grande Tarpon. No Jigs. No Killing” above the heads of those 31 NASCAR-style teams on Sunday. “I kept watching in horror this spectacle, this BS that they’ve been doing for the past seven years and said enough is enough. This mishandling of fish is something I want to stop. The tarpon fishery doesn’t belong to the PTTS, it belongs to all of us. I wanted to make a statement and raise awareness about what’s going on.”

A 100-foot-long banner usually does the trick. In fact, one tournament participant lamented over the radio that it was too bad nobody had a rocket propelled grenade, or RPG, handy to shoot the little Piper out of the sky. He was promptly told to shut up. People might be listening. They were.

Bishop catches most of his tarpon on a fly. He’s not a big fan of the jig. But his real issue is the idea that tarpon, which translate into a $100 million industry for Charlotte County each year, are being killed for profit. For the amusement of a cable TV audience that is repeatedly told the PTTS is a “live release” affair. Yes, the fish are alive when the PTTS and the TV cameras and the photographers are done with them. They don’t stay that way very long.

The PTTS has been taking its hits lately. Author Randy Wayne White recently and publicly pulled his sponsorship of the tournament through his Doc Ford’s restaurants in Sanibel and Fort Myers Beach. White cited the event’s use of “snag fishing” for his decision. “Snag-fishing is contrary to every historic ethic associated with sport fishing — a fact I hope to communicate unequivocally to other sponsors,” White said. “We urge all sponsors to join us by withdrawing from future tournaments … that promote snag-fishing by turning a blind eye, by using silly euphemisms (‘jig-fishing’), by failing to ban this most ‘unprofessional’ of techniques.”

Bishop says there are lots of L-4Cs in the world. There are lots of banners. He intends to keep using both until the PTTS or the state gets the message. Tournament organizer Joe Mercurio obviously hasn’t. When asked about Sunday’s fly-over, Mercurio sarcastically asked if this meant the skydivers, the flags, the color guard, the national anthem and the veterans. He apparently didn’t see the L-4C and the big banner. The PTTS and its sponsors are good at not seeing. Maybe it will take a few more Bill Bishops and Randy Wayne Whites to open their eyes.

Gary Dutery is a Sun columnist. A veteran journalist, he resides in Port Charlotte. Readers may reach him at or on Twitter @GaryDutery.

Novelist Randy Wayne White says tarpon tournament unsporting, restaurants pull sponsorship

Special thanks to for this article on the sponsors who are already pulling out of the PTTS – Professional Tarpon Tournament Series in Boca Grande, Florida.

Renowned Sanibel Island mystery writer Randy Wayne White has joined a growing grassroots group of anglers who say the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series, which will begin this weekend, is unsporting and putting too much stress on the tarpon fishery.

Organizers of the catch-and-release tournament say the opposition is baseless but have changed some of their rules this year to try to reduce the number of Silver Kings that end up dead. Critics say the changes don’t go far enough.

White, who owns the trademark for the Doc Ford Rum Bar & Grille in which he is a partner, has told tournament organizers that the restaurants on Sanibel and Fort Myers Beach are pulling their sponsorship of the tournament because it allows a style of fishing White considers unethical.

–Eric Staats,

This 100-plus pound silver king tarpon was hooked by Bonita Springs Realtor Jim Gilboy during a weekend fishing trip in Chokoloskee.

This 100-plus pound silver king tarpon was hooked by Bonita Springs Realtor Jim Gilboy during a weekend fishing trip in Chokoloskee.