The jig’s up: Local captain reveals his PTTS tarpon snagging tricks of the trade

The following article, written by former Professional Tarpon Tournament Series (PTTS) participant (and winner), Capt. Andy Boyette, is being republished in its original form with permission.  Obviously, we are not posting this article to help instruct anglers on how to jig fish, rather, to help educate the general public on exactly what jig fishing for tarpon is.  We felt this was important follow-up to the new “Battle in Boca Grande” article published in the Winter 2013 issue of Guy Harvey Magazine and welcome your input in the comments section following his article.

Capt. Andy Boyette is an accomplished tarpon angler and full-time fishing guide in the Charlotte Harbor region.  He no longer participates in jig fishing or the PTTS.   When discussing why he left, Capt. Andy answered, “I want no part of a totally disruptive, rude and obnoxious tournament that blocks other anglers five weekends in a row during prime tarpon season.”

How To Jig Tarpon In Boca Grande Pass

Capt. Andy Boyetteby Capt. Andy Boyette/Go Fish Charters

Edit: It has come to my attention that some may think that I am teaching snagging here but YOU should be aware that this IS the method employed in Boca Grande Pass. Although it is known as jigging, my intent is to educate you so that you can decide for yourself what it is. It should also be noted that I NO LONGER DO THIS AND HAVE NOT FOR SOME TIME NOW.

How to catch tarpon using the Boca Grande jigging method:

In order to be successful you must first understand that this method is not really jigging. The term jigging is a EUPHEMISM that the guides and tournament anglers use. Although this term is used to describe it there is no resemblance to actual jigging.

First, I will go over how this method was developed and then evolved, and the controversy that surrounds it. I cannot say for sure that this was actually the beginning, but it is when the method caught on here. Some may have been experimenting with it long before. In the Nineties there were numerous Boca Grande Pass fishing tournaments with lots of money at stake. Some purses promised as much as $100,000, $200,000, and even up to $1,000,000 to a winning team.

These figures do not include any Calcutta money (cash bet on the side to pick the winner). With so much money at stake and the prestige of claiming the win and bragging rights as the best of the best, many of these tournaments were filled with fishing guides. These tournament anglers began searching for a way to win, which typically means a shortcut that manages to stay within the rules. A few of the successful participants later admitted to and confessed to using the jig method.

At this point the tournament scene split into two factions: live bait only and an open tournament that rarely sees any live bait used but is 99.9% jig fishing. There were law suits filed and FWC mortality studies and hook placement studies to determine if indeed a jig caught fish was snagged, since this was the issue that caused the split of the participants and the players of the Boca Grande Pass Tarpon scene that continues to this day.

I know. I have been in this scene as a guide since 1998. I have lived it and seen it and heard it, been there and done that, and still fish here to this day. I have fished for tarpon (to my own knowledge) in just about every way you can fish for them, including for an 8 year period exclusively with the jig fishing method. I choose now to fish with live bait and various artificial lures, plugs, swim baits, etc.; but I no longer use the method known as jig fishing.

Next, I will explain rigging, techniques, tips, and tricks that work and why they work. Keep in mind here that the FWC along with their own researcher determined this to be a legal means to catch tarpon so no one should contact me or bash me, or question my intentions.

When looking across the jig fishing arena in the Pass it becomes evident that there are a lot of anglers struggling to catch as many fish as some of the others. It’s not hard to look across the Pass and see that there are some boats that seem to be hooking up a lot more than others.

If you think that the few fish you caught were good enough, you should know that when I used this method I could achieve as many as 15-20 hookups a day and sometimes many more if I was fishing with clients that had been taught to use this method in previous seasons. I called them my ” I am going to look good today” clients.

With all that said, forget the term “jigging”. As I stated earlier, it is not jigging. Here is a better term and a better description: FLOSSING or LINING. Do some research if you do not recognize the terms. Google the words “FISH FLOSSING” and you’ll find a few forum discussions and videos on the first page. After some research you then need to think about the presentation of the Boca Grande jig.

Here is one FLOSSING video that has some good footage of the presentation. If you need to, turn your monitor sideways and you will see his hook looks similar to a Boca Grande jig.

When you FLOSS (aka Jig) in Boca Grande it is vertical and the only weight required is attached to the bottom of the hook. The angler is holding the other end of the line to keep the hook straight, and the current and the boat driver will present the bait to a dense school of tarpon balled together. I should interject here that when the fish are not in a dense school in deep water you should put away your jigging rods and get some live bait. It will increase the amount of fish you catch, and that is the objective, after all.


1) Rod should be a medium light to medium power 7 footer with extra fast action. The fast action allows you to be in constant contact with the weight and line and enables you to feel the subtle movements as the tarpon are under your boat.

2) Reel should be 6:1 retrieve. There are a few a bit faster but 6:1 works fine. This allows the line to be retrieved an average of about 4-5 feet for every 1 turn of the reel handle. It should have a long crank arm and speed ball that fits in the palm of the hand for speed, and be capable of holding about 250-300 yards of line. This type of reel with this amount of line gives you the capability of speed reeling your jig through the dense schools of fish.

3) Line should be 40# monofilament. If you can get it, use fluorocarbon. This is because the tarpon are capable of seeing the line, and smaller diameter and/ or fluorocarbon help in concealment. Absolutely do not use braid, not because it hums like many say, but because tarpon see it and move away from your line.

4) Leader should be 80# fluorocarbon no longer than 12 inches for concealment.

5) Octopus circle hooks (offset) 8/0. Not the original style circle hooks but the octopus circles (the ones that look like J hooks with a little bend in the point). This way you cannot be accused of snagging and you will land more tarpon.

5) A Boca Grande Tarpon Jig typically in 4oz weight. If you use non-painted jigs the tarpon cannot see them as well. The better your concealment, the more fish you hook.

How to rig and why:

I will only cover the business end of the rigging since everyone should know to put line on the reel. In order to FLOSS (aka jig) tarpon in Boca Grande Pass you should understand that seldom is a tarpon caught inside the mouth with a tarpon jig. They are mostly all caught on the outside of the mouth in the clipper or the soft tissue of the cheek. I know that many will say that is not true but I caught thousands of tarpon with a tarpon jig and out of the THOUSANDS not more than TEN had the hook inside the mouth.

If there are other guides achieving better results they should take pictures and/ or have their clients verify this. But it really does not matter that it’s hooked on the outside since, as I said earlier, the FWC and their lead researcher determined that this was all legal.

You need to tie a small Bimini twist in the main line. Use the least amount of wraps you can get by with so you have small knots. I used about 15 wraps. My knots were nice and compact, and concealment is important: tarpon see very well. Attach the leader to the Bimini with a uni-to-uni or some other line to line connection, again with as small a knot as possible. Now, and this is critical, the double line of your Bimini where it meets the first knot should only be about 3-4 inches long and the leader should be only 12 inches long. Yes, I said a 3-4 inch long Bimini and 12 inch long leader, and I also said critical.

When you are FLOSSING (aka jigging) tarpon it is about concealment at the hook and above. You need the smallest of knots and the shortest of leaders and 40# line is half the size of the Bimini you just tied and much smaller than the 80# leader. You are about to drop your line down ahead of a dense school of tarpon and drift over them as your line passes by and speed reel your hook a through a stack of tarpon and if you have a long leader the fish see it and separate and are no longer dense under your boat. The great density of fish directly under your boat is the primary requirement of this technique.

How to present the jig:

Presenting the jig is done in tandem by the boat driver and the angler holding the rod. First the boat must be positioned stern into the current so that you can constantly reverse into the current allowing the boat and fishing line to drift at the same speed through the dense schools of tarpon in 40-80 feet of water. In other words, your line must be straight below the tip of the rod, at a near perfect 90 degree angle with the water’s surface, and must be kept that way for the entire drift. There is no exception to this so count it as a rule.

The line cannot be paid out or angled at all. It must be straight down under the rod tip. The rod must be held perfectly still and the jig should be dropped to the very bottom and fished within inches of the bottom. This places the lead just above the bottom hook facing up ready to be retrieved. Once you feel subtle movement like the fish bumping into the line you reel your 6:1, speed handle equipped (4-5 feet retrieved per revolution of the handle) reel as fast as you can.

This is done to drag the line over the fish, and if everything lines up you will hook a tarpon in the side of the cheek or the clipper. If you miss the first one your jig passes, there will be another above, since you should now be hovering above a dense school of tarpon. After all, you are retrieving at 4-5 feet per handle turn as fast as you can. Most of the time it takes 3 to 5 (sometimes more) turns of the handle to hook the fish. If one had actually bit the jig at the bottom it would not have required much more than 1 turn with that much retrieve, since you’re directly above the fish with no slack in your line, and since the hook is heavily weighted, there is little stretch in the line.

There are those who say it is impossible to snag fish with a circle hook. Here is a little test you can do. Set up the jig just as described, on a 4 foot piece of line, said circle hook attached to a 4oz. jig, bend over and put the line across your neck. With the jig now hanging over your neck, take the end of the line that does not have the jig attached to it and pull the jig and hook over your neck. It WILL hook you so be careful.

You might also simulate how the pass works by hanging about 150 tarpon jigs (which would equal a slow day in the pass) from a tree in your yard and then walk through the jigs hanging from the tree. Be careful here too. If you do it fast you might even jump when you get hooked. Most people think circle hooks do not snag. That is incorrect. Circle hooks hook a fish and lessen the chance of gut hooking.

Circle hooks were designed for long line commercial fishermen who put out miles of unattended lines where a fish would bite the bait, swim away and become hooked by snagging themselves. That is how they work. Here is a video which shows how circle hooks can and do snag fish outside the mouth. Notice there is no bait on the hook; it is pulled into the side of the fish’s face. Colorado is the only state I know that made it legal. Google Moffitt Angling System (out of business and ruled to be snagging or foul hooking almost everywhere). Most states say hooking outside the mouth is foul hooking.

Circle hooks hang on the clipper of a Tarpon.

Here are a few tips and tricks that are used in the Pass. The circle hook can be offset more with your pliers making it much more successful. The lead should be unpainted for concealment. When it’s just gray it is more like a shadow. The tails should be narrow and skinny, not the shad style. I used the Cocahoe Minnow from H and H lures. If the water is clear and you are not hooking tarpon, they are seeing your line or your lure. Try biting your tails in half to make them smaller.

After dropping your jig to the bottom you must hold your rod tip pointed at the water and not move it or you will not feel the subtle movements on the line. If the fish are spread out in the pass and not balled up into schools they are difficult to hook because there are fewer chances to FLOSS (aka Jig) one under these conditions. You get fewer chances as you quickly retrieve your jig when there are only a few fish under your boat.

First thing in the morning is the best time because they can’t see the line. If you reel on the first bump you will hook the fish outside in on the clipper, but if you wait and do not reel until the second bump, the line will loop around the tarpon and hook on the opposite side and hook the clipper inside out. Fishing and FLOSSING/LINING (aka jigging) are two different things and if you understand this, you can be better at using the Boca Grande jig.

Remember, the FWC and their leading researcher made this legal, so if you have a problem with this you should contact them, not me. Here is link to the data.

They even call it foul-hooking on their website.

Capt. Andy Boyette

The day the man with nothing to say had nothing to say

Gary Colecchio - Southwest Regional Director of the Florida Guides Association

The Florida Sportsman Forum is usually friendly turf for Gary S. Colecchio, the man with 4,900 posts since June of last year. But it wasn’t so friendly on Sunday, Dec. 16.

It’s not often that PTTS apologist-in-chief Gary S. Colecchio, the fishing forum’s queen bee and the tallest midget in the wrap boat circus, is at a loss for words. But on Sunday, Dec. 16, history of sorts was made. Colecchio, who seldom has anything to say even when he says it, apparently realized he really doesn’t have anything to say.

Not in response to the spanking administered by a poster who goes by the screen name “White Bacon.” And certainly not in response to the interesting account of a fishing trip gone wrong written by RJ Kirker, who coincidentally goes by the screen name of “RJ Kirker.”

The posts have been formatted for our site. They appear here in their entirety. If and when Colecchio is told what to post in reply, we’ll update. If it’s anything worth updating, that is. 

Get out the popcorn and enjoy:

AUTHOR: White Bacon

After having read all the debate, once again there are only a few reasonable conclusions to make regarding the now infamous gutted tarpon, first captured by the PTTS.

The gutted tarpon in question was proven to have been caught and released by a PTTS participant during a PTTS tournament. It was observed dead the next day, apparently gutted to prevent it from floating. The PTTS vehemently denies the gutting, and Gary C doesn’t buy any reasonable explanation without “supreme court level proof.” Glad to see nothing has changed with Gary or the PTTS.

Assuming that the PTTS’ claims are true, one must conclude that the previously hooked, gaffed, dragged, and weighed tarpon survived the initial PTTS trauma. Then you must make a galactic leap and believe this battered tarpon was caught again within hours of release by thePTTS and correctly identified by the second angler to be one of the weighed fish from the PTTS held the previous day. Then…..the sinister second angler guts the tarpon in an effort to further impugn the PTTS record of “catch-and-release”success.

It’s beyond laughable to believe that such a scenario is even plausible. I can’t imagine anyone with at least a third grade education would consider such an outlandish tale. Mercurio strongly denies any PTTS involvement related to the tarpon gutting. Gary C demands proof!

Colecchio and Mercurio remind us of Johnny Cochran and OJ Simpson. At least the tale spun by Cochran and Simpson while laughable, was conceivable.

I think we can all agree Colecchio and Mercurio are intelligent people. For them to make such outlandish statements only solidifies the intentional intellectual dishonesty they continually spew in their defense of the shameless pursuit of profits, and the total disregard for fellow anglers and the tarpon fishery the PTTS routinely exploits.

Mercurio and Colecchio have cemented themselves in the ‘Zero Credibility’ Hall of Fame.

(RJ is writing in response to an earlier post where Gary S. Colecchio claimed Save The Tarpon was “picking” on him because Save The Tarpon feared him. In fact, RJ figured it out. Read on …)

Mr. Colecchio, I’m guessing Save The Tarpon isn’t showering you with all this attention because you’re feared by them. I think they’re doing it because they want to make you the public face of the PTTS. If so, every word you write plays into their strategy. As someone who supports the efforts of Save The Tarpon and the FWC to protect and grow our local fishery, I encourage you to keep right on posting.

Yes, Mr. Colecchio, this is my first post. I figured you would point this out based on your habit of attacking the messenger and ignoring the message. But my husband and I, both avid anglers who retired to the area a few years ago, have been following this issue very closely for reasons that are very personal. This is apparent by my “join” date. Like you, we commend the PTTS for its promise to stop gaffing and weighing these fish. It’s a good start. Promises can be broken, however. By creating a sport fish designation and ending possession, the FWC is doing the right thing by making the PTTS promise official.

We joined Save The Tarpon for the very reason you’ve been advocating throughout this thread. Public access. You say you don’t fish the Pass, so you really don’t know what is happening there in May and June. We can no longer fish when the PTTS holds its tournaments. It’s a small sacrifice, but considering your view on this issue it’s one no angler should be forced to make. I read where the PTTS describes the situation during its tournaments as “chaos.” That’s an understatement.

We made the mistake of hooking up while leisurely drifting a hundred yards or so from where a pod of PTTS boats was circling and swarming. They obviously noticed. Within 30 seconds we were surrounded. Our line was run over and cut, and someone on a loud speaker was demanding we get out of “their” way. A boat with “law enforcement” on its side was standing off and witnessed what was happening to us. The officer on board looked the other way and did nothing.

We eventually escaped, but the lesson was learned. It was unlike anything we had ever experienced in all our years on the water. I honestly feared my husband was going to have a heart attack unless I beat him to it. This was supposed to be a leisurely morning of fishing.

I later went online and emailed the tournament to describe what had happened. I received a terse unsigned reply telling me the PTTS was “licensed” by the state to conduct these tournaments and that recreational anglers and their boats were obligated to yield or risk prosecution. Yet you have the gall to suggest Save The Tarpon is out to exclude others? Mr. Colecchio, you need a reality check.

Save The Tarpon got two new members as a result of what happened to us that day. We also learned we weren’t alone, that many others just like us were turning to the group for help. As it’s obvious the PTTS will only change its ways unless its back is to the wall, this appears to be the only solution. No group is perfect, but these people are the best hope we have at the moment.

So help them out and please keep posting.

NON-RESPONSE: Gary S. Colecchio


AUTHOR: White Bacon

Captain Gary,

Man, so glad you couldn’t resist. Tell us again, based on the allegations cited in this thread, how the tarpon gutting can be logically explained? Option one: The PTTS did it. Option two: The STT sympathizers did it (although implausible).

Please, please give your superior explanation, so us dumb hicks can understand. Thanks.

NON-RESPONSE: Gary S. Colecchio

“Must be a boring day in Matlache.”

AUTHOR: White Bacon

Or Boca Grande. So I’m assuming you have no credible explanation? Didn’t Joe send you the talking points? I think you’re slipping. Say it ain’t so……..

NON-RESPONSE: Gary S. Colecchio

(There was no response.)

AUTHOR: White Bacon

Captain Gary,

I really have missed the forums, and the verbal combat with you. Some of us in the real world rely on anecdotal and circumstantial evidence, absent applicable physical evidence or scientific evidence, which you often cite and rely on.

I don’t need a study to confirm the government spends too much, that there are currently 150 snook under my dock, or that you continually promulgate irrelevant arguments, always relying on your superior intellect and writing skills to deflect from the real issues.

It’s not surprising at all that you cower when challenged. Make sure you and Joe get your stories straight, I’d hate to impeach your credibility further.

Colecchio ‘exposes’ imaginary plot to gut tarpon, frame PTTS

Gary Colecchio wants to believe, too.Our old friend and unrepentant PTTS apologist Gary S. Colecchio should probably come down from the grassy knoll, take off the foil beanie and consider the absurdity of the odd little conspiracy theory he’s been trying to peddle to his fish forum followers in recent days.

In a shrill attempt to be relevant again, Colecchio wants his forum friends to believe the now-famous dead tarpon that researchers have linked to a June 3 PTTS event was, in his alternative reality, gutted by someone affiliated with Save The Tarpon. Why? To make the tournament look bad – or, more accurately – worse.

To get his theory to work, Colecchio has resorted to inventing a nameless Save The Tarpon renegade evil genius he’s endowed with the power to magically defy all known laws of probability while simultaneously proving to be the most clueless person on the planet.

While he’s understandably vague on the mechanics at work here, Colecchio claims his purported STT perp cold-bloodedly gutted the fish with some mystic mathematical expectation that it would, miraculously, later be found floating by some random passing boater. A person Save The Tarpon’s evil genius somehow calculated the fates would put in precisely the right place at precisely the right time. A person with absolutely no affiliation with Save The Tarpon. Someone who happened, just happened, to have a FWRI-issued DNA sampling kit on board.

Sure, Gary. Heard from Elvis lately?

But there’s a bigger problem with Colecchio’s conspiracy conjuring. It’s the floating part. The supposed purpose of slitting open a tarpon from tip to tail is, obviously, to make the corpse sink. The fish, DNA and all, goes to the bottom, never to be seen again. Which is pretty much what all of us, if we happened to be in a tarpon gutting mood, would reasonably expect to happen.

In other words, to simulate an attempt to sink the evidence, you would most likely wind up doing exactly that. You’d sink the evidence. Brilliant! Colecchio’s theory essentially requires you to believe something he doesn’t: Save The Tarpon’s master of dirty tricks was apparently smart enough to come up with this convoluted scheme, but too stupid to realize the evidence would most probably head straight for the bottom.

The fact that the eviscerated PTTS tarpon didn’t wind up sleeping with the fishes baffles even the most experienced and knowledgeable Pass hands – a group that doesn’t, by his own admission, include Colecchio. But our old friend has never left an absence of knowledge or experience get in the way of a good fish forum post.

Tarpon are naturally buoyant  Unless you cut them open. Then they stop being buoyant  Whoever cut open that PTTS tarpon did a thorough job of it. Based on the photos and descriptions provided the FWRI, that gutted PTTS tarpon and its PTTS DNA shouldn’t have been floating in the Gulf near Boca Grande Pass on the morning of June 4.

It should, by all reasoning, have sunk. There should, by all reasoning, have been no possibility it would be found by a passing boater with a camera and a DNA kit just one day after it was caught, gaffed, dragged and sampled. It and its DNA shouldn’t, by all reasoning, have been found lifelessly treading water a day after taking a ride on the PTTS scales. By all reasoning, the fish should have vanished without a trace after it was hauled away to be “revived” by the PTTS Tires Plus Release Team.

But you know what they say about karma.

The case against the PTTS is, of course, largely circumstantial. There’s no question the fish was last seen, supposedly alive, in the loving care of the tournament’s Tires Plus Release Team. Also known as “opportunity.” Slitting it from tip to tail required nothing more than a knife. This falls into the category of “means.” Then there’s the third requirement. “Motive.” You can be the judge on this one.

Colecchio is demanding proof the gutted tarpon was the work of the PTTS. The case, as it stands, is largely circumstantial. But you can ask the folks in prison about circumstantial evidence. Colecchio is also demanding Save The Tarpon prove it didn’t do it.

Aside from the commonly accepted near-impossibility of disproving a negative, the facts as they’re known and the sheer idiocy of Colecchio’s “sink the tarpon so it doesn’t sink” theory, we’re left with nothing but a few photos, a video record of the June 3 tournament, the observations of scientists at the Florida Wildlife Research Institute and two matching DNA samples.

Next thing you know, Colecchio will be demanding to see the tarpon’s birth certificate.

Going viral! Save The Tarpon’s Facebook success draws media spotlight

Facebook | Save the Tarpon

Save the Tarpon’s Facebook page helps supporters stay in touch with day-to-day developments.

Sometimes it requires a world-wide community of anglers coming together to speak out for our fisheries. Thank you to everyone who has “liked” our page and signed our petition. Your efforts have been instrumental to the Save the Tarpon campaign. This meaningful collaboration of support, concern and activism will ultimately Save the Tarpon of Boca Grande Pass. Keep up the great work!

The following column, written by Gary Dutery, was published in the December 7, 2012 edition of the Sun-Herald.  Here’s a link to the original article.

It’s 9:53 a.m. in the city and, as they say on the radio, The! Hits! Just! Keep! On! Coming! Right now, they’re running about three a minute. From Argentina, Brazil, Spain — oops, there’s one from France and another from the United Kingdom. Wait. What? Angola?

Nope, not talking some 500 watt AM station bouncing tunes and static off the moon to a handful of listeners around the planet. And, technically, we’re not even talking hits. This is Facebook. And they’re called “likes,” the new cutting edge gold standard currency of today’s social media industry.

Sitting in her upstairs office just off Placida Road, Jennifer Scott McLaughlin is at the helm of what could easily pass for Mission Control. Her eyes shift from one monitor to another as she mentally parses the “metrics” being harvested from the World Wide Web, numbers that tell the story of a local effort gone beyond “viral.”

For the past few months, McLaughlin has been spearheading a social media and Internet campaign that began on a narrow strip of beach in Boca Grande in June, one that has since orbited the planet many times over. “We just hit 100 in Guatemala,” she says. As she’s speaking, the screen refreshes. “No, make that 105.” Yeah, it happens that fast.

The “We” is Save the Tarpon Inc., a homegrown effort to change the way business is done in Boca Grande Pass — aka “The Tarpon Fishing Capital of the World.” On Wednesday, the all-volunteer group scored a win as the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission unanimously approved language the Florida non-profit organization hopes will ultimately result in tarpon becoming a strict catch-andrelease species.

Gary Dutery | Sun-Herald Columnist

Gary Dutery, a Sun-Harald columnist, was yet another witness to the incredible changes social media can spur on.

Facebook says the group has piled up more than 6,065 “likes” with a global “reach” of 2.7 million people who have been exposed, one locally engineered way or another, to Save the Tarpon’s message.

The Pass, as the locals call the entrance to Charlotte Harbor, is no stranger to fish feuds. But the advent of social media has made this one different. It’s not just two bar stools grousing at each other these days. The whole world is watching this one play out.

At the center of the controversy is a locally owned televised tarpon fishing tournament, one that Save the Tarpon and its supporters are seeking to reform. Folks in these parts take their fishin’ seriously. In June, roughly 50 people stood on the shore near the Port Boca Grande Lighthouse to vent their frustration and opposition to nearly everything the tournament was doing. It was just the beginning.

At the top of the group’s list was a request — make that a demand — for the event to halt what McLaughlin calls “gaff and drag.” Larger tarpon caught by tournament competitors have their lower jaw pierced by a large stainless steel hook known as a gaff. They are then roped and, using her words “dragged” to a scale to be hoisted and weighed.

That’s how it used to work. Less than three months after that humble beach protest (organized through another Facebook page), the tournament abruptly announced it would voluntarily stop weighing tarpon. Instead, tarpon will now be measured right at the boat rather than weighed on the beach. The numbers will be plugged into a formula to determine the weight of the fish. It will then be released. No more gaff, no more drag.

“We were hovering at about a few hundred ‘likes’ back then,” McLaughlin says. “Our website was drawing more visitors than our Facebook page. But they, and the FWC, clearly saw something was happening.” In fact, by the time the tournament did its about-face in September, the commissioners had already signaled the direction they were ultimately headed on the tarpon release issue.

“We were pretty much stuck at around three or four Facebook likes a day,” she recalls. “I knew we could do better.” McLaughlin threw herself into the social media thing, temporarily setting aside the paints, brushes and easels that are the tools of her trade, to master the geek speak of “reach” and “exposure” and “optimization.” And, of course, “metrics,” whatever they are. It worked.

McLaughlin says she had hoped Save the Tarpon’s Facebook page would, perhaps, “go kind of viral.” Instead, it went totally pandemic.

“You reach one person who reaches 100 of their friends who reach thousands of their friends, and so on and so on until someone in Suriname is clicking the ‘like’ button.” Suriname? Hard to believe, until you see that Save the Tarpon’s Facebook “reach” in the Dutch-speaking South American nation recently topped 800.

“Three months ago, we didn’t have 800 of anything,” she says with a laugh. “The cool thing about this is that people who otherwise wouldn’t know a tarpon from tadpole are reaching out and asking questions. Or you get someone in Bogota, or wherever, who promises not to buy a certain brand of beer because the company that makes it is a tournament sponsor. Do they even sell it there?”

The page in front of her refreshes again. Four more “likes” in half as many minutes. Friends of friends of friends from across the planet. All tuned, via the web, to a tiny room just off the main drag in Cape Haze.

It’s a new world, one where the voices of 50 people can become 500,000 almost overnight with just a few clicks of a mouse. And, as McLaughlin will tell you, it’s all measured in mastering the metrics. Whatever they are.

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

Your financial support of Save The Tarpon Inc. helped us reach out and tell our story to those more than 2.7 million people. As a result, the world really is watching what’s taking place in Boca Grande Pass and in Tallahassee. Make no mistake, your voice is being heard. We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished together, but much remains to be done to ensure the future of our tarpon fishery for generations to come. Want to learn how you can help? It’s easy. Just give us a click here. And once again, thanks for your support!


Sapp, PTTS crank up the noise machine – let the damage control follies begin!

Seems Capt. Troy Sapp just might have some explaining to do. And this time, it likely won’t be on some obscure Internet fishing forum.

As we all know, dead tarpon are commonly found floating, beached, bloated and sometimes gutted in or around Boca Grande Pass in the wake of Professional Tarpon Tournament Series weekend events in May and June.

The televised tarpon tournament’s viewers are “treated” to shots of the self-described “organized chaos” of the fight, the catch, the gaff and the drag across the Pass to the scales. What those basic cable subscribers aren’t seeing, however, is what takes place the following day – when the cameras have stopped rolling and the tournament’s touted “Tires Plus Release Team” is nowhere to be found.

After the  PTTS packs up and moves on, the rest of us are, of course, left to deal with the tournament’s morning-after, dead tarpon hangover.  With the creation of the Save the Tarpon this past May, the group joined with state researchers to  focus on DNA sampling what was left of these fish in an effort to learn how – and perhaps why – so many were turning up dead in the tournament’s aftermath. This week the answers began to emerge.

Capt Troy Sapp, Team Yamaha

Capt. Troy Sapp, high-profile PTTS participant and VP of the Florida Guides Association, drags a tarpon to the weigh scale for Team Yamaha.

As most of us have already learned, on June 4  a gutted and dead tarpon was found floating in the Gulf of Mexico not far from Boca Grande Pass less than 24 hours after the PTTS, its cameras and NASCAR-clone wrap boats had left town. A DNA sample was taken and sent, along with several others that day, to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute in St. Petersburg.  Months later, this gutted  fish was positively identified by its DNA as a ‘recapture’ that had been caught, weighed and DNA sampled by Capt. TJ Stewart of Team Castaway Charters and Edgewater Boats during the previous day’s PTTS event.

When last seen, this fish was being hauled to the deepest waters of the Pass to be “revived” by the Tires Plus Release Team. When next seen, it was dead. Slit open from tip to tail in an apparent and botched attempt to send the fish – telltale DNA and all – to the bottom.

Enter Sapp. He’s a Tampa-area fishing guide. He’s a  high-profile participant in the PTTS where he and his Team Yamaha Skeeter boat enjoy plenty of cable TV face time. He’s also senior vice president of the Florida Guides Association.  And in recent days, as the FWRI’s initial DNA study results were being released,  Sapp has taken the point as the damage control guy for the PTTS, his sponsorship deal with Yamaha and, of course, himself.

Here’s what Sapp scrawled on the Maverick Boat Company’s Internet forum on December 4, 2012. Let’s call this one Exhibit A:

“The STT campaign who’s (sic) sole purpose is to run out of town guides off are the ones that gutted that fish after they found it floating to promote their cause. Yes it died after release, but no one needs to hide anything.”

It died after release. A perplexing admission from someone who, just days earlier, was still beating the PTTS drum, repeatedly insisting the tournament can’t possibly be blamed for those schools of dead fish routinely found floating in the Pass or washed up on Boca Grande’s beaches in the immediate aftermath of PTTS events. Seems Sapp forgot all about those FWRI scientists in St. Pete who are still sitting on a small mountain of tarpon DNA samples.

And what Sapp also didn’t know as he flogged away on the fish forums, is that among those imaginary dead PTTS tarpon was a very real dead PTTS tarpon. And it was easily and positively traced back to Sapp’s Team Yamaha Skeeter boat. Sapp’s Team Yamaha, the DNA revealed, had scored its own PTTS tarpon kill.

He likely didn’t know that researchers had scooped the now-dead fish from the Pass less than 45 minutes after Sapp’s Team Yamaha Skeeter boat had towed the tarpon to the scales during Week 2 of the Women’s PTTS competition. That’s where the initial DNA sample was taken and recorded. And DNA doesn’t lie.

Dead Tarpon on Beach of Boca Grande Pass

This tarpon was found the day following a PTTS tournament.

Chalk one up to science.

But let’s get back to Sapp’s tin foil helmet claim that “the STT campaign … are the ones that gutted that fish after they found it floating.” It doesn’t merit a response. And it’s not getting one. Not here, that is. But let’s take a moment to revisit the facts:

1) The fish in question was DNA sampled during week 4 of the PTTS as having been weighed in at 124 lbs by Capt. TJ Stewart on June 3.

2) The fish in question was found dead and sampled again the next day,  June 4.

Sapp, however, is recklessly alleging the fish was gutted by some unknown but disgruntled local tarpon fishing captain trying to stop out-of-town guides, like Sapp,  from running carpetbagger charters on a part-time seasonal basis. It’s a dangerous stretch.

3) The fish in question was found floating on June 4 by a boater who seasonally fishes the Pass and surrounding water.

No, it wasn’t discovered, photographed and DNA sampled by some disgruntled “disenfranchised” local Save the Tarpon stooge, as Sapp wants you to believe. Kathy Guindon, PhD, who heads up the FWRI’s Tarpon Genetic Recapture Study, said the boater who found the fish – someone with no strong local ties or any affiliation with Save the Tarpon – decided to document the recapture with a photograph and DNA sample. Guindon said the boater – an experienced tarpon angler – knew immediately that the fish had been intentionally gutted.  And why.

But over in Sapp World, here’s what supposedly happened. A card-carrying member of Save the Tarpon found the bloated tarpon and gutted it. He’s not real clear how this Save the Tarpon type would know the fish had been caught the previous day by the PTTS. But we can let this one slide for the moment. Back to Sapp World, where Troy’s Save the Tarpon evil genius had cleverly calculated that, despite the hundreds of boats and boaters that were on the water that day, the one to stumble across the sabotaged tarpon would, miraculously, be armed with a DNA sample kit.

Makes sense to us. But strap on the tin foil hats. There’s more.

4) Chances of finding a dead intact tarpon floating near Boca Grande Pass in May and June are exceptionally remote.  The strong tides, high levels of shark activity, and many other variables mean an overwhelming majority of dead tarpon will, in fact, go unnoticed.  The odds of finding the same dead tarpon two times in less than 24 hours rival your chances of carting home the Powerball jackpot.

So once again, how did Sapp’s imaginary left-wing Save The Tarpon environmental extremist know this fish, among tens of thousands of other fish, came from the PTTS? Was it wearing a Team Yamaha tee shirt?  Unless, of course, the boater who discovered the fish already suspected  a majority of the dead fish found floating in or near the Pass are part of the collateral PTTS damage  Sapp and the PTTS noise machine say the tournament’s critics have invented.

Sapp repeatedly claims fish weighed in the PTTS are subject to the same mortality rate as all other catch and release fishing.  Unfortunately for Sapp, there’s the FWRI’s Dr. Guindon, the same Dr. Guindon whose seven-year-old study on tarpon mortality rates has, in the past, been repeatedly referenced by Sapp and friends. But that was then. Along came 2010, when the same Dr. Guindon did some additional research. Her newest findings?

“Preliminary results from research conducted in 2010 shows that the tournament weigh in procedures of the PTTS physiologically stress the Tarpon more so than catch-and-release recreational fishery that does not have a weigh in procedure that involves towing the fish.” Also, from the same source, “one can presume that mortality rates are higher in these weighed-in, longer handled fish.” For the record, Dr. Guindon was talking about the PTTS.

Two years later, after her newest study was published, Sapp and the gaff and drag gang at the PTTS  had suddenly put the now-inconvenient Guindon on Ignore. They continued to boast that they were, incredibly, doing what was “best for the fish.”  In fact, Joe Mercurio, general manager and host of the PTTS, looked into the camera on June 17 and told his audience that gaff and drag had “absolutely zero impact on the survival of the fish.” Kathy? Kathy who?

The PTTS noise machine, of course, doesn’t stop here. June 4, 2012 is a date Mercurio, Sapp and the PTTS would like to pretend never happened. And for good reason. In Part II, we’ll explain why. Stay tuned.

(NOTE: The moderators over at the Maverick Boat Company’s Internet forum apparently agree. Sapp’s post has been removed.)

NOTE: One week after publication of the original story, the PTTS broke its official silence and issued a statement denying any involvement or responsibility. The statement is contained within the comments that follow, or it can be found here




Busted! DNA test links gutted, dead tarpon to PTTS

Capt. T.J. Stewart of Team Castaway Charters and Edgewater Boats is a proud Professional Tarpon Tournament Series competitor. In fact, Stewart brought home first place in this year’s June 17 PTTS “Tarpon Cup,” the tournament’s Must See TV season-ending championship event. For his efforts, Skeeter boats forked over the keys to a brand new ZX-22 “Bay” with a Yamaha SHO strapped to the stern.

Stewart’s equally proud of his contributions to the ongoing Mote Marine/FWC DNA study. In fact, Stewart was recently recognized as one of Florida’s “top 10” DNA samplers. It’s a pretty straight-forward business. Anglers “swab” their tarpon, including those caught during PTTS events, and send the samples off to St. Petersburg where scientists do their science thing.

Dead Gutted PTTS Tarpon

This 124-pound tarpon, found gutted and floating in the Gulf of Mexico on June 4. It was cut open in a failed attempt to send the fish to the bottom so it couldn’t be DNA tested and traced back to the PTTS. This fish, with belly intact, had been sampled the previous day at the PTTS scales.

Just as Stewart did two weeks earlier when he boated, gaffed, dragged, hoisted and weighed a 124-pounder. “You just gotta try and take care of this fish, that’s why we’re here and … there’s nothing better.” Stewart’s tarpon was DNA sampled, of course, by the Florida Wildlife Research Institute. The next morning, Stewart’s fish was sampled again. But this time, Stewart’s fish was dead.

Very dead, in fact. Stewart’s 124-pounder was found floating near Boca Grande Pass in the Gulf of Mexico, a few hundred yards from shore. Last seen being hauled away from the scales behind the Sea Hunt-sponsored, “Tires Plus Release Team” boat, the “revived” fish had been gutted from tip to tail in an obvious attempt to send it to the bottom. A second DNA sample was taken. This, too, was sent to St. Pete.

Researchers say DNA doesn’t lie. There’s no question the gutted fish photographed and swabbed on June 4 was the same fish caught, swabbed and given to the PTTS “Tires Plus Release Team” on June 3 by Team Castaway Charters and Edgewater Boats. To be revived, or so the PTTS claims.

“I don’t know why they would do that,” said FWRI Assistant Research Scientist Kathy Guindon. “I don’t know why they wouldn’t give the fish a chance to survive.” Guindon agreed it was likely Stewart’s tarpon was gutted after being turned over to the Tires Plus “Release Team.” Hiding the evidence? After viewing photos of Stewart’s eviscerated fish, Guindon said what happened to the tarpon wasn’t nature’s doing. It was intentional. And it wasn’t shown to the basic cable audience.

Early results of this year’s study show six fish that were originally DNA sampled during the tournament’s 2012 season were caught or found at a later date. Four, including the one that had been gutted after being placed in the care of the Tires Plus “Release Team,” were dead. Guindon characterized a fifth fish as “suspicious.” Guindon told Save The Tarpon that “research results did show the weighed in fish are more physiologically stressed. One can presume that mortality rates are higher in these weighed-in, longer-handled fish.”

PTTS Team Edgewater Boats Castaway Charters

With Capt. TJ Stewart at the helm, Team Castaway Charters/Edgewater Boats fights the tarpon that would be found gutted and floating June 4 in the Gulf of Mexico near the mouth of Boca Grande Pass.

The covert PTTS fish-gutting revealed by the DNA samples in the FWRI’s possession likely took place virtually under the noses of the same researchers the PTTS claims to support. In September, PTTS television host and spokesman Joe Mercurio stood in front of the seven FWC commissioners and boasted “the PTTS has worked closely with biologists from (the) Fish and Wildlife Institute to make sure we all benefit from the best science available.”

We know better. The FWC now knows better. It has the evidence. And there’s no way the PTTS can really get around this one. When that 124-pound tarpon’s guts were cut open, it wasn’t done for science. It wasn’t the “PTTS working closely with biologists.” It wasn’t “to make sure we all benefit from the best science available.” It was a desperate attempt to keep a lie alive. Or, as Mercurio wrote the day following Stewart’s “Tarpon Cup” victory: “We would like to especially thank the release teams that did such an amazing job releasing these tarpon healthy.”

Joe, look at the photo.

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Rich History…Priceless Future – the Tarpon of Boca Grande Pass

This educational short film and documentary preview, Rich History…Priceless Future – the Tarpon of Boca Grande Pass is presented by the Boca Grande Area Chamber of Commerce. It was written, produced and edited by Sean Paxton and Brooks Paxton II and made in the USA by Think Out Loud Productions. For more information about this short film and the upcoming full-length feature documentary, please visit:

What A Difference A Summer Can Make!

By: Heather Taylor

We are recent 180-degree converts from being avid PTTS fans to passionate advocates of saving the tarpon of Boca Grande Pass.  My husband, Kevin, and I not only watched the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series on television, we even recorded it on our DVR so as not to miss a single episode.  I “liked” them on Facebook.  I even got a little thrill when I saw PTTS host, Joe Mercurio, at a restaurant.  But that was then, and this is now…

My husband is an avid fisherman.  He has fished in the Pass and surrounding area for over 20 years.  His most recent passion, which he took up about a year ago, is fly fishing.  He has instilled a passion for fishing in our two teenage daughters and it is one of our favorite family pastimes.

Jig Fishing for Tarpon in Early Morning

This past spring we enlisted a Realtor to help us find a vacation home in the place we love to spend our free time;  the place we love to fish; the place that hosts this tournament we love to watch on TV.  We have spent a lot of time in the area since March.

What we discovered this spring and early summer about the PTTS was shocking and heartbreaking.  The PTTS had misled us and so many other viewers into believing that they are an ethical catch and release tournament which promotes conservation. But we saw with our own eyes that this is simply NOT the truth.

It doesn’t take a marine biologist to watch the hoard of boats pound the fish ruthlessly day after day to understand that what is happening is bad news for the fishery.  Also, the tackle and technique is simply unfair to these magnificent fish.  What we saw during and after the tournament was tragic evidence of this … massive female tarpon floating in the pass or washed up on the beach and lost forever.  Finally, the majority of the old timers my husband interacted with during the season indicated it was one of the worst ever.  The fish were not only sparse and inconsistent, but very skittish when present.

The PTTS supporters would like to make people believe that they are a huge economic boost to Boca Grande, but I do not even think that is the case. We rented both on and off the island during our home-buying process.  Our experience was that the PTTS folks rent elsewhere in the area, for the most part, and do not spend a significant amount of money on the island.

Those renting on island at that time of the year are predominantly those who have vacationed there and fished recreationally for years.  Other than Millers (Boca Grande Marina), we never saw PTTS participants at a restaurant where we dine (The Temp, South Beach, Sisters, the Gasparilla Inn and The Pink Elephant).

The PTTS has to be stopped.  It is so sickeningly against the ethical treatment of animals, I do not see how it has continued this long! What can we do to stop it?  Please tell us.  We are 100 percent on board with all efforts to stop this travesty of “sport” fishing!

Do you have a story to share? We would love to hear it.  Email us at


New PTTS ‘economics’ angle flunks out with the FWC

PTTS Host, Joe Mercurio

Joe Mercurio, PTTS Host

While continuing to argue with itself over whether it supports catch and release (“We will no longer allow teams to gaff, tow, and weigh in their catch”) or whether it opposes catch and release (“We do not support eliminating harvest for tarpon”), the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series and its chief economist Joe Mercurio have apparently decided it really is, on second thought, all about money.

Not theirs. That’s understood. Suddenly, it’s all about yours. The people who once seemingly claimed fish actually like to be gaffed and dragged have subtly switched gears and are now touting their home video cable TV show as an economic engine rivaling the state’s aerospace industry.

Mercurio put his employer’s fabricated fiscal self importance on full view at September’s meeting of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in Tampa. It didn’t fly.

“From its inception, the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series has been conducted in a sporting manner with an emphasis on promoting conservation and the sport of tarpon fishing in Boca Grande.” There’s a trait the FWC commissioners have acquired over the years. The ability to keep a straight face. With Mercurio at the podium, it was about to be tested.

Mercurio’s mistake was a common one. He tried to be too clever. If you think you’re the smartest person in the room, you better be right. Mercurio clearly wasn’t. And it was obvious on the faces of the commissioners, especially when he began playing economic make-believe. Joe was selling. The FWC clearly wasn’t buying.

When you stand before seven politically sophisticated people trained in the fine art of reading between the lines as they’re being fed half-truths told by actual professionals, the strained and amateurish phrasing of something like “our television show that is broadcast throughout North America and available in over 44 million homes” won’t get you very far.

Mecurio saw it as a clever little twist on words. The commissioners saw it as an attempt to play them for a bunch of dolts. Not the best way to win friends and influence the very people with the power to turn off the lights and declare your little party over.

Mercurio smugly calculated they’d hear “available in over 44 million homes,” swoon at the size of the number and not have the brights to mentally call him out. “Available?” Mercurio didn’t think they’d catch on. While his little TV fishing show might be “available” in those 44 million homes wired for cable or satellite, it doesn’t mean anybody’s watching. But it sure makes you sound important. Or so Mercurio thought.

A little harmless half truth normally isn’t a big deal. Unless you make it the cornerstone for your case that the PTTS is a Southwest Florida economic powerhouse that’s the only thing standing between a chicken in every pot and the locals being forced to take up sharecropping.

Mercurio needed to get the FWC to suspend disbelief and buy into those 44 million homes with mom, dad and the kids glued to endless rebroadcasts of shark attacks and gill-hooked fish being dragged through the Pass. He was desperately reaching to bolster his fabrication that “the PTTS events and television show provide a significant economic boost to Florida, and specifically Boca Grande and the surrounding areas.” But with his nose buried in his script, Mercurio didn’t notice what the rest of us saw. The commissioners had already stopped listening.

Mercurio, quite simply, had out-clevered himself. For all the FWC cared at that point, he could have spent the remainder of his time tap dancing to Zippity Doo Da while balancing beach balls on his nose. But the PTTS host, who probably should have stopped at “Good Afternoon Commissioners,” wasn’t through. It was about to get worse.

Mercurio boasted the PTTS attracts over 500 participants during the two months it confiscates Boca Grande Pass. That’s a cumlulative total, of course. In other words, if the same 50 people were to each fish 10 events, you’d get 500 “participants.” This one is actually true. Just one problem.

As the FWC already knows, non-PTTS recreational tarpon anglers account for more than 268,000 “participants” locally. As recently reported in the Charlotte Sun, more than 26,900 people are repeatedly drawn to Boca Grande Pass from our four county area during the same two months the PTTS comes to town. While Mercurio might not think so, the FWC can count.

Mercuro said many PTTS participants “live 100 miles or more away from Boca Grande.” In other words, Tampa. Because his anglers travel these vast distances, Mercurio told the commissioners “local hotels, resorts, rental companies, and restaurants benefit from their need for lodging and sustenance. These tourists and their families often purchase food and drinks, fishing equipment, and other goods and services from local merchants.”

Maybe he was talking about the vending machines at the Placida Boat Ramp. The commissioners know our hotels, resorts, rental companies and restaurants aren’t staying afloat on whatever business the PTTS brings in. Those 26,900 other people are a different story, however.

The FWC staff and commissioners also understand the host community hasn’t exactly embraced the PTTS. It’s hardly a secret. They also know PTTS participants don’t go out of their way to embrace Boca Grande. Or, for that matter, much of anything south of the Sunshine Skyway. It’s fair to say Team Yamaha shirts are probably a poor wardrobe choice if you plan on stopping by most island watering holes for a post-tournament beverage. Not one Boca Grande business is a PTTS sponsor or advertiser. Why not?

When the FWC put Mercurio on “ignore,” the commissioners likely missed out on the message that because of the PTTS “millions of people are exposed to the incredible fishing and wonderful attributes the Boca Grande area and Charlotte Harbor offers to tourists.” While the number is bloated, the message is unfortunately true. Just ask the Boca Grande Area Chamber of Commerce.

Earlier this year, a chamber delegation traveled to the Ft. Lauderdale Boat Show to promote the World’s Richest Tarpon Tournament. They had five tarpon trips to give away. There were no takers. Not one. Seems the people who attend boat shows also watch fishing shows. Most were all too familiar with the PTTS. The commissioners know the story.

Nobody wanted anything to do with Boca Grande tarpon fishing. Not after seeing what goes on when the PTTS takes over the Pass. Mercurio says the PTTS cable TV show with its “controlled chaos” brings anglers to the Pass. The anglers and the chamber say otherwise. It’s keeping them away.

FWC Chairman Kenneth Wright made it clear that the protections envisioned through the proposed designation of tarpon as a “sport fish” here in Florida are designed to make sure we continue to attract a steady flow of recreational anglers to the fishery. Wright and his fellow commissioners are serious people who, contrary to the message Mercurio seemed to be sending their way in Tampa, weren’t appointed to the FWC because they randomly fell off some melon wagon.

They get it. They know Boca Grande Pass generates more than $100 million in economic impact just from Southwest Florida alone. They have seen the estimates showing our world famous tarpon fishery translates into more than $300 million from beyond our borders. The numbers, they know, are big. And the stakes are high.

The PTTS, with its clown costumed anglers and demolition derby wrap boats, has turned this vital economic resource into a comic strip creation that has distorted the world view of our historic tarpon fishery. The commissioners, like us, know what tarpon fishing is and what it’s supposed to be. They also know it’s not that traveling made-for-TV menagerie Mercurio and his carpetbagger carnival are piping into the upper reaches of those 44 million cable converter boxes.

They might be inclined to buy into some of Mercurio’s economic alchemy if this whole business wasn’t such serious business. But that, after all, is just one of many points the PTTS is missing. No amount of pretend conservation babble can wipe clean the stain the PTTS has left on public perception. The FWC clearly understands how this ultimately translates into empty hotel rooms, empty restaurants, empty shops, empty boats and empty pockets.

The FWC isn’t out to rescue our tarpon fishery. It isn’t out to sustain our tarpon fishery. It wants to grow our tarpon fishery. It’s part of the commission’s goal to make certain Florida remains the “Fishing Capital of the World.” It knows this doesn’t happen if the “Tarpon Fishing Capital of the World” is allowed to become a perverse parody of the history and tradition that has made Boca Grande Pass the ultimate destination for generations of sport fishing enthusiasts.

The PTTS now says it wants to talk economics. It’s a conversation we believe is long overdue.


Guides, STT agree to take differing routes to a common goal

Boca Grande Fishing Guides Association (BGFGA)Save The Tarpon Inc. respects the decision of the Boca Grande Fishing Guides Association Inc. to pursue its own organizational goals relating to tarpon fishing in Boca Grande Pass. We are pleased that many individual members of the guides association have pledged their continuing support for Save The Tarpon Inc.’s efforts to elevate public awareness of the harm being done to this world famous fishery by the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series.

Save The Tarpon will continue to focus on ending the outdated and wasteful practice of gaff, drag, weigh and kill. Save the Tarpon will continue to demand enforcement of Florida’s safe boating laws during PTTS events. Save the tarpon will continue its work to ensure public access to Boca Grande Pass at all times.

Many of those who support Save The Tarpon Inc.’s efforts are obviously sympathetic to the concerns of the BGFGA as they relate to the use of the so-called Pass Jig, the most common method of fishing employed by PTTS participants.

It is our belief that injecting this contentious issue into the current debate would deflect attention from the group’s stated goal of bringing about achievable and equitable reform. The PTTS is desperately seeking to characterize opposition to gaff, drag, hoist and kill as an assault on the recreational tarpon angler. It is a strategy that has clearly failed.

The Boca Grande Fishing Guides Association Inc. created a sea change in public thinking through its efforts to promote what was originally known as the tarpon “kill tag” when it was adopted. Almost overnight the senseless “hero photo” slaughter of tarpon came to an end.

The last vestige of this practice, unfortunately, lives on through the PTTS and its televised “hero photos” of tarpon being needlessly gaffed, dragged, hoisted, weighed, gutted and buried in the deepest waters of Boca Grande Pass while it perpetuates the fiction of “live release.”

Save The Tarpon Inc. and its nearly 2,000 members remain focused on effectively finishing the job the BGFGA started those many years ago.