BY DONDI DAVIS
I have read many comments regarding the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series in Boca Grande Pass. They range from the thought provoking to the downright rude.
It seems to me that supporters of Save The Tarpon and supporters of the PTTS have a lot in common. We all like fishing for tarpon, we all like boating and we are all family oriented. We even like to enjoy the same types of activities when we aren’t “on the clock.” For instance, scalloping in Homosassa, spending time with our families and enjoying what this great state of Florida has to offer.
The main difference between Save The Tarpon supporters and those who have chosen to support the PTTS is learning from past mistakes, standing up for what is right and having the ability to determine the difference between right and wrong.
We all know that it’s common sense that when you gaff, drag and handle a fish as the PTTS does, it lessens their ability to recover.
Why won’t the PTTS go to a strict catch and release format? Is it all about TV ratings? Is it not enough to film the excitement of anglers and the mighty silver king as it jumps from the water?
The FWC clearly states “proper handling techniques ensure the best chance of survival. This includes returning the fish to the water as quickly as possible.”
The Bonefish & Tarpon Trust agrees “that research on catch and release fishing generally shows the amount and type of handling of fish after being caught and before being released is an important factor in determining the likelihood of survival after release. Fish that are kept in the water and handled minimally do best, while fish that are handled extensively and exposed to air for long periods of time don’t fare well.
So why does the PTTS insist on calling their tournaments “catch & release?”
Wikipedia defines catch and release as a “practice within recreational fishing intended as a technique of conservation. After capture the fish are unhooked and returned to the water before experiencing serious exhaustion or injury.”
Expertglossary.com defines catch and release as “catching a fish and immediately releasing it.”
Nowhere can you find a definition of catch and release that involves purchasing a $50 tag, gaffing a hole in the fishes bottom lip, attaching said tag, dragging it across Boca Grande Pass, weighing it, dragging it somewhere else and “reviving” the fish so it can be released.
Is it legal? That’s what the state says. But is it ethical? Is it preserving the fishery for future generations? I’ve listened to arguments on both sides. My conclusion is no, it shouldn’t be legal and it is definitely not ethical. Critics will say I wasn’t born here. That I don’t have the right to speak my mind. Nonsense. I live here. I see things with my own eyes. I have experienced catching – and immediately releasing – the mighty Silver King.
With all that we now know about fishing and conservation, the only answer for me is to DEMAND that the PTTS change its format and practice true catch and release. Catch the fish, release the fish. Not catch the fish, gaff the fish, drag the fish, hoist and weigh the fish, drag the fish again, and hide what’s left of the fish.
We have much in common. Let’s work together to preserve this fishery.