Budweiser’s long standing connection to the Boca Grande Pass tarpon fishery

Anheuser Busch AdSave the Tarpon, Inc is pleased to announce we will be serving complimentary Budweiser and other fine Anheuser Busch products to legal-aged guests at our March 3rd Shindig & Fundraiser!  Thank you to August and Steven Busch for this incredible contribution and for your support!

The Busch family of St. Louis has been a fixture in Boca Grande, Florida for decades.  Gussie Busch, who was the father of August and the Grandfather of Steven, fished the Pass aboard the Miss Budweiser and prior to that, the Buschweiser, dating as far back as the 1930s.

Miss Budweiser

Miss Budweiser

The Miss Budweiser, purchased by Anheuser Busch in 1962 and captained by legendary Boca Grande fishing guide, Johnny Downing, was a custom sportfish designed and built by Rybovich & Sons Boat Works. The Miss Budwesier was enjoyed by many including Gussie Busch’s  friends, wholesalers and family.  She was host to many celebrities and business giants in her days of catching “the big one” off the Florida coast and throughout the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico.

In 1956, Budwesier produced a short film showcasing the Tampa Tarpon Tournament and tarpon fishing in Boca Grande Pass.  It’s a fun piece of history and pays tribute to the long standing connection between the Busch family and their love of tarpon fishing.

March 3, 2013: Save the Tarpon Shindig!

Save the Tarpon ShindigEvent: Save the Tarpon SHINDIG!

It’s a PARTY, it’s a RALLY, it’s a FUNDRAISER…it’s a time for us to come together and celebrate tarpon fishing in Boca Grande. Don’t miss it!

Date: Sunday, March 3, 2013

Time: 2 to 6 pm

Location: The outdoor grounds of the Louise duPont Crowninshield Community House

Address: 131 Banyan St., Boca Grande, FL 33921 (adjacent to the Boca Grande Community Park Grounds)

Directions click here.


Event Details:

Free entry and door prizes!
Complimentary food and refreshments.
Fish chowder/stew cook-off by local captains.
Raffles, games and projects for kids.
Special guests, including a captain meet & greet.
Live & silent auction.

SavetheTarpon.com was launched only eight months ago as a platform for anglers and community members to speak out and demand accountability from those whose actions are threatening the sustainability of the tarpon fishery of Boca Grande Pass and Charlotte Harbor.  Since then, we have evolved into a Florida not-for-profit organization representing the combined voices of more than 12,000 people world-wide who have joined the effort to protect and preserve this historically and culturally significant public resource.

The Save the Tarpon Shindig,  on Sunday, March 3, 2013, from 2 to 6 pm,  is an event for us all to come together as we celebrate our solidarity and dedication to protecting the future of tarpon fishing at Boca Grande.  We will review our achievements thus far, and look to the future as we plan our 2013 successes.  It will be a time for supporters to rally, meet the Save the Tarpon Directors, bump elbows with most of the local captains and community members as well as enjoy the company of a few special guests.

It’s completely free to attend and open to the public, so bring the kids to this family-friendly event.

Complimentary food and beverages will be served, including Budweiser products!

And, of course, we will be raising some funds for our 2013 projects (and we have some GREAT ones in the works).  So make sure you are there for the live auction featuring tarpon fishing charters from highly respected captains including Capt. Tommy Locke, Capt. Rhett Morris and Capt. Willie Mills, a seaplane oyster trip with Capt. Mark Futch, and a red snapper offshore fishing charter with Capt. Tom McLaughlin.

There will also be an incredible silent auction full of fine dining, exclusive lodging packages for a quick getaway, fine art, jewelry, and much much more. As the lists is finalized we will be posting more info here.  But trust us when we say, you won’t want to miss it!

Click here to see the list of auction items!

If you are on Facebook, visit our Save the Tarpon SHINDIG event page.  Click the “Join” button at the top to let us know you’ll be attending.  Click the “Invite Friends” button to help us spread the word about this important event.

As always, thank you for your support, and we can’t wait to see all of you there!

Boycott Tires Plus Total Car Care

Boycott Tires Plus - Total Car Care(UPDATE: You did it! Tires Plus Total Car Care has announced it is ending its sponsorship of the PTTS. See related story.)

Tires Plus Total Car Care is a high-profile Professional Tarpon Tournament Series sponsor. Its brand is associated with the tournament’s so-called “Tires Plus Release Team,” also known as the “Tires Plus Drag and Dump Crew” for its documented practice of dragging near-dead tarpon into the deepest part of the Pass and dumping them. In PTTS-speak, this is known as “reviving.” We tend to call it something else: Surgery.

Tires Plus Total Car Care, according to its website, was founded in 1972. Other sources put the date at 1976. In 2000, Tires Plus was sold to Bridgestone/Firestone by founder Tom Gegax. According to the company’s website, Tires Plus is based in Clearwater. Gegax serves as chairman emeritus.

Boycott Tires PlusUnder Gegax, the Tires Plus motto was “Changing the World One Tire at a Time.” This has, apparently, now been updated to “Wiping Out a Species One Tarpon at a Time.” Sponsorship of the PTTS isn’t entirely consistent with Gegax’s most recent interests, however. The former self-described Tires Plus “head coach” is actively involved through his family foundation in a number of conservation causes. Most notably, the Waterkeeper Alliance, a significant player in the aftermath of the April 2010 BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

He is also closely associated with John Robbins, founder of EarthSave, an international non-profit organization. Its stated mission is to raise awareness of “ecological destruction and cruelty.” The PTTS doesn’t quite fit the profile on this one. Mr. Gegax is no longer involved in the day-to-day operation of the company he founded. But his voice still carries substantial influence. He is likely unaware of Tires Plus Total Car Care’s association with the PTTS, and that this association clearly contradicts his otherwise pro-conservation efforts.

This is where your role as educator comes into play. We have every reason to believe Mr. Gegax would be more than a bit distressed to learn of his company’s substantial involvement with an operation like the PTTS. Once he is alerted to the tournament’s history and what the PTTS is doing in his company’s name, it’s a pretty good bet somebody’s phone is going to ring.

Tires Plus Drag And Dump Crew

Keep this in mind should you choose to reach out to Mr. Gegax. Contacting him, however, could be problematic. His Detroit-based Gegax Family Foundation is operated through U.S. Trust. There is no way to directly contact him through his foundation.

Mr. Gegax does, however, apparently have an email address through Tires Plus. It is tomg@tiresplus.com. No guarantees, but it’s certainly worth trying. If you do reach out to him by email, it’s important to remember he is most likely unaware of the PTTS and his company’s involvement. Accordingly, you may wish to provide a link to SaveTheTarpon.com in your correspondence after briefly stating your reason for writing.

Tires Plus Total Car Care can and should be contacted through its website or, if you wish, by phone. Tires Plus Total Car Care Consumer Affairs can be reached at (800) 440-4167. The company can be contacted online (check the box marked “General Comments and Questions) here: http://www.tiresplus.com/contact/.  Another option would be to leave a message on the Tires Plus Facebook Page.

Boycott Tires Plus

Do The ‘Write’ Thing: Costa Del Mar Sunglasses Inc.

UPDATE 1/13/2013: Costa del Mar has announced they will no longer be sponsoring the PTTS.  Thank you Costa! And to everyone who spent the time to share your feelings with Save the Tarpon and Costa, congratulations, your voice was heard!

Save The Tarpon is asking your help to Do The ‘Write’ Thing by reaching out to those who sponsor and advertise with the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series. These companies care about their image and the integrity of their brand. And they really do want to hear from their current and future customers on issues that impact their business and, of course, their bottom line. Who are these companies? Meet Costa Del Mar Sunglasses Inc., PTTS sponsor. At the end of this post we’ll show you a few ways you can Do The ‘Write’ Thing by contacting Costa Del Mar to make your voice, combined with those of 12,000 others, heard. 

Costa del Mar SunglassesAbout Costa Del Mar:
Costa Del Mar Sunglasses Inc. is a Florida company based in Daytona Beach. It designs and manufactures high-end polarized sunglasses, as well as apparel and accessories tailored to the angling, sailing and surfing public. Its products are sold online and through 5,000 retailers nationwide. Costa was founded in 1983. On April 22, 2003, the A. T. Cross Company (think Cross Pens) purchased Costa Del Mar Sunglasses. Cross is headquartered in Lincoln, Rhode Island. It is listed on Nasdaq as ATX. The stock’s price per share hovers in the $11 range. It should be noted that publicly traded companies do tend to listen when their shareholders have something to say.

Costa is a high-profile sponsor of the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series. Along with its parent company, it is also very PR conscious. Costa prides itself on its Florida roots and its reputation for being a responsible and responsive corporate citizen. On its website, the company notes “We’re a big believer in grassroots initiatives.” It doesn’t get more “grassroots” than Save The Tarpon. In the case of the PTTS, it appears Costa Del Mar – which sponsors a number of fishing tournaments and events – made a poorly vetted choice that is inconsistent with the company’s pro-conservation traditions and its long history of supporting causes that include the Cousteau Society and the Bonefish Tarpon Trust.

Costa Del Mar’s CEO is Charles R. “Chas” MacDonald, 58, whose title is President, Cross Optical Group. It is unclear whether Mr. MacDonald is based in Florida or Rhode Island. But he calls the shots at Costa. Correspondence through the Costa website (see links below) can properly be addressed to him.

Contacting Costa Del Mar Sunglasses Inc.:
Reasonable but firm is probably the best way to approach Costa Del Mar Sunglasses. If you are a Cross shareholder, say so. If you are a Costa customer, say so. At $89 to $290 a pop, Costa products aren’t an impulse buy. The company shares the ultra competitive high-end optical market with brands such as Maui Jim, Oakley, Revo, Bolle, Smith Optics, Ray-Ban and Kaenon.

As a consumer, you have many choices. Letting Costa know that you, a valued customer, know these other choices exist is important. Letting Costa know that you, a valued customer, know these other choices aren’t pumping their promotional dollars into the PTTS is equally important. And it certainly wouldn’t hurt to mention if you, a valued customer, are considering a purchase of a new pair of high-end sunglasses sometime between now and May, 2013. It is, of course, unfortunate that Costa – as a PTTS sponsor – likely won’t be on your list.

As already noted, Costa Del Mar is responsive. This is reflected in the amount of contact information provided on the company’s website. You can give Costa a call, use the provided online comment form, connect with them on Facebook and Twitter, shoot off a fax or sit down and write them an old-fashioned letter. As always, please provide your name, address and all other requested information.

Company Address:
Charles R. MacDonald
Cross Optical Group
c/o Costa Del Mar Sunglasses Inc.
2361 Mason Avenue, Suite 100
Daytona Beach, FL 32117

Company Phone and Fax:
(800) 447-3700 Toll Free
(386) 274-4001 Fax
Note: If you phone, ask to speak to someone in Public Relations. These are the people who are paid to listen. If you fax, include “ATTN: Public Relations.” If you opt to give Costa a call, you might still wish to use some or all of the other available resources. HINT: Don’t expect the voice on the phone to do a whole lot more than listen and ask a few questions. The decisions are made by the decision makers upstairs. Be friendly, polite and to the point. Keep it simple. You are a current or potential Costa customer and as such, you have some strong concerns about an event the company sponsors. Let them take it from there. Odds are good they will. If the person you’re speaking with is already aware of the situation with the PTTS, request a statement on the company’s position and ask to add your name and voice to the list of concerned callers.

Costa provides an online contact form. Under “Subject,” please select “Public Relations” from the drop-down menu. You will be asked to provide a first and last name, email address, phone number and physical address. These fields are followed by a box for your comments. Speak your mind. Then click “Submit” and you’re done.

Again, the contact form can be found here.

Stop by the company’s Facebook page and give Costa a “like.” Then mention you’ve sent off a message concerning the PTTS. You can also add a link to http://www.savethetarpon.com or http://www.facebook.com/SaveTheTarpon

A Tweet to Costa would be equally sweet. Same deal as Facebook.

Other Options:
You may also wish to share your concerns with your local Costa Del Mar retailer. A list of Costa dealers in your area can be found here. Just enter your ZIP code into the box provided on the page.

*It’s probably useful to note that Costa Del Mar might seek to explain that it has a contractual obligation with the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series and that its hands are, essentially, tied. This isn’t entirely correct. Most promotional contracts contain a stated or implied “morals clause.” This provision holds the PTTS to certain behavioral standards designed to prevent the tournament from bringing disrepute, contempt or scandal to a sponsor. You may wish to invite Costa Del Mar Sunglasses Inc. to review the extensive collection of material found on SaveTheTarpon.com to make its own determination on this question.

Then what?
You might get a phone call or an email requesting additional information. Tell your own story in your own words. Point Costa towards savethetarpon.com and the Facebook page with its more than 8,500 followers. But be sincere (we know you are) and be yourself. And thanks for taking the time to Do The ‘Write’ Thing by lending a hand and your voice to this very important cause.

If you Do The ‘Write’ Thing and receive feedback from Costa Del Mar Sunglasses Inc., let us know how it went. Feel free to Do The ‘Write’ Thing with us by shooting off a message to Save The Tarpon.

Save The Tarpon 2012: A watershed year in review

Happy New YearIt’s become a tradition to use the week leading up to January 1 to step back for a moment and review the year that was as we look ahead to the year that will be. At Save The Tarpon, looking back means remembering we don’t have a year that was. We have barely seven months.

Our year, of course, didn’t really begin until June. That’s when a handful of locals came together on a narrow spit of sand east of the iconic Port Boca Grande Lighthouse. They had come to show their disgust with the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series. It was supposed to be a big day, a showcase day, for the PTTS. Five hours of non-stop action, with the carnage captured on camera for the folks watching at home, to determine the winner of the coveted “Tarpon Cup,” the Super Bowl of gaff and drag, wrap boat NASCAR-clone fishing.

It didn’t work out quite as the PTTS had anticipated. It’s kind of tough getting that prized “money shot” of a near-dead tarpon being hoisted and weighed when you have to shoot around a few dozen protestors standing between the camera and the fish. And when you’re going for that up close and personal on-camera interview with the giddy angler who just brought that gaffed and roped tarpon to the Miller’s Ale House scales, it seems even a relatively small group of people can make a whole lot of noise when they set their vocal cords to it.

Out on the water it was more of the same. Action-packed footage of PTTS anglers fighting their gill-hooked fish came with a little something extra that Sunday morning: A traditional Pass boat or three looming in the background flying banners that sent a message to the tournament’s basic cable viewers that those tarpon at the other end of the line were being systematically sucker punched for little more than an hour of slick, over-produced Must See TV.

PTTS Protest on Boca Grande

Protesters line the beach during the PTTS.

Joe Mercurio, the PTTS emcee and ringmaster, had good reason to be smug back in those days of summer. No ragtag mob of “environmental extremists,” as he would later call Save The Tarpon’s supporters, could hope to stand up to the tournament’s purchased clout. With big hitters like Miller-Coors and Yamaha bankrolling the tournament’s way, what could a small band of misguided “save the tarpon” local yahoos possibly be thinking, he snorted? He then spoke the words he would soon come to regret.

Pointing to the group’s demand that the PTTS end gaff and drag, Mercurio puffed out his chest and boasted: “We’ll stop weighing fish when someone tells us to stop weighing fish!”

Three months later Mercurio would find himself sheepishly standing in front of the seven members of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission as he dejectedly announced that what remained of the PTTS had “voluntarily” decided to stop weighing fish. It was too little and way too late, however. Moments afterwards, the FWC announced it was taking the first steps that would lead to the creation of a “sport fish” designation here in Florida. Tarpon, of course, would be included. And, under the FWC’s plan, the Silver King would become a strict catch and release species.

No more gaff. No more rope and drag. No more hoist. No more “Tires Plus Release Team.” No more Miller’s Ale House weigh boat money shots for the entertainment of the folks at home. Growing the state’s tarpon fishery, the FWC had concluded, was far more important than subsidizing a few cheap thrills for a basic cable TV audience. You don’t grow a fishery by killing off the fish.

You could see it in Mercurio’s eyes. What just happened? How did this happen? The swagger and smirk were gone. No more “we’ll stop weighing fish when someone tells us to stop weighing fish.” The FWC knew it. Everyone in the room knew it. “Someone” had told the PTTS and the world that the time had come. “Someone” had told the PTTS that the tournament’s glory days of gaff and drag, of hoist and weigh, had come to an end. “Someone” had, as Mercurio so publicly demanded, told the PTTS to stop weighing tarpon. And there was no question who that “someone” was. It was you.

As 2012 draws to a close, Save The Tarpon Inc. is approaching 9,000 supporters through its social media efforts alone. Add in those drawn to Save The Tarpon’s membership and petition campaigns, and the total exceeds 12,000 people here in Charlotte County, in Florida, throughout the nation and across the globe. And the numbers continue to grow. The weekly “reach” of our message now extends to well beyond a quarter of a million concerned sportsmen.

While the PTTS remains publicly tone deaf, as demonstrated by Mercurio’s contention that its abrupt decision to move the tournament away from gaff and drag had, on second thought, secretly been in the works for years, the tournament’s future is on the rocks and the tide is rising fast and strong.

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.

The world, of course, knows the story of the gutted fish, DNA sampled at the PTTS “Miller’s Ale House Weigh Boat,” turned over to the “Tires Plus Release Team” and last seen being “revived” as it was towed towards the deepest waters of Boca Grande Pass.

In the board rooms of the beer brewers and boat makers, they know how this same fish was found the following morning, slit open from tip to tail in an obvious attempt to keep it from being found again – to eliminate any chance its tell-tale DNA could be used by Florida Wildlife Research Institute scientists to link yet another dead tarpon back to the PTTS.

And, of course, we’ve all come to learn that this is precisely what happened. The PTTS, already reeling from the discovery its competitors had been gaming the FWC’s tarpon tag program for years, spent the next week fabricating a denial – complete with an absurd and desperate offer to polygraph the entire “Tires Plus Release Team.” The image of your logo being strapped to a piece of lie detector equipment is, of course, the kind of wonderful publicity every sponsor craves.

The PTTS is now grasping for whatever rope it can reach to rescue itself from the collapse most observers now agree is all but inevitable. The TV show’s owner, Gary Ingman of Port Charlotte-based Ingman Marine, recently decided the tournament needed a public relations boost. He’s proposing the creation of a PTTS “ethics committee.” At the same time, however, Ingman continues to insist the tournament has no ethical issues. This bewildering irony hasn’t gone unnoticed, either here or in Tallahassee.

Over PTTS objections, the once pliant FWC adopted language in December that brings the commission a step closer to a rule creating the popularly supported sport fish designation. Catch and release, real catch and release rather than the PTTS version of catch and release, is quickly becoming a reality in Florida and Boca Grande Pass.

Save The Tarpon’s sponsor and advertiser boycott continues to gain traction. With the coming of the new year, this effort will move to the fore. And, of course, with the continued release of DNA sampling data, the news won’t be getting much better for the PTTS and its beleaguered sponsors in 2013.boycott-the-ptts-sponsors.jpg

PTTS apologists who once demanded to be “shown the science” have come to realize the science now, in fact, exists. They have come to understand that despite their shrill efforts to discredit the state’s leading tarpon researchers, the data is now in those same researchers’ hands. They know the numbers are there to support a 2010 FWRI study that showed PTTS methods and practices lead to higher mortality rates among the large, roe bearing females that have historically taken that one-way trip to the Miller’s Ale House scales.

The FWRI’s DNA study the PTTS once aided, and then so clumsily sought to sabotage and discredit, continues. Through you, Save The Tarpon has these researchers’ backs. We’re laying the groundwork to guarantee the state’s safe boating laws will be enforced if and when the PTTS bumper boats take to the Pass in 2013. If the state refuses, there are other police agencies standing by, willing to use their jurisdiction to step in and bring the insanity to a halt.

The PTTS now understands it can no longer hijack the public resource that is Boca Grande Pass. Save The Tarpon will continue to press for measures that will bring an end to the tournament’s weekend monopoly that has disenfranchised recreational anglers and others drawn to our Pass by the annual migration of the storied Silver King.

For Save The Tarpon Inc., the year that was exceeded all expectations. The year to come promises a continued sea change in regulatory thinking and practice that will help grow and preserve our precious Charlotte Harbor tarpon fishery for generations to come.

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.

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!


PTTS fires off Facebook attack on ‘extremist’ supporters of FWC tarpon conservation push

As the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is poised to adopt language endorsed by Save The Tarpon Inc. and other groups that would pave the way to make tarpon a catch-and-release species, a spokesman for the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series is leveling harsh words against those who support the measure as well as the FWC’s other efforts designed to grow the state’s tarpon fisheries.

Joe Mercurio, VP & Host of the PTTS

Joe Mercurio, VP, General Manager and Host of the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series.

Joe Mercurio, host of the PTTS cable TV show, responded to a Facebook poster’s question on Monday by calling those supporting the FWC’s tarpon conservation efforts victims of “left wing, environmental extremist propaganda.” Mercurio added that those backing the FWC plan, which is expected to be approved by the seven-member commission on Wednesday, don’t have “the facts” and are “disgruntled and disenfranchised individuals.”

In September, Mercurio told the FWC commissioners that the PTTS is opposed to regulations that would force the tournament to stop gaffing, roping, dragging and weighing tarpon, a practice FWC researchers have labled “excessive handling” that leads to observed higher mortality rates.

Mercurio’s Facebook remarks are the tournament’s first in the wake of the FWC’s disclosure of preliminary results of its 2012 tarpon DNA sampling program. FWC researchers said last week that six fish weighed and DNA sampled during this past summer’s PTTS events had since been “recaptured.” Four of the recaptured PTTS tarpon were discovered dead within days of being caught and hoisted onto the tournament’s sling. A fifth PTTS sample was labeled “suspicious” by the FWC. Just one PTTS fish was recaptured alive.

Among the four dead tarpon that have been DNA-linked to the PTTS was a fish that was gutted in an apparent botched attempt to cause it to sink. The gutted fish was photographed and its DNA sampled by a passing boater. The fish was found floating in the Gulf of Mexico near Boca Grande Pass on June 4, a day after it was caught, weighed and originally DNA sampled during a PTTS event.

FWRI Assistant Research Scientist Kathy Guindon, PhD, who oversees the tarpon DNA program and had seen the photo, agreed the gutting was suspicious. “I don’t know why they would do that,” she said. “I don’t know why they wouldn’t give the fish a chance to survive.” The fish, a 124-pounder, was last seen after being turned over to the tournament’s Tires Plus “Release Team” to be “revived.” Guindon said the incision, which ran from the tarpon’s tip to tail, wasn’t the result of natural causes.

Later Monday, in a Facebook posting authored under the alias “Professional Tarpon Tournament Series,” the PTTS anonymously challenged the observations made by the FWC researchers as “baseless.” Mercurio had earlier discounted the FWC observations, suggesting instead that people “rely on credible news organizations and sources.”Joe Mercurio's Cash Cow

“EVERY weighed fish, over 80 were DNA sampled. More were sampled that were caught & released. We’ll present the full facts & figures in regards to the DNA sampled fish, and will address the baseless allegations & claims that have been made,” the PTTS said in its unsigned Facebook post.

The PTTS has otherwise remained mum concerning the gutted fish. FWC researchers have said that recapture rates in this type of study are, understandably, very low. Recaptures of less than one percent aren’t uncommon. So far this year, using the PTTS claim of 80 sampled fish, PTTS tarpon were recaptured at a rate of 7.5 percent – well above the numbers scientists say they would normally anticipate and need to conduct meaningful research.

Below is a screen shot of the PTTS Facebook page. It was made Monday, Dec. 3. Unlike that gutted tarpon, PTTS web content has a habit of vanishing. 

PTTSTV Facebook Dec 3 2012


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.

If you appreciate the work we are doing here at Save the Tarpon, please consider donating a few bucks and following us on Facebook. As a volunteer not-for-profit, we depend on contributions and Friends to help spread the word about this important cause.  Even as little as $5.00 helps out!

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Anti-PTTS decals now available

Lots of you have been asking where to get the anti-PTTS decals for your car, boat or golf cart.  A lot of them have been seen around, in fact, we saw one in Sarasota earlier this week!

Well, we wanted to let you know they are available for sale at Barnichol Hardware on Boca Grande.  What’s great is they are able to customize your purchase by creating the decal any size or color! Oh, and they are offering a great price on these as a way to show support of the cause.  Thanks Aaron!

Call ahead and order, or just stop by.

Barnichol Hardware
380 East Railroad Avenue
Boca Grande FL 33921

(941) 964-2571