Guy Harvey Magazine highlights “Battle in Boca Grande”

The newly released Winter 2013 issue of Guy Harvey Magazine includes a six page article by Fred D. Garth discussing the controversy surrounding the Boca Grande Pass tarpon fishery.






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!


Josh Olive & Waterline Magazine, are you ignoring the recreational angler?

Save the Tarpon, Inc was recently contacted by Nick Garbacz, a local resident and recreational angler.  He provided us with a copy of a letter dated July 16, 2012 which he sent to Josh Olive, Publisher of Waterline Magazine, a weekly publication distributed in the Sun family of newspapers each Thursday.  As you can see from his message below, Josh Olive did not acknowledge, reply to or publish his letter.

To: Save the Tarpon
From: Nick Garbacz


Below is a letter I sent to Josh Olive that he did not acknowledge. I wasn’t openly aware of your organization at the time, but felt I had to respond to his ridiculous editorial so in my amateurish way I responded as forwarded.

I have signed the petition and encourage the right fight to Save the Tarpon.

Respectfully yours,

Nick Garbacz


July 16, 2012

Mr Josh Olive
Publisher, Waterline Magazine
23170 Harborview Road
Port Charlotte, Fl 33980

Dear Mr Olive,

I consider myself to be an average sportsman and conservationist and have been able to hunt, fish, and observe nature in various places in the world. I do not presently belong to any conservation or sportsman’s organization and have no ax to grind with those that do. I do however take exception to your articles concerning the PTTS and those that oppose its concept and execution. Your attempts to gain the middle ground in my opinion fail miserably. I must also confess I do not view the PTTS in a favorable light even though I know and respect many of the participants in the event.

As everyone knows the tarpon gather each year in the May to July timeframe to seek and accomplish pre-reproductive activities and this occurs in a very small area with the Boca Grande Pass so it seems like the old saying “LIKE SHOOTING FISH IN A BARREL” has meaning in the case of the PTTS. Could you picture the FLW Tour staging a BASS Tournament in a Four Acre Farm Pond stocked with 10 pound bass? I would also ask any sportsman to view the PTTS TV show or boat around the pass during the event and truthfully say this looks like a true sport fishing event – maybe a Daytona 500 crash. I am especially fond of the one where the participant holds the DNA swab and says ”Just doing our bit for preservation of the species” for a fish he just caught that has less than a 70% chance of living.

If the show must go on, why not have it after the tarpon have accomplished their goals for being in BG Pass . Of course the obvious solution to preserving the fishery, would be to close Boca Grande Pass to all fishing during May and June, isn’t that a novel idea ? You could still fish for tarpon just not in a very small area.

If you believe that most fish in the pass are not foul hooked you are a very light thinker. The last time I fished the pass I was 3 for 3 foul hooked and that is why I stopped, but have fished the walls, beaches and other areas with crab, lures, and white bait with great success. Also, just because a tarpon is hooked in the jaw does not mean it wasn’t foul hooked. Almost 100% of Sockeye Salmon are legally snagged in the mouth with sockeye fly rigs and techniques as they do not eat upon entering the rivers. (It is yet to be proven if tarpon actively eat in pre-spawn pass activities)

In answer to your question “It’s all about saving the tarpon – right?” In the case ot the PTTS it certainly is all about the M_O_N_E_Y that is the one fact all can agree on.

Respectfully yours,

Nick Garbacz

Other Recent Articles by regarding Josh Olive:

Josh Olive and The WaterLine Magazine: A Disgrace to Journalism and Conservation

Waterline Magazine’s Josh Olive tosses out some questions

Waterline Magazine’s Josh Olive tosses out some questions

Many feel as though “paid advertising section” should be clearly labeled at the top of every article or commentary found among the pages of Waterline Magazine any time the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series (PTTS) is mentioned.  After all, Gary Ingman of Ingman Marine, who coincidentally is also a majority stakeholder in the PTTS, is one of their largest advertising accounts.

As we prepare our answers to Josh Olive’s questions (found on the second page of this editorial), we felt it was fair for us to ask a few in return.  We invite our readers and supporters to ask your own questions in the comment section found at the bottom of this page.  These may be questions for us, questions for the PTTS, questions for Josh Olive, or just questions to the public.  We will use your contributions, in addition to our own questions, in an upcoming response to Mr. Olive’s editorial.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Bonefish & Tarpon Trust Calls for Responsible Tournament Angling

(Originally published in the Boca Beacon on June 8, 2012)

Responsible Catch and Release is Essential 

The use of catch and release as a conservation tool to ensure healthy recreational fisheries for the future has become standard throughout the world of recreational fisheries. The catch and release ethic is especially apparent in the world-class tarpon fishery of Florida, where virtually all tarpon are released. However, catch and release is only a valid conservation tool if it is practiced correctly so that most fish that are released survive. Sadly, the catch and release practices of some in the tarpon fishery are likely decreasing survival of released tarpon and should be curtailed in deference to the ethic of responsible fishing.

Bonefish Tarpon TrustResearch on catch and release fishing generally shows that the amount and type of handling of fish after being caught and before being released is an important factor in determining the fish’s likelihood of survival after release. In general, 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.

Despite the availability of tarpon harvest tags in Florida (each $50 tag allows the harvest of a tarpon), the harvest of tarpon in Florida– whether by individual anglers or by tournaments – has declined to nearly zero in recent years. This is great news for tarpon: tarpon are late to become sexually mature (approximately 8 – 12 years old) and can live a long time (potentially to 80 years), which makes them especially susceptible to harvest. This makes it even more important to use proper catch and release practices when fishing for tarpon – so we can continue to enjoy the best tarpon fishing in the world.

Some mishandling of fish during catch and release is simply a matter of an angler not knowing about proper catch and release handling practices. This is why Bonefish & Tarpon Trust expends significant effort educating anglers about proper catch and release practices. This education effort by BTT and others is paying off with improving catch and release practices by recreational anglers. Unfortunately, in other instances proper handling practices are purposefully not followed, which is a real cause for concern.

Given the overwhelming support for catch and release of tarpon, it is puzzling why anglers would engage in practices that very likely cause high mortality of tarpon after release – the towing of caught tarpon to a weigh station as part of a tournament. Although data on the effects of towing tarpon are scant, the preliminary data that do exist suggest that towed tarpon exhibit much higher levels of physiological stress than do tarpon that are caught and released but not towed. Moreover, since we know that, in general, more handling time equals lower survival for caught and released fish, it makes sense that increasing the handling time by towing and weighing tarpon will likely decrease survival. The responsible and prudent approach is to reduce handling time, and therefore not engage in towing of tarpon prior to release.

Gary Ingman PTTS Ingman Marine

Gary Ingman, pictured above, makes sure all is right when the cameras are rolling for his TV show, the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series. This process of dragging and weighing the fish is extremely damaging to the Tarpon and will most likely result in its death.

The requirement for a weigh-in is especially puzzling given that accurate weights can be obtained by applying measurements of a fish’s length and girth to a formula that is specific to tarpon. This formula, created by University of iami scientists based on measurements of hundreds of tarpon, is accurate to within a couple of pounds. Bonefish & Tarpon Trust has this formula available via an iPhone app or water-resistant weight conversion cards.

This letter is not a statement on tournaments, but is instead a call for all tarpon anglers to follow catch and release practices that maximize the survival of tarpon after release. This should be the goal of all recreational tarpon anglers, and especially of entities that host events that rely on a healthy tarpon fishery.

In closing, a tip of the hat to the highly responsible, talented guides of Boca Grande Pass who practice good catch and release, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s ongoing tarpon conservation research, each contributing to a sustainable fishery.


Aaron Adams, Ph.D.

Director of Operations


About Bonefish & Tarpon Trust

Bonefish & Tarpon Trust is a non-profit, science-based conservation organization dedicated to ensuring that bonefish, tarpon, and permit populations, and the fisheries they support, remain healthy and helping to restore the fisheries that have declined. BTT accomplishes this mission by funding conservation-focused research; working with local, national, and regional resource management agencies to improve regulations to protect these fisheries; and funding and conducting education of anglers and the public.  BTT uses scientific findings to advocate for fisheries conservation and works to ensure coastal habitats used by bonefish, tarpon, and permit are protected.  For more information visit the BTT website at