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



  1. Shane Sovan says

    Joe answer one question why did the PTTS slice the belly of the tarpon tip to tail?? Is this your way to help the biologist in their research?

    Because I’m sure most of your anglers that fish in your events, that make a living catching these magnificent fish are not even aware of the funny business that takes place in your events. And if they actually knew you where doing this to, say, cover up your (should we say) cash cow would be appalled and not just never fish your event again but also help get the word out of what you are doing.

    I like to believe that most of your anglers really think your Tires Plus boat is really trying to help the fish not slit it from tip to tall!!! I truly believe that your anglers are sportsmen that want to do the right thing and if, in fact, they learned the truth as I have, you would not have any participants left. Except the ones who do, in fact, know what you are doing and don’t care because they are at the top of the leader board – making, once again, the whole problem with this $$$$$$$!!!!

    All I ask is you start being truthful to the anglers that participate in your event and the people that ask you direct questions. The ones that you keep telling them are just left wing people!!!! WHAT HAPPENED TO IT’S JUST THE 30 live bait fisherman in the Pass that’s upset about this??? Well it’s went from those to OVER 5,000 just on this site alone!! JOE, AS SAID BY MORPHIOUS IN THE MATRIX, THE TRUTH WILL SET YOU FREE!!!!

  2. Mark Paquin says

    Joe’s too ignorant to see the handwriting on the wall. He’s a dinosaur and desperately trying to stay relevant. You’ve exploited the Silver King long enough. Change your tactics or pack up and find another place to exploit for the almighty $$!

  3. AvoX says

    I am a gamer, Hence AvoX as my name, but I fish constantly, I’ve only caught one tarpon, but to see a fish like that gutted and left to be eaten to basically destroy evidence is downright horrible.

    You may call those honest people Left wing extremists but they are simply trying to exploit the fact that the PTTS “Which is a stupid series, I wouldn’t fish that tournament if you paid me because it damages the fish” the PTTS people are trying to say “Oh well its inevitable that fish are going to swallow the hook from time to time and die.”

    But then why did you Gut the fish? why not try to save it, the hooks rust out, and it only takes a good 2-3 weeks depending on what hook brand you use. If you simply cut the line revive the fish, and let it go, you would have been respected for it and you would have saved a Tarpon, why gut it and leave it to die?

    That seems irresponsible and childish, I’m 16 and its people like Joe that get me aggravated with their copious amounts of “Bull sh*t.” The (release) team that killed the tarpon should accept the punishment for killing the tarpon.

    Some good points. But to clarify, the gutted PTTS fish was gaffed, dragged, hoisted and weighed – what FWC scientists call excessive handling. The PTTS knew the fish had been DNA sampled at its scales by FWRI researchers. It also likely knew efforts to revive the fish had failed. And, of course, it knew that a dead tarpon – unless made to sink – could wind up on a beach or floating on the surface where a second DNA sample could be taken and sent to the state. Four dead PTTS tarpon were, in fact, traced back to the tournament by their DNA. This is the most likely explanation as to why this tarpon was gutted. The PTTS will, of course, likely have a different story in the days to come.

  4. Jeff Ferguson says

    I am definitely a conservationist. For your information that does not classify me as a left wing extremist environmentalist . I advocate a complete boycott of all sponsors of this completely pointless tournament. I also would advocate, as a conservationist, boycotting the sponsors of ALL fishing tournaments. I believe in conserving natural resources, not exploiting them such as this group of idiots are doing. Let’s organize the total tarpon fishing public against this group and it will not take long to remove these fleas.

  5. Tom Brocato says

    What other ‘professionals’ treat their quarry like this? Attempting to justify this activity is simply irresponsible and disrespectful of God’s creatures. Extreme zealots ruin all areas of sportsmanship and competition for the masses. .just like the Nazis. These Tarpon-Nazis need a good case of their own treatment before stripping their licenses and closing their organization down.

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