Scott Alford of ProjectTarpon.com responds to Cindy Mercurio

Project TarponCindysays:

“Project Tarpon takes over tarpon tournament” (on Mr. Alford’s website)in Texas. Mr. Alford’s website is sponsored by a yacht company that makes tarpon fishing boats and he sells clothing! Andros Boats is going to the World’s Richest Tarpon Tournament. You guys hoping to get it on tv? Get your own sponsors etc.? This is about power, control and money! The PTTS has continually changed their rules to ensure that the tarpon are handled with care. But it does not matter because you are using the tarpon to gain what you want….YOUR FISHING HOLE FISHED YOUR WAY!

Cindy, I wish you knew me better. If you did, you would know that what I am hoping to do is about as far from power, control or money that it possibly could be. I think we can agree that the problem with assumptions is that they are often not based in fact.

I’ll let you know some things about ProjectTarpon.com. First, in the two years it has existed, it has never made a profit. Really? Yea, really! Winter Custom Yachts doesn’t even pay ProjectTarpon.com to have its ads on the page. I have NO ownership in Winter Custom Yachts and the company has NEVER paid me a dime. I simply built a boat with them and think they are a great company, and I personally like the folks that run the company. Gorgeous boats, love ‘em and really want to see them succeed in their relatively new and young business. Tarpon boats are NOT their specialty nor will they ever be. [ Besides, as long as they are around, I guess my hull warranty is good. :-) hahaha… ]

The other ads on the pages aren’t really any different. They are all folks I know, like, respect and have worked with to help tarpon research. (One of them even competes in the PTTS and has the last two years.) Guides who may advertise on the forums are all given the same deal, you agree to post reports during tarpon season on the forum and you get your ad for free. I’d make the same offer to any PTTS guides who want to do the same thing or any other Boca Grande guide. I think at one time I made $25 off of running some of those banner GoogleAds but never got the check from Google for some reason. They claim they mailed it? I am open to taking pay advertisers on the website but it is not really a priority for me, nor has it ever been. As they say, I have a “day job.” I hope and anticipate ProjectTarpon.com making a little money at some point in the future… I hope… but I never anticipate it keeping me above the poverty level nor would I EVER want to piggy-back on anybody else to actually turn some small profit.

I tell you what, once we agree on a cooperative effort with the PTTS next year on tagging tarpon and get the details settled, I’ll stick an ad up for the PTTS on the website. Sound good? Although, I don’t think ProjectTarpon.com is going to make a dent in anybody knowing about the PTTS but I’ll do it for ya…. for free.

With regard to our tournament “take over”, I solely organized the Tarpon Tomorrow Tournament in Texas and if you had read the rest of my website, you would see that ProjectTarpon.com’s “taking over” of the Tarpon Tomorrow tournament is really just a name change. It was me, myself and I before and it will be me, myself and I this year. The tournament offers no prize money, just trophies. (One year it did have prize money at the request of professional guides, who then did not sufficiently participate to make it worth the hassle, so it was abandoned – the pros seemed to complain and argue…. so I eliminated them too and made it only amateurs. If it ain’t fun, it ain’t worth doing.) This tournament is an amateur angler only tournament and is organized just for fun and to satellite tag tarpon and assist with tarpon research in Texas.

Just so you know the history of this tournament. It was originally run by somebody else. It was called the Texas Tarpon Pro/Am. It was organized to raise money to satellite tag tarpon in Texas. It never really made any money. Then, the guy who ran it moved away from Galveston and decided to abandon it. That very year, we found out the state, the University of Miami, BTT and others were willing to fund satellite tags and wanted a tournament to help get them placed. So… during a Tarpon Tomorrow board meeting, nobody volunteered to run a tournament to help, so I opened my fat mouth. The rest is history. I even remember where I was the day I made that fatefully decision. Standing on a dock in South Carolina while my family sat in a restaurant having dinner during a family vacation so I could be on the phone for the meeting.

The tournament is for fun and its goals are sportsmanship and research. We all go to a little fishing town in Texas, rent rooms in the same hotel, tie our boats at the dock in front of our rooms and have a good time. I don’t compete, I take the biologists out on my boat to tag fish that are caught by others. The competitors are just as happy to see their buddy in the next boat win as they are to take home a trophy for themselves… in fact, when one boat finds fish, they usually call over other competitors… that is an oddity in a tournament. It is what sport fishing should be and I am really proud of everybody that enters the tournament. I consider each and every one of them a friend (all ten to twelve boats or so of them – a whopping turnout huh?).

The tournament has never made any real profit. I think at most about $1k was carried-over to the next year in the bank account to front expenses. There is no TV, there are no sponsors giving the tournament money anymore… any money that is fronted for this effort comes out of my pocket. When companies did sponsor, it was so they could get a logo on the give-away t-shirts and help me cover the costs of the shirts (on which I personally lost money every year). We don’t do shirts anymore so I don’t ask for sponsors anymore. So, that being said, to say this is about power, control or money, I guess it is if you mean LOSING power, control and money.

(And by the way, the reason I started the ProjectTarpon.com website was because the guys at my tournaments started asking, where can I go to find out what happened to the tagged tarpon… wow, there was an idea…. help anglers learn about research on tarpon).

With that background, let me say that I can actually help your son and Gary Ingman. I had a great conversation with Garry and shared it with the world when I did. I posted it here. I am not some black night with some bad agenda controlled by some group in Boca Grande. I love Boca Grande and have fished there for years and years. Traveling and spending my money locally. Pass fishing is not really my preferred way of fishing so I personally don’t really care who is in the pass doing what. I only want to help the fishery. I think Gary got that impression from my conversation with him. That is why he wants to keep talking with me about what we can do together. I may have opinions, but don’t we all. I am still open minded and as I have always said, I would love for the satellite tags to prove that that PTTS does not harm fish. After all, if the satellite tags show the fish survive, then aren’t I your best spokesman?

To reduce your concerns about power, control and money, I would be more than happy to agree that during any tagging at the PTTS tournaments, I will exclude all logos, reference or anything related to ProjectTarpon.com. In fact, please don’t mention my name or ProjectTarpon.com at ALL. (I don’t even plan on playing a big part in it other than coordinating with researchers, since I live 1k miles away and can’t afford to be there all the time.) There will be absolutely no references to anybody who advertises on my page (free or not), the Winter Custom Yachts boat I fish on will not be there, so your sponsors need not worry, and I will be sure not to wear any clothing containing any logos of anybody whatsoever. I will be happy to wear a PTTS shirt if somebody will provide one. Shoot, if it is important to ya, I’ll even buy it.

As you can see, this not about ProjectTarpon.com, its not really about the PTTS, its about tarpon… I thought I said that somewhere before?

Please just do me one personal favor – call Gary, get my phone number and call me on the phone if you have a concern. Joe is more than welcome to call me too. I’d love to talk with you or your son in more detail. Just please don’t attack me with assumptions that aren’t fair and that you don’t really know about. We don’t have to agree…. but that doesn’t mean we can’t “get along” enough to help tarpon and help maybe end some of the divisiveness that only hurts tarpon fishing and sportsmanship in general. Agreed?

Comments

  1. Tarpon Lady says

    Scott, as you are no doubt aware, these wild “guilt through association” inventions are becoming routine as the PTTS watches sponsor and advertiser support for its behavior wane. It tells us, as well as the world, that the PTTS tank is empty. It can’t defend gaff, drag and weigh. It certainly can’t make a case in support of the reckless boat handling practices the PTTS has fostered and encouraged. It can’t serve up a plausible reason your initial offer to tag the tournament’s “live release” tarpon was ignored.

    We now have Joe Mercurio’s mother attempting to suggest the PTTS turned its back on you because an ad for a yacht company appears on the Project Tarpon website. The tank is now officially beyond empty.

    Joe’s mother is understandably proud of the business her son worked hard to help build. She is understandably proud of her son. Equally understandable, she sees the efforts of Save The Tarpon Inc. as an assault on both. Like any mother, she has rushed to the defense of her son and his livelihood.

    The PTTS, not Save The Tarpon Inc., has placed that livelihood in jeopardy though its actions and, as you discovered, its inaction. The disregard you were shown is symptomatic of the disregard the PTTS has long shown to “outside” voices. When someone isn’t listening, you do what needs to be done to get their attention and make them listen. Is the PTTS listening?

    Joe’s mother might wish to step back from the keyboard and take a moment to have a little heart-to-heart with her son. Why, she might ask, can’t the PTTS flourish as a catch and release tournament? Why is the PTTS doing nothing to curb bad boating behavior? Why isn’t the PTTS forcing its participants to obey the laws that govern tarpon fishing for the rest of us here in Florida?

    Then, like generations of mothers before, she has officially earned the right to look her son in the eye and repeat those familiar words: “Don’t say I didn’t try to warn you.” She can also add “drink your milk.” She is, after all, his mom.

  2. says

    Hey Scott,
    Don’t discount The Texas Tarpon Pro / Am I produced for 10 years. In 10 tournaments the Texas Tarpon Pro Am donated over $40K to tarpon research, tarpon awareness and tarpon hatchery efforts, bought 3 or 4 (I can’t remember the exact count) tags at $3,800.00 each and paid out over $60K to anglers winning awards in The Offshore Division of the tournament. This does not include the over $80K dollars in door prizes (over $8K each year), the free beverages and catered bbq.
    I would not consider that a losing effort.

    Jim Leavelle

  3. says

    Jim, I stand corrected. Did not know you were able to do that much. I was under the impression in never made much. As you know, you had an offshore division etc. which got quite a bit of participation that as you also know, I don’t do in my tournament and we don’t have the raffles, door prizes any longer. We slimmed it down and specialized and I have also significantly dropped the entry fees as well. Thanks for filling in the history that I did not know.

  4. says

    Jim as you also know… the tournament was continued with the goal of placing tags. We’ve placed about 20 satellite tags in Texas tarpon during the tournament under my watch which amounts to $100k worth of tags placed in Texas tarpon. Hope we’ve done a good job continuing the legacy….

  5. Rick Hirsch says

    Mr Jim Leavelle, I wish I had know you and Scott before I started our Boca Grande tagging effort. Your experience might have helped avoid some U-turns. We have managed to raise around $60,000 per year for the last 3 years. We will have placed near 30 tags by next month. We raise the money by 2 methods. First is an invite only fancy cocktails party auction/raffle at the classy Gasparilla Inn Beach Club in February. Swells from BG mix comfortably with Tshirted guides. Secondly, I have teased out 5-6 big donors for private approaches. Some have given $5K -$12K per annum. We reached each of these big hitters by asking guides who trust us to 1. contact their best clients 2. then give up their names to me, 3. send them personalized presentations looking for large donations.

    Our goal was to place 5 tags on spring tarpon to locate their spawning grounds. We have only had 1 tag give good data. a series of unbeleiveable events have reduced our srping effectiveness. But the 5 additional tags we place on fall fish have revealed (as you, Scott, well know) wonderful tracks of the poons’ southern migration.

    We may evolve our smission to tarpon habitat conservation next year. Stay tuned. I am always happy to exchange ideas with both you guys.
    Plenty Poons,
    Rick
    c: (914) 841-5112

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