The following is an email we received from Capt. Troy Sapp, senior vice-president of the Florida Guides Association, PTTS participant, and a seasonal Tarpon Guide in the Boca Grande Area in response to our posting of a letter by Scott Alford of ProjectTarpon.com:
Mr. Alford, Seeing you have tagged a lot of Tarpon and you know which ones lived or died could you please post the Data and the post release mortality rates. I too have DNA, sonic tag sampled and PAT sampled a fairly large amount for BTT and FWRI. With the known post release Mortality rates it seems that the PTTS would have a very small impact on the fishery as a whole when you consider the total directed effort on the Tarpon fishery. The other thing that troubles me about the fishery we only know the mortality rates of the fish we tag. What happens to a tarpon that has been hooked and escapes capture? Could we presume that this escaped fish may have been hooked in a soft tissue area "Throat, Stomach" and the hook tore free. Tarpon are suction feeders and they don't chew their food. What goes in their mouth is headed straight to their stomach and many times attached to a very sharp J hook. Just because a hook is in the bony area of the mouth on the fish we land doesn't mean that is the first place that the hook came in contact with the fish. I also question what happens to a hooked fish when it jumps violently multiple times. Is this tarpon not subjecting itself to the same stresses as being hoisted out of the water? Have you not observed Tarpon shaking their head so violently that blood comes from their gills or that they excrete spawning fluids? How many times have you seen the heavy leader pulled back through the gill plates during the fight? I am asking these questions as there are many individuals that claim to hook several hundred fish a year. If they land 50% of them some are going to perish. If this is about saving tarpon we better come up with some answers and a different plan. Yes I participate in the PTTS. But the number of fish I handle and weigh is insignificant in comparison to fish I bring boat side either on my charters or recreationally fishing with my family and friends. I Tarpon fish in many regions and with a variety of methods. It is interesting how many juvenile "under 20 pounds" gut hooked fish I have landed in comparison to adult fish. Could it be that the smaller fish don't pull hard enough to tear loose? Maybe that's another factor we should consider when fishing natural bait. If Tarpon are truly in trouble there are many factors to be considered. Picking 1 event and 1 method of fishing and attacking it like it's the cure all doesn't represent well for trying to save Tarpon. I wish it were that simple but it's not. It would be nice to advocate mandatory use of circle hooks. Know the dynamics and water quality effects now that the shipping channel in and out of BGP are no longer being dredged and are filling in. A stock assessment. Conditions of the estuaries where juvenile spend their youth. You know, the things that may make a real impact on a fishery where no intentional harvest takes place. Respectfully, Capt. Troy P. Sapp
The Following is our response, sent directly to Capt. Troy Sapp:
Dear Mr. Sapp,
Thank you for your comment submission on SaveTheTarpon.com. As I am sure you are aware, it was not approved for inclusion in the discussion. We felt the subject of your questions and concerns were better suited for Scott Alford’s site, ProjectTarpon.com. Your questions have been forwarded to Scott Alford so he may address them directly. Again, thank you for your participation on our site. We welcome any future comments you may have. Please keep in mind we try to keep the discussion focused around the mission of our website–the preservation and protection of the Boca Grande tarpon fishery.
Regards, Jennifer McLaughlin
The following is the next contact we have with Capt. Troy Sapp, senior vice president of the Florida Guides Association:
How does a realtor/ artist become the moderator for a organization that claims they are about saving Tarpon? What are your qualifications or first hand experience concerning Tarpon? My comments did nothing more than raise some valid questions about the fishery you say you are trying to protect. Why would you not want your followers to engage in conversation where valid questions concerning tarpon are presented? I already know the answer. Your mission is very clear. I have a feeling you are going to get what your asking for and then some. Myself and many other guides will be in the pass next year if anyone is fishing in there. We will also frequent the beach and harbor more. I have spoken to over 20 guides who will not be run off if their preferred methods of fishing are changed. Certainly the PTTS being there or not won't make a difference. There are many that have established a good bit of business in BGP. I really don't think any of my clients care how when or where they catch fish. Good luck trying to save the tarpon of Boca grande pass, the same fish that swim around all over the state. No matter the outcome your mission will do nothing to Save the Tarpon. This issue isn't like commercial fishing. You can't buy your way into it while locking out others.
Well Capt. Sapp, no one at Save the Tarpon is looking to “lock others out.” No one is asking any person who has come here to fish to in the past not come here and fish in the future. What we are asking is for an end to a made for TV series, turned charter booking service, that looks to exclude all others from fishing the pass by employing hyper-aggressive fishing techniques in order to protect “a good bit of business they have established in BGP.” We are also asking that those that fish for Tarpon in the Boca Grande area use handling techniques that, to the best of their ability, ensure the highest chances of survival of the fish they are targeting unless they plan to harvest the fish. We also want those who are deliberately mishandling those fish in order to increase revenue for their TV show to stop both the mishandling, and the exclusion of all other anglers in order to further the success of their charter booking service, namely the PTTS.
If we are successful in that mission, then we will re-evaluate our situation and come up with a direction to take our organization that we feel best supports our stated mission and that is within our area of expertise and the scope of our organization at that time.
The constant threat from PTTS participants that “the pass will be closed to all fishing if you don’t stop this” will not stop us from supporting what we believe is right. Should we stop calling attention to what you are doing if we feel it is wrong simply out of fear of the repercussions? If the situation is so dire, shouldn’t the PTTS be doing more to help curb the user group conflicts and fish handling problems? Why does the PTTS go to such great lengths to hide what they are doing from the public if there really is nothing to hide?
The mission of Save the Tarpon is very clearly established and can be found on the About Us page, along with a current list of our board of directors. There are no ulterior motives. Any motivations you may assume we have are just that, assumptions. We are not looking to exclude anyone from use of the pass, as a matter of fact we are fighting to STOP the exclusion of fishermen from the pass. You can cling to your assertion that Save the Tarpon is simply a front for BTT or the BGFGA all you want, but I believe our board of directors makes up a representative sample of two members from virtually all of the user groups who have an interest in Tarpon fishing in Boca Grande Pass or the surrounding area. The universal support by all other user groups who have rallied on behalf of Save the Tarpon to stop the for-profit exploitation of the public resource in Boca Grande pass at the hands of the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series and the Florida Guides Association certainly speaks volumes to the validity of our mission. The same cannot be said for those coming to the defense of the PTTS.
We have left the door open to your involvement in this discussion, as long as it pertains to subject matter that falls within the scope of our mission and our area of expertise. We also invite you personally to involve yourself in our forum which is specifically designed to answer questions people may have, whether in support of our movement or not, in an open, public, and controlled environment. you can read more at:
Capt. Tom McLaughlin
Save The Tarpon