Senior Vice President of Florida Guides Association makes position clear

Captain Troy Sapp, Fishing GuideThe 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

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.


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  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,  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.
Capt. Troy P. Sapp Fins and Tails Guide Service Florida Guides Assoc. Senior Vice Pres.

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


  1. says


    I am still working on getting the numbers on our end on the 15-20 fish I’ve personally been on the tagging and release boat when the tarpon were PAT Tagged.

    From your post, you said, “I too have DNA, sonic tag sampled and PAT sampled a fairly large amount for BTT and FWRI.” How many have you personally been on the tagging boat and PAT Tagged?

    On 11/28/2011 – you made a comment on the Boca Beacon website when there was a story about a PAT Tagging fundraiser on the island. You stated:

    “Nonsense, your BTT crew made me hold my fish for 20 minutes before taking possession. Not once, but twice. hauled into a sling, and measured, blood sampled and so on. They wanted a big female and in their search to prove what ever, they had total disregard for the fish or what represents the normal catch and release fishery.”

    Let me first say that your critical observation of the tagging techniques you witnessed is not completely without merit. I can tell you that with any research project, the biologists learn as they go along. They certainly never intend to harm the fish.

    I can also tell you from my personal experience, that when I have been involved, we’ve been very cognizant of getting fish released more quickly and have adapted better techniques – (i.e. not using a sling any longer). Biologists aren’t typically as experienced as anglers, so they learn as they go along in the process. We, as anglers, have to spend some time helping to teach them how to do things better – and these guys have been learning all through the process. They are getting better at it each day and everybody really does work hard to diminish the handling. I personally know these folks, traveled the globe with them, and I know from first hand experience, they do their best to not adversely harm the fish. I think the survivability of the majority of the tarpon PAT tagged and released all around the western Atlantic is testament to that.

    But what I don’t understand is this – if you are complaining in the post to the Beacon about the biologists handling tarpon (btw – as you know, the sling the biologists used to use never takes the fish out of the water and was used simply to try and control the fish), isn’t the handling by the PTTS even more extensive when PTTS weighed fish are dragged to the beach, lifted out of the water to be weighed (in a sling) and then dragged back out to be released – which sometimes takes longer than 20 minutes? Isn’t this even more of a “total disregard for the fish or what represents the normal catch and release fishery” (using your words)?

    No disrespect intended, because I don’t know you and I certainly respect your tarpon guide experience and your appointment with the Florida Guides Association, but what I don’t understand is how you can be critical of the biologists PAT tagging in the Boca Beacon post but not be critical of the PTTS’ handling of fish?

  2. Troy P. Sapp says

    Mr. Alford,
    With respect to your above response: “I personally know these folks, traveled the globe with them, and I know from first hand experience, they do their best to not adversely harm the fish. I think the survivability of the majority of the tarpon PAT tagged and released all around the western Atlantic is testament to that.”

    Would you please elaborate on the global who, where, when, what and how?
    Thank you,

  3. says

    Troy, with all do respect, you did not answer a single question I posed. Instead, you seem to be trying to changed the subject by being completely non-responsive.

    But I’ll answer your question – Nicaragua for one. Tagging tarpon about 90 miles up the San Juan from the coast.

    Care to answer all my questions?

  4. Capt. Troy P. Sapp says

    I will answer your question if you will answer mine. Yes the stress level is increased the more you handle the fish. How can it be that FWRI captured 6 adult tarpon with recreational anglers, placed them in a sling several times and transported them to holding tanks via truck and all these fish survived?

    I will not argue about the increased stress levels. I want you to substantiate that all weighed PTTS fish die as you claim.

    My comments regarding BTT were made because they told me they were studying mortality of catch and release fishing as well a spawning habits. Well, catch and release for the most part doesn’t include that much handling of the fish. For that matter even simple dna sampling requires more handling than normal. Any time you have to control a tarpon at boat side he must be fought into total submission for any type of tagging.

  5. says

    I guess you didn’t read what I said. Either that or you “filtered it”. I never said that “all weighed PTTS fish die.” What I said was, “One of the things I learned (the hard way) is the type of handling being undertaken in the PTTS is not stacking the odds in the tarpon’s favor for survival. Do some live? Probably, but from my personal experience, I’d bet virtually all of them die.” I made a post after the previous article, I invite you to go read that as well.

    Hopefully, through my discussion with Gary, we’ll get that question answered next year and I hope to learn that my assumption is wrong and most of them do live. I truly do. That would be a wonderful result for the fish.

    best regards,

  6. Save the TarponSave the Tarpon says

    Moderator’s Note: Below is a comment left by Jason Small at REC Media Group over there in Orlando. REC Media Group is the production company employed by Gary Ingman of the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series to create the PTTS television show. They are also the fine fellas responsible for the Shave the Tarpon Facebook page– a page created to mock the members of Save the Tarpon, as well as the history, culture and people of Boca Grande, Florida.

    Submitted on 2012/07/24 at 3:32 pm

    I’ll take that bet… How much you wanna bet that virtually all fish weighed in at the PTTS die? Do me a favor and define “virtually” are we talking 89%? 94%? 99%? Using vague terminology may work with the IQ’s of obnoxious peasants like the Mclaughlins, but most people understand you’re sounding like the democratic party of Boca.

    I’ll bet you 1/5 of my of savings.. about 11,245 dollars that you’re wrong on your claim that “virtually all the tarpon die after PTTS handling”. Now.. how can we prove it? Oh a little thing called DNA. Should I break out the tarpon recapture study now, or after you empty your bank account?

    That’s the problem with eco-terrorist liberals… they cry and complain and raise false accusations using vague terms to “shock” and manipulate their followers but have no desire to back their claims up with their own cash. Pathetic as usual. Maybe you should go influence the people at the next Obama rally instead… Just refrain from telling them you’re trying to ban Jigs… might not work out so well for ya…

  7. says

    Mr. Small, I look forward to meeting you on the beach next year when we’re satellite tagging tarpon weighed during the PTTS, and I hope you prove my predictions wrong. This is one of those instances where I will be the first to pop the champagne when I am. I will admit all over the internet that I was wrong, and I’ll buy you, Joe, Gary, Sheli and the entire production crew a round at the bar when I am.

    Until then, take care,


  8. Captain Mark Futch says

    Mr Small,
    Please see my earlier post regarding the sat tag program. The reason Mercurio did not participate in it was he knew what they would find. Dead Tarpon! Are you folks at REC Media Group so blinded by greed that you can’t fathom what this movement is about? Considering you have only recently moved to Orlando from Connecticut, you will never know Tarpon busting crabs on the surface–from the red can, all the way to East of the phosphate dock–as far as the eye can see. You will never witness the entire hole filled with Tarpon thirty feet thick. We have not had a “hill tide” in years now.

    The traditional guides are not trying to exclude anyone from fishing the pass. This destructive behavior began with the advent of the jig. I should know, considering I was one of the first to employ it’s use, as were many of the locals. All of us stopped after we noticed dead Tarpon floating out the Pass and on the beach. And who are you calling obnoxious peasants? The two thousand concerned people who have signed the petition, many of whom are notable anglers from across the country. One last thing Mr Small, I also am a registered Republican.

  9. Frank Davis says

    Mr. Small, when you claim to have a catch and release tournament, one dead tarpon is too many! IF that fish survives the gaff, drag and weigh process, what do you think the chances of survival are for a suction feeder that now has a hole in its lower jaw? It just seems odd to me , your company that films the ptts tournaments along with the senior vice pres of the Florida Guides Ass. is doing the best they can to discourage Mr. Alford. If the ptts is such the conservation minded tournament they claim to be, then whats the deal? I think we all know what the deal is!! MONEY!!!! I am a republican and I approve this message!

  10. says

    Frank – I agree that lip gaffing should be kept to a minimum and it certainly helps not to do it. However, the reality is that just about every PAT tagged tarpon has been lip gaffed and seem to do just fine. I’m not sure that lip gaffing really increases any mortality level. The handling, dragging, lifting out of the water and dragging again is likely the biggest risk. Kathy Guindon’s own study showed the increased stress on the fish by doing this.

  11. Captain Mark Futch says

    Years ago we tagged tarpon using a six foot wooden pole with the tag fixed to the end. We would lift up the edge of a scale on the back of the tarpon and insert under the scale. Captain Nat Italiano had the record for the most with over three thousand tagged. Why use a gaff?

  12. says

    Mark, the satellite tags take a little more effort. The anchor darts are bigger and take time removing scales etc. We also have to use a tail wrap to get the leverage and control. It’s as much a matter of logistical handling and leverage. So far, no indication it has a bad effect on the fish’s ability to survive, feed etc. The biologists tell me it heals really quickly. I think they told me a week or less.

  13. Tom Brocato says

    To Make this issue of saving the tarpon issue political, namely Obama/liberally motivated is an insult to conservatives / Republicans. You PTTS and REC media do not represent any part of the RNC. Your twisted views just reinforce your sick actions. Conservatives for saving tarpon far outnumber you and your cohorts who Are sinking our ship. Find another party

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