Study was a ‘win-win’ for tarpon, a ‘lose-lose’ for the PTTS

Inserting Satellite Tarpon Tag

Measuring a big tarpon and inserting a satellite tag means holding the tarpon at each end, and hoping it doesn't explode into life at the wrong moment. Photo by Joe Richard © 2012

In a letter dated May 4, 2012, Project Tarpon’s Scott Alford requested the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series cooperate in a “collaborative effort” to satellite tag fish caught and weighed by the PTTS. The project would be fully funded.”At least two of the tarpon research projects being conducted by the marine biologists at the University of Miami could draw a great deal of benefit from the participation of the anglers competing in the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series,” he wrote. “The first is the tarpon specific weight formula research, and the second project is the satellite tagging program.”

The “tarpon specific weight formula” is a reference to a project to fine tune a method of calculating a fish’s weight by measuring it at the boat rather than towing it to the beach and hoisting it on a scale.

He notes that “since killing tarpon is prohibited in many locations and certainly frowned on in most, it is difficult for these researchers to obtain weight data for tarpon.” But luckily “the PTTS offers a unique opportunity for the biologists …”

He continues: “The possible cooperation between the PTTS and biologists is obviously a win-win for both.”

And finally: “The PTTS has a long standing cooperation with biologists and research efforts. The satellite tagging seems like a natural and easy fit to further the PTTS’s conservation and research objectives.” And “this is truly a great opportunity for both the PTTS and tarpon research. I hope we can make it happen.”

The PTTS, Alford says, never responded. They didn’t “make it happen.” Color us shocked. Not much of surprise on this one.

Alford, of course, never had a chance. A satellite tag, obviously, would track the movement of the tournament’s tarpon after they are gaffed, towed, hoisted from the water and released. The same tag would also, obviously, track the non-movement of the tournament’s tarpon after they are gaffed, towed, hoisted from the water and released. You can do the math. The PTTS already did.

The PTTS also knows those weigh boat shots, those up close and personal eye candy interviews with the jubilant team captain, make Must See TV for the folks watching at home. A perfected tarpon specific weight formula would end the need for gaff, drag and weigh. The scales could be replaced by a far less photogenic and equally boring boatside tape measure. The tarpon would obviously benefit. But what do fish know about making good TV?

Tarpon satellite tag, painted a dull color so it won't invite unwanted attention from other fish. This tarpon is about to swim free. Photo by Joe Richard © 2012

In his letter, Alford also notes that “the PTTS gains by having additional material for the TV shows, which many viewers will likely find fascinating …”

In reality, many viewers will likely find it fascinating that most of those satellite tags on those “live release” tarpon aren’t moving.

After waiting, and waiting, and waiting for a response from the PTTS, a frustrated Alford went public with his letter. He could have saved himself the stamp.

PTTS apologists will likely claim Project Tarpon has some sinister agenda. They will, given enough time, ultimately link Project Tarpon to al-Qaeda and Planned Parenthood. That this new-fangled satellite technology is unproven. That developing a tarpon specific weight formula is yet another attempt at phony baloney voodoo science. The PTTS noise machine will, predictably, drone away.

Alford unintentionally went to the heart of the debate (and ended any chance the PTTS would cooperate) by noting “killing tarpon is prohibited in many locations and certainly frowned on in most.” That in this respect, “the PTTS offers a unique opportunity.”

We didn’t know how special we were.

See for yourself. You can read Alford’s letter here. The gaff and drag Photoshop Rangers over at that other Internet place can have someone read it to them.


  1. Captain Mark Futch says

    Please ask Mercurio why he did not participate in the tag program. I will answer it for him. He knew what they would find. Dead tarpon!

  2. says

    The PTTS crowd likely will attack me. They will link me to this group or that group but linking me to some group does not have anything to do with what stands for.’s only interest is tarpon. does not have a dog in the jig vs. no jig debate or in the use of the Pass by one group or the other. What I do know is Boca Grande tarpon swim all around the Gulf. That makes those females in Boca Grande important to tarpon everywhere in the Gulf of Mexico. That makes it more than a Florida issue. It makes it an Atlantic tarpon issue.

    From my satellite tagging experience (having participated in the tagging of all but a couple of the satellite tagged tarpon in Texas), I know which fish we released lived, which died and which were prayed on by sharks. Knowing if a release fish lived or died for sure lets you learn a few things about releasing tarpon. 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.

    After sending the letter and receiving absolutely no response from the PTTS, coupled with the reports that started to surface in the month following my letter, I became concerned with the possible hypocrisy of the PTTS. I have friends that fish in kill tournaments in Louisiana. I’ve never killed a tarpon in a kill tournament and never will, but at least when my friends go and fish a kill tournament they’re honest about it. Do I wish they wouldn’t? Absolutely. I am doing things to change that practice? Absolutely. Will that likely make me unpopular with some of my friends? Absolutely, but it won’t stop me.

    My letter to the PTTS and making it public will likely make and me very unpopular with a number of folks involved with the PTTS. They may attack me, attack who I am and come after my website. I say bring it…. but if you’re willing to put your money where your mouth is… let me come tag some fish. I’ll give you the chance to prove me wrong. I’d welcome it. If you can prove the PTTS is not killing tarpon with its weigh and release program, I will be the first to stand up and say I was wrong and shake your hand for proving me wrong. However, if you never let me try….. well, then shame on you. Silence often is louder than any personal attack on me. The offer still
    stands – let me tag and we’ll end this debate once and for all. Either way, tarpon win!!

    Scott Alford

  3. says

    I received a phone call today from Gary Ingman with the PTTS. He apologized for not being previously aware of my May 4, 2012 letter. Although the letter was sent to the PTTS designated email, he told me that he was not aware of the letter until someone informed him about it yesterday.

    I got the impression from him today that the PTTS may be changing some things about the tournament next year, but he did not elaborate further. He said that they were “excited” about the opportunity to work with next year to try and satellite tag tarpon and further tarpon conservation research. He promised that he would remain in regular contact with me prior to next summer, and starting in September, open up a meaningful dialogue concerning what the PTTS can do to assist with multiple research projects, including satellite tagging.

    Now, I know some of you may disregard this conversation; however, as I have always said, if they are willing to step up, I’m willing to listen. I give it to Gary for hunting me down and calling me. I look forward to our discussions moving forward and will keep everybody updated with any progress that is made.

    For me, as I have always said, my only interest is tarpon…. everything starts with a dialogue.

    I appreciated the phone call.

  4. says

    Follow-up call from Gary yesterday afternoon. He told me that they had received via email my original letter after all. After we talked, he looked into the email and found that it was received and the person who receives these emails had forwarded to Joe Mercurio back in May.

    I told him that at this point, that is all water under the bridge and it’s time to move forward and get some tarpon tagged if they are willing to participate next year.

    – Scott

  5. RJ Kirker says

    So, where’s Joe in all of this? Why didn’t Ingman simply walk out of his office and ask Mercurio about the original email? Or pick up the phone and call if Joe’s at Walmart comparison shopping for gaffs. Ingman suddenly seems to be taking an interest in the issues Save The Tarpon is raising. That’s good. But, then again, where’s Joe? Joe? Joe?

  6. Cindy says

    “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!

    • says

      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 First, in the two years it has existed, it has never made a profit. Really? Yea, really! Winter Custom Yachts doesn’t even pay 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 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 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’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 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 In fact, please don’t mention my name or 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, 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?

  7. Tony Collins says

    Im a fisherman and it’s a passion of mine but all I do is catch and release. I don’t keep any and I feel totally sick when I do catch a fish that may die due to my negligence.

    I watched the tarpon tournament and never realized that most of the tarpon caught and weighed died. This is not acceptable and there should be another solution to weighing and releasing these fish so they survive.

    I’m disgusted to think that there were boats ramming boats to stop them taking pictures of dead tarpon. It’s not a good sport when the fish are left to die or left for the sharks. I certainly would not want to walk the beaches with my children and have to explain why there were so many dead tarpon on the beach because they were released during a tournament.

    It saddens me that people still think it’s a sport and as long as they get the biggest fish and win the tournament that it doesnt matter what happens after the tarpon are released. It seems to do more harm than good.

    I hope it stops but as usual money is the driving force and the mentality of these so called “fishermen” is to win the tournament whatever the cost.

    • Cindy says

      Where are you getting your information? From a group that has run out every tournament but their own? The PTTS have always had strict rules that disqualifies a team if there Tarpon dies. They have watch boats (umpires) to make sure. Each year more rules have been added to ensure the safe release of the Tarpon.

      (MODERATOR’S NOTE: Cindy Mercurio is the mother of PTTS television host Joe Mercurio.)

  8. says

    Cindy Mercurio,

    Here are a couple questions for you:

    If you genuinely want to protect the tarpon and care about the health of the tarpon, why is the PTTS not a catch and release tournament?

    Why does the PTTS continue to gaff and drag the fish when all the available data points to this likely increasing the stress on the fish to a level much greater than immediate release.

    Isn’t releasing the fish immediately – at the boat with a minimum of what the FWC says is “excessive handling” – what is truly best for the fish?

    Why does the PTTS condone and promote boat handling practices during the tournament and during the week (when the PTTS is running its charter booking service) that are in direct violation of the “rules of etiquette” for Boca Grande Pass as published by FWC? Weren’t these rules established to help avoid the type of user group conflict that is being seen in Boca Grande Pass now: The very real exclusion of anglers who are not PTTS participants and who don’t practice the tournament’s methods of fishing?

    Ask yourself, are these actions truly beneficial to the fishery your son claims to cherish? We really do understand a mother’s need to love and unconditionally support her child. We also understand that all mothers are proud of their children. Joe is now in a unique position to make you even more proud. He can do the right thing. And he can go one better. He can make us all proud.

  9. RJ Kirker says

    From the now prophetic July 4 story on Project Tarpon: “PTTS apologists will likely claim Project Tarpon has some sinister agenda. They will, given enough time, ultimately link Project Tarpon to al-Qaeda and Planned Parenthood.”

    From Cindy Mercurio’s comment posted on July 17: “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.”

    Who could have seen that one coming?

  10. Cindy says

    And I am very proud of my son. Joe is an honest young man. I am posting comments not only as a mother but as a concerned citizen. I was born in Florida. I have seen the changes to my State and appreciate your concern for the Pass. The FWC was sued twice by the Boca Grande Guides Association regarding the issue of mortality of tarpon using a circle hook vs. a J hook and won both times.
    Now it is how the boats run? It was stated in an article that the only outcome your group wanted was the PTTS out of business. Middle class America is struggling. The PTTS provides jobs.

    (MODERATOR’S NOTE: Cindy Mercurio is the mother of PTTS television host Joe Mercurio.)

    • Tarpon Lady says

      This is a joke, right? Joe’s mother is now fighting Joe’s fights? If so, I’m going to start collecting PTTS memorabilia. Add it to my collection of Miller’s Marina tarpon tournament stuff, right next to my Laff-A-Lott and Kozy Kitchen t-shirts. Although I really do miss the Laff and the Kozy. As far as the PTTS, you can stick a fork in these boys. They’re done. I doubt they’ll be missed, however. Except, maybe, by Joe’s mom. But at least he’ll have his Saturdays free to come visit.

  11. frank davis says

    First of all, I would like to clear up some statements that were made by Cindy Mercurio. I am a member of the BGFGA, and I have never been aware of two lawsuits. Especially any that were won! There was one in progress, but unfortunately it was dropped after the lawyer passed away. The lawsuit on file was for failure to protect a species. Which happens every weekend during the PTTS events in May and June!
    The hook placement study had nothing to do with the tag and mortality study. It was a request by the BGFGA to prove a point. It did! Over 50% of jig caught fish were hooked outside in the jaw as opposed to only 4 live bait caught fish being hooked outside in the jaw. Be happy to provide a copy of that report. Dr Phil Motta cited as an authority by the FWRI who conducted the study starting in 2002, said that the more comprehensive data showed that high incidences of outside in hook placement in the clipper using the jig method, indicates a foul hooked fish. As to why this was not investigated further, I’m not hear to incriminate anyone, but I have my suspicions! Would like to request the next time you post, to get your facts straight, and stop doing what all PTTS followers do. Bend the truth and not answer questions when asked. Soon, hopefully all of us will get to answer some questions!

  12. Cindy says

    You edited my last statement regarding your checking my IP address, accusing me of trying to hide my identity and asking if I was going to be put on a list. (If you knew me you would know I don’t hide.) As I stated I have two emails that start with my name & and the same number. I do not like your accusation and request that statement be taken down.
    Tarpon Lady….Do you have children? Are they little? One day they might find them in a similar situation. I pray they do not have to deal with people like you. I pray for all of you everyday! I pray that God will bring His resolution to this situation.

    • Save the TarponSave the Tarpon says

      We have edited our statement regarding your various email addresses and apologize for jumping to any conclusions as to your identity. We welcome your future comments on our site.

  13. Cindy says

    You published my email address. It states above that it will NOT be published. Please take it down from the front of your website!

    • Save the TarponSave the Tarpon says

      We did not publish your email address. Your email address was mistakenly entered in the “name” section when you submitted your comment. We have changed it to your name per your request.
      Thanks for your participation in the discussion.

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