FWC votes 7-0 to ban controversial ‘tarpon jig’ in Boca Grande Pass

Yes, there was a little celebrating to do Thursday in Pensacola after the FWC's historic vote to ban the bottom weighted jig in Boca Grande Pass. And yes, we were there. In numbers.

Yes, there was a little celebrating to do Thursday in Pensacola after the FWC’s historic vote to ban the bottom weighted jig in Boca Grande Pass. And yes, we were there. In numbers.

This time it wasn’t even close.

After narrowly surviving a preliminary vote in June, a regulation banning the use of bottom weighted “tarpon jigs” in Boca Grande Pass was adopted by a unanimous vote Thursday, Sept. 5 by the seven-member Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in Pensacola.

The new rule will take effect on November 1. Despite some initial confusion over which way Panama City lawyer Adrien “Bo” Rivard had actually voted, the final tally was eventually set at 7-0. Bottom line, it passed.

Before adopting the Boca Grande “jig” ban on Thursday, the commissioners shot down an 11th hour bid by Florida Tarpon Anglers Association lobbyist Lane Stephens who sought to delay action on the proposed rule by demanding the FWC first hold a series of public workshops and conduct an economic impact study prior to voting on the measure.

By land, by sea and by air. Save the Tarpon board members traveled to Pensacola to attend the FWC Commission meeting. From Left to Right: Capt. Mark Futch, Capt. Frank Davis, Capt. Tom McLaughlin, and Capt. Chris Frohlich

By land, by sea and by air. Save the Tarpon board members traveled to Pensacola to attend the FWC Commission meeting. From Left to Right: Capt. Mark Futch, Capt. Frank Davis, Capt. Tom McLaughlin, and Capt. Chris Frohlich

Stephens, speaking for FTAA vice president and Professional Tarpon Tournament Series angler Craig Abbott, unsuccessfully repeated his “economic impact” argument later in the meeting. “The assumption that jiggers can easily switch to another lure isn’t true,” Stephens said, adding that adoption of the rule would put many of his fishing guide clients out of work.

Responding to Stephens and his claim that “a ban on this tried and true method used by 65 fishing guides” could cost the state an estimated $8 million annually, Save The Tarpon Inc. Chairman Tom McLaughlin noted that the potential impact on a few dozen guides pales in comparison to the big picture.

“We don’t regulate on the effectiveness of a method of fishing. There is substantial evidence saying that by not acting, this could result in the loss of the fishery.”

“In my lifetime I’ve seen several regulations that decreased the effectiveness of certain fishing techniques,” he said. “We don’t regulate on the effectiveness of a method of fishing. There is substantial evidence saying that by not acting, this could result in the loss of the fishery.”

Commissioner Ken Wright agreed. “When you consider the effectiveness of a device or method, if it’s indeed snagging then it shouldn’t be a consideration at all,” Wright said. “This rule is not intended to change human behavior, it’s designed to protect a fish that lives to be as old as 80-years-old.”

But the jig lobbyist hinted that his clients might not be done despite losing Thursday’s vote. Stephens noted that state law “allows small businesses impacted by a rule to challenge (the FWC’s) findings.” In June, a lobbyist representing the same group and the PTTS threatened the commissioners with a lawsuit and budget cuts if the jig ban was adopted. That lobbyist, Tallahassee attorney Timothy P. Atkinson, did not appear at Thursday’s meeting.

The majority of those who spoke at Thursday’s meeting were individual anglers or representatives of a number of groups who urged the commissioners to adopt the anti-snagging regulations. Representatives of the Coastal Conservation Association and the Florida Guides Association voiced their opposition to the measure.

Following the meeting, McLaughlin said a lot of hard work went into the effort to ban the jig. “Our more than 21,000 supporters and their combined voices clearly made a difference. This has been a long time coming, and our members and supporters, our core group of volunteers, the Boca Grande Community, the people of Florida and the people around the world who embraced this cause finally made it happen,” he said.

“The FWC’s action today is more than just a message, it’s a historic step forward in protecting this iconic fishery for generations to come.”

UPDATED: The Professional Tarpon Tournament Series, via its Facebook Page, has issued a response to the FWC’s vote to ban the bottom weighted hook favored by its competitors.

In an apparent contradiction to the “economic impact” argument put forward by lobbyist Lane Stephens on behalf of the Florida Tarpon Anglers Association and its vice president Craig Abbott, the PTTS statement predicted no economic problems for the tournament or its anglers.

“This ruling will have no impact on the future of the PTTS. As demonstrated during this past season, our world class competitors have already developed new artificial lure designs that have proven to be very productive, and we’re confident additional designs will continue to be developed that meet the new definitions. In addition, anglers will still be able to utilize live bait,” according to the PTTS.

Stephens, however, told the seven commissioners that “the assumption that jiggers can easily switch to another lure isn’t true.” Stephens also predicted adoption of the rule would put many of his fishing guide clients out of work.

Meeting Notes

What’s the score? 6-1? 7-0?

Florida has a long history when it comes to counting votes. Thursday’s FWC meeting was no exception – minus the “hanging chads,” that is.

So, was the vote 6-1 or 7-0? While the math wouldn’t have changed the outcome, the actual tally remained a mystery for about five hours on Thursday. It took FWC Marine Fisheries Management spokesman Amanda Nalley, who initially said 6-1 based on what she saw on the record, to solve the numbers puzzle by going directly to the source.

Why the confusion? When the vote was called, there was some question whether commissioner Adrien “Bo” Rivard had been a yea or a nay. Sensing this, Rivard apparently replied “no, I’m with you guys.” Unfortunately, the clerk only heard the “no” part, and Rivard became the “one” in a vote that was officially recorded as 6-1. Meanwhile, new FWC Chairman Richard A. “Dick” Corbett was thanking the commissioners for their “unanimous” vote.

With her cell phone overheating from media calls all asking the same question, Nally said FWC staff eventually decided to take the bull by the horns. They asked Rivard. And the vote went from an official 6-1 to an unofficial unanimous. But even though the Boca Grande rule is a done deal, it appears Rivard will have  to wait until November 20 when the FWC meets in Ft. Lauderdale to correct his vote and officially close the book on this one.

So, if you read somewhere that the vote was 6-1, it was. Even though it was actually 7-0. It’s a Florida thing.

Are we still in Florida?

Many local supporters of the FWC’s rule banning the bottom weighted hook had no choice to make the 520 mile trek across the state to Pensacola for Thursday’s meeting. But for Ryan Hawks, the Crowne Plaza Pensacola Grand Hotel was little more than a commute. Hawks, an avid angler and supporter of Save The Tarpon’s efforts, lives in nearby Fort Walton Beach. Needless to say, his 41 mile drive was the envy of everyone with a Southwest Florida Zip Code.

Ryan made an effective local case – local for those in the Central Time Zone, that is – for the new anti-snagging rules. “On behalf of all the tarpon anglers in the area, we strongly endorse the proposed gear restrictions,” he told the commissioners. “We share the same fishery. As the Pass goes, so goes the entire fishery.”

On the other hand, when tarpon season rolls around next year, Ryan gets to make the 520 mile drive to Boca Grande Pass. But no matter. Pensacola, and those 520 miles, turned out to be well worth the trip.

Let these lawmakers know: Don’t play politics with conservation funding

Holder2

Rep. Doug Holder was among three state lawmakers a PTTS lobbyist suggested might withhold FWC funding if commissioners voted to approve a measure designed to curb foul hooking of tarpon in Boca Grande Pass.

A number of you have asked how to reach out to the three lawmakers who were mentioned by PTTS attorney and lobbyist Timothy P. Atkinson in his remarks to the seven Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission members in Lakeland. As you know, Atkinson threatened that Rep. Doug Holder, Sen. Bill Galvano and Sen. Jack Latvala could potentially use their powerful committee posts in Tallahassee to withhold vital funding for the FWC unless the commissioners did as the PTTS demanded.

Atkinson invoked the names of these legislators and their control of the FWC purse strings while threatening to sue the seven commissioners on behalf of the PTTS and others unless they voted down a proposed regulation designed to curb intentional foul hooking of tarpon in Boca Grande Pass.

As many of you have noted, playing politics with FWC funding is a slap in the face to conservation-minded sportsmen throughout Florida. The FWC plays a critical role in conserving and protecting our fisheries – including Boca Grande Pass. You have asked how to go about letting these three lawmakers know proposing further cuts to an already lean FWC budget is both irresponsible and potentially disastrous. Or, as one of you wrote, “don’t play politics with fish and wildlife conservation in Florida.”

We agree.

If you’d like to make your voice heard on this important matter, here’s how:

 

Rep. Doug Holder

Rep. Doug Holder, as the PTTS lawyer noted, is chairman of the House Regulatory Affairs Committee. His district is centered in Sarasota County, and includes the communities of Venice, North Port and parts of Englewood. You can send him a message using the provided contact form by clicking here.

 

Sen. Bill Galvano

Sen. Bill Galvano is a member of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee. His district is comprised of DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, and parts of Charlotte, Highlands, Hillsborough, and Manatee counties. A link to his contact form can be found here.  On the left side of the page you will see “Email The Senator.” Clicking on this link will take you to a contact form. UPDATE: Sen. Galvano’s office has contacted a number of those who wrote to say he now supports the proposed gear restriction and will be writing a letter expressing his support to the FWC. A letter is also being sent to Mr. Atkinson. There has, to our knowledge, been no response from Rep. Holder or Sen. Latvala.

 

Sen. Jack Latvala

Sen. Jack Latvala serves with Sen. Galvano on the same Senate Appropriations Committee. His district is comprised of parts of Pinellas County. To write him, click here.  As with Sen. Galvano, you’ll find a link to “Email The Senator” on the left side of his page. Clicking on it will take you to a similar contact form.

It’s encouraging to know that you are willing to take the time to ask these lawmakers to clarify their positions on funding for the FWC, to disavow the PTTS lobbyist’s threats attached to their names and to remind them “don’t play politics with fish and wildlife conservation in Florida.”

Drum roll, please…

Need a bedtime story for the kiddies?  Or perhaps some bathroom reading material?  Well, we’ve got you covered.  Enjoy.

(Click here to see the PTTS Complaint as a PDF)

 

Savethetarpon Ptts Summons Complaint Page 01
Savethetarpon Ptts Summons Complaint Page 02Savethetarpon Ptts Summons Complaint Page 03
Savethetarpon Ptts Summons Complaint Page 04
Savethetarpon Ptts Summons Complaint Page 05
Savethetarpon Ptts Summons Complaint Page 06
Savethetarpon Ptts Summons Complaint Page 07
Savethetarpon Ptts Summons Complaint Page 08
Savethetarpon Ptts Summons Complaint Page 09
Savethetarpon Ptts Summons Complaint Page 10
Savethetarpon Ptts Summons Complaint Page 11
Savethetarpon Ptts Summons Complaint Page 12
Savethetarpon Ptts Summons Complaint Page 13
Savethetarpon Ptts Summons Complaint Page 14
Savethetarpon Ptts Summons Complaint Page 15
Savethetarpon Ptts Summons Complaint Page 16
Savethetarpon Ptts Summons Complaint Page 17
Savethetarpon Ptts Summons Complaint Page 18
Savethetarpon Ptts Summons Complaint Page 19
Savethetarpon Ptts Summons Complaint Page 20
Savethetarpon Ptts Summons Complaint Page 21
Savethetarpon Ptts Summons Complaint Page 22
Savethetarpon Ptts Summons Complaint Page 23
Savethetarpon Ptts Summons Complaint Page 24
Savethetarpon Ptts Summons Complaint Page 25
Savethetarpon Ptts Summons Complaint Page 26
Savethetarpon Ptts Summons Complaint Page 27
Savethetarpon Ptts Summons Complaint Page 28
Savethetarpon Ptts Summons Complaint Page 29
Savethetarpon Ptts Summons Complaint Page 30
Savethetarpon Ptts Summons Complaint Page 31
Savethetarpon Ptts Summons Complaint Page 32
Savethetarpon Ptts Summons Complaint Page 33
Savethetarpon Ptts Summons Complaint Page 34
Savethetarpon Ptts Summons Complaint Page 35

PTTS claims $500,000 boycott loss, wants court to silence Save The Tarpon

PTTS LawsuitClaiming it has lost more than $500,000 in sponsorship, TV advertising, entry fees and other revenues, the company that owns and operates the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series (PTTS) has gone to court in an attempt to silence Save The Tarpon, Inc. and its more than 20,000 members and supporters.

Silver King Entertainment, Inc., which operates the PTTS, is seeking an emergency injunction against the organization in a 235 page civil complaint filed April 29 in Sarasota County Circuit Court. In addition to the injunction aimed at restraining Save The Tarpon, Inc. and its board members from speaking out on issues concerning the PTTS and the Boca Grande tarpon fishery, Silver King Entertainment, Inc. is seeking unspecified damages from the non-profit advocacy group and selected members of its board of directors.

Tom McLaughlin, chairman of Save The Tarpon, Inc. and one of the defendants individually targeted in the complaint, said that he is not particularly surprised that Silver King Entertainment, Inc. filed the PTTS lawsuit given the apparent effectiveness of the group’s efforts in making the voices of its members and supporters heard.

McLaughlin, who referred legal questions to Save The Tarpon, Inc.’s attorneys, said the PTTS charted its own course nearly a year ago when tournament organizers told the fledgling organization it would continue engaging in practices the conservation group considers harmful to the fish and the iconic fishery until “someone tells us to stop.”

Noting Silver King Entertainment, Inc.’s claim that it has since lost more than $500,000 attributable to the actions of Save The Tarpon, Inc., McLaughlin characterized the tournament’s stated injuries as “self-inflicted” and contrary to Silver King’s prior public comments that the group’s efforts were having no impact on the PTTS, its sponsors, or its participants.

“They refused to listen to the voices of those whose only goal was to preserve, protect and grow this storied fishery,” McLaughlin said. “And now they want to make those same voices shut up and go away. As the courts have repeatedly and clearly stated, this isn’t how it works in this country.”

Save The Tarpon, Inc. is represented by Brian M. Beason, a partner in the Port Charlotte law firm Frohlich, Gordon and Beason, P.A. Beason declined comment, noting that the lengthy PTTS complaint is still being reviewed. According to court records, the lawsuit was filed on behalf of Silver King Entertainment, Inc. by Tampa attorneys Mitchell L. Feldman and Dennis A. Creed.

In addition to McLaughlin and Save The Tarpon, Inc., board members Lew Hastings, Frank Davis, Chris Frohlich, Mark Futch, Walton “Tommy” Locke Jr. and Rhett Morris are also named as defendants in the lawsuit. Richard Hirsh, who no longer serves on the Save The Tarpon, Inc. board, is also listed as a defendant. Hastings, recently appointed executive director of Save The Tarpon, Inc., also serves as executive director of the Boca Grande Area Chamber of Commerce.

McLaughlin said Silver King Entertainment, Inc.’s lawsuit and its request for injunctive relief ask the court to invoke the rarely successful legal tactic of “prior restraint,” a maneuver designed to prohibit Save The Tarpon, Inc. and the individual defendants from publishing or voicing opinions or concerns that could potentially cast the televised tarpon tournament in a poor light.

McLaughlin noted that former Chief Justice of the United States Warren Burger, in the Supreme Court’s 1976 landmark Nebraska Press Association v. Stuart ruling that declared the tactic unconstitutional, wrote that “prior restraints on speech and publication are the most serious and least tolerable infringement on First Amendment rights.”

Pointing to a lengthy list of sponsors who have withdrawn their support of the tournament in recent months, Silver King Entertainment, Inc is also asking the court to force Save The Tarpon, Inc. to end its member-driven online boycott of businesses that support the controversial event. McLaughlin said the legality of the group’s voluntary boycott efforts was affirmed in yet another landmark ruling, one that dates to the civil rights movement of the 1960s. In its ruling, the Supreme Court found that a peaceful boycott was a constitutionally protected form of legitimate free speech under the First Amendment.

McLaughlin cited the words of Justice John Paul Stevens who, writing for the majority, stated “concerted action is a powerful weapon. And yet one of the foundations of our society is the right of individuals to combine with other persons in pursuit of a common goal by lawful means.”

Characterizing the PTTS lawsuit as “an act of obvious desperation,” McLaughlin said Save The Tarpon, Inc. will “aggressively defend the ability of our members and supporters to have their voices heard on this and any other issue that impacts the future of our fishery and our community. We will continue the fight to protect, preserve and grow this vital public resource. We won’t be silent, we aren’t going away.”

Chamber director: Time to respect, preserve and defend our fishery

Boca Grande Chamber of CommerceLew Hastings is executive director of the Boca Grande Area Chamber of Commerce and host of Gulf Coast Business Spotlight. Take a moment to read the message he shared with us on March 3.

There is a responsibility we all have to fulfill. The responsibility we all bear. To protect, preserve and defend our natural resources.

Boca Grande has a very unique and storied history when it comes to tarpon fishing. Indeed, this is the Tarpon Fishing Capital of the World. There is nothing we won’t do to ensure that we retain that distinction. Most importantly, the way in which we can do that is to educate residents, visitors and vacationers alike as to how we can work together to create and maintain a sustainable fishery.

We first have to acknowledge and respect our blessings that we have been placed in this unique environment. That we have the specific ingredients in this region that the tarpon can to migrate to, pre-spawn, create a nursery and grow to maturity. I have been lucky enough to get involved in current scientific studies that are the only type of their kind anywhere in the world to ultimately try to understand why tarpon are attracted to this place, our backyard, to grow and perpetuate their species. We would be irresponsible and naive to minimize the importance of our place in their life cycle and the importance of our actions on their behavior in their habitat and in their home.

Mr. Lew Hastings & Capt. Tom McLaughlin

Lew Hastings, executive director of the Boca Grande Chamber of Commerce (left), and Capt. Tom McLaughlin, chairman of Save the Tarpon (right) at the 2013 Save the Tarpon Shindig on March 3.

So make no mistake. This is not about a fish. There are millions of fish and species that deserve their day in the sun. That deserve attention. That deserve respect. This is about an ecosystem. Our ecosystem. Their ecosystem. And what is unique to our area. And the role we play in the entirety of the tarpon life cycle and it’s effect around the world. This is not about any one man, woman or group.

There are plenty of people who think they know what is best for the environment. But some are really only concerned for themselves … they like to hear themselves talk. They talk a big game. But when it comes to actually doing something, they really don’t deliver. This is not about an organization or a club. Because both or either can become myopic and focus on the things that benefit only their concerns and goals and promote only their views and beliefs. When that happens, people see through it as false concern, background noise … self serving tactics. And no one is taken seriously. And nothing , in the end, gets done.

Community. Community is what matters. Community working together. Grassroots up is powerful. Impactful. When the community says, like ours has, enough is enough. We will no longer tolerate the abuse of our natural resources and the misrepresentation of our community. Someone … everyone has to listen. And that is what is happening today.

The citizens and friends of the Boca Grande community have come together to say unequivocally everyone is invited to come and enjoy the beautiful God given natural resource we have to offer to the world. But you will respect it and you will help preserve it – not just for us but for generations to come.

The Boca Grande Area Chamber of Commerce has been dedicated to that end as long as I have been executive director for the last two years and I hope it will be long after I am gone.

We didn’t have to revive the World’s Richest Tarpon Tournament. As far as the Boca Grande Chamber and everyone else was concerned it was on an extended hiatus for 7 years. But on it’s 30th Anniversary there was a reason to bring it back more than just for the historical significance of the heritage of Boca Grande … but for the new mission.

World's Richest Tarpon Tournament

The 2013 “World’s Richest” Tarpon Tournament scheduled for May 23rd & 24th 2013.

Conservation. Education. Sportsmanship.

These three words define what the residents of Boca Grande and surrounding communities have been promoting and encouraging for years upon years. Generations in fact. Employing conservation tactics and recommendations to ensure a healthy fishery.

Education of the public both residential and visitors on the importance of our role and location in the life cycle of tarpon and other marine species. And the adherence and maintenance to the tenets of sportsmanship.

Somewhere along the way, some of us have forgotten the meaning of the word sportsman and the responsibilities and expectations that go along with being a sportsman. We need to make sure we not only bring this teaching back, but make sure that it is not forgotten. Not now or in the future generations.

So what is next? What do we expect from our visitors, our residents and ourselves? Put simply – respect. Respect the fish, Respect the Pass.

The 2013 “World’s Richest” Tarpon Tournament scheduled for May 23rd & 24th 2013 is combined with the 3nd Annual Gasparilla Island Kid’s Classic will be held on May 25th hosted by Gasparilla Outfitters. The weekend long events will be combined with a downtown festival that will include music, food and games for the kids.

Contact the Boca Grande Area Chamber of Commerce by phone, email, or visit their website for more information.

Guy Harvey Magazine highlights “Battle in Boca Grande”

The newly released Winter 2013 issue of Guy Harvey Magazine includes a six page article by Fred D. Garth discussing the controversy surrounding the Boca Grande Pass tarpon fishery.

 

 

 

 

 

Guides, STT agree to take differing routes to a common goal

Boca Grande Fishing Guides Association (BGFGA)Save The Tarpon Inc. respects the decision of the Boca Grande Fishing Guides Association Inc. to pursue its own organizational goals relating to tarpon fishing in Boca Grande Pass. We are pleased that many individual members of the guides association have pledged their continuing support for Save The Tarpon Inc.’s efforts to elevate public awareness of the harm being done to this world famous fishery by the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series.

Save The Tarpon will continue to focus on ending the outdated and wasteful practice of gaff, drag, weigh and kill. Save the Tarpon will continue to demand enforcement of Florida’s safe boating laws during PTTS events. Save the tarpon will continue its work to ensure public access to Boca Grande Pass at all times.

Many of those who support Save The Tarpon Inc.’s efforts are obviously sympathetic to the concerns of the BGFGA as they relate to the use of the so-called Pass Jig, the most common method of fishing employed by PTTS participants.

It is our belief that injecting this contentious issue into the current debate would deflect attention from the group’s stated goal of bringing about achievable and equitable reform. The PTTS is desperately seeking to characterize opposition to gaff, drag, hoist and kill as an assault on the recreational tarpon angler. It is a strategy that has clearly failed.

The Boca Grande Fishing Guides Association Inc. created a sea change in public thinking through its efforts to promote what was originally known as the tarpon “kill tag” when it was adopted. Almost overnight the senseless “hero photo” slaughter of tarpon came to an end.

The last vestige of this practice, unfortunately, lives on through the PTTS and its televised “hero photos” of tarpon being needlessly gaffed, dragged, hoisted, weighed, gutted and buried in the deepest waters of Boca Grande Pass while it perpetuates the fiction of “live release.”

Save The Tarpon Inc. and its nearly 2,000 members remain focused on effectively finishing the job the BGFGA started those many years ago.

Sign the Petition

The first Tarpon ever recorded caught on hook and line was caught in 1885, just miles from Boca Grande Pass. That achievement marked the beginning of what has become a world-renown fishery that seasonally stretches all over Florida and from Virginia through Texas and the Caribbean.

Biologists believe that Tarpon use Boca Grande Pass as a meeting place before and after offshore spawning migrations. The Pass also provides an abundance of food giving the tarpon a better chance of healthy survival after the rigors of spawning. The fish come to the area from throughout the region. Since we know Tarpon can migrate long distances, we also know that what happens to tarpon in one location is important to tarpon in other locations. What happens in Boca Grande has implications for the regional Tarpon fishery from the Keys to the Panhandle.

The recent and alarming inception of the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series (PTTS), a high-impact, season-long for-profit tournament in Boca Grande Pass, is causing significant negative impacts to the Tarpon fishery. Tarpon have changed their movement, feeding, and spawning behaviors. The change in these patterns has altered the quality of the fishery.

Additionally, by the glorification and promotion of unsafe boat operations by the PTTS contestants on television, the safety of all anglers and boaters in Boca Grande Pass and the surrounding waterways is now threatened.

The actions of the PTTS, its sponsors, and participants show total disregard for the historically and culturally important tarpon fishery in Boca Grande Pass. The PTTS has purposely adopted unethical fishing practices to help facilitate higher TV ratings and profits–fishing practices that have long been known to the angling community as outdated and unsportsmanlike.

I, the undersigned, support the Save the Tarpon movement and call for the immediate termination of the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series (PTTS). This must be done to preserve the fishery for anglers of today and for the future health of the fishery.

2015 Boca Grande Pass Tarpon Fishing Regulations

Tarpon

Florida Regulations:

Tarpon is a catch-and-release only fishery.One tarpon tag per person per year may be purchased when in pursuit of an International Game Fish Association (IGFA) record. Vessel, transport and shipment limited to one fish.

Fishing with gear that has a weight attached to a hook, artificial fly or lure in such a way that the weight hangs lower than the hook when the line or leader is suspended vertically from the rod is prohibited. This change will apply to fishing for all species year-round within Boca Grande Pass. If this gear is on board a fishing vessel while inside the boundaries of the Pass, it cannot be attached to any rod, line or leader and must be stowed. Natural bait is not considered to be a weight. If the jig fishes in an illegal manner it is prohibited. Any jig that allows the attached weight to slip down the shank so that it hangs lower than the hook while the line or leader is suspended vertically from the rod is prohibited, and must be stowed so it is not readily accessible.

Boca Grande Pass Regulations:

  • During the months of April, May and June, no more than three fishing lines may be deployed from a vessel at any one time.
  • During the months of April, May and June, no person shall use, fish with, or place in the water any breakaway gear.

FWC law enforcement is patrolling the waters in Boca Grande Pass, assessing what types of gear are being used and educating anglers about the recent changes. Without properly inspecting it, it is impossible to know with 100 percent certainty if the gear in question is legal or not.

Unsure if the gear is prohibited? Call the FWC regional office at 863-648-3200.

Map of Boca Grande Pass

Boca Grande Pass Map

 

Gear Requirements:

  • Legal Gear: hook and line only.
  • Snagging, snatch hooking, spearing and the use of a multiple hook in conjunction with live or dead natural bait is prohibited

Which rigs are prohibited?

When fishing for tarpon, gear is limited to hook and line only and you cannot use multiple hooks in conjunction with live or dead natural bait. When fishing in Boca Grande Pass (for any species, year-round), gear that has a weight attached to a hook, artificial fly or lure in such a way that the weight hangs lower than the hook when the line or leader is suspended vertically from the rod is prohibited. For the purposes of this rule, live or dead natural bait is not considered to be a weight. If this gear is on board a fishing vessel while inside the boundaries of the Pass, it cannot be attached to any rod, line or leader and must be stowed.

This is an example of prohibited gear:

bottom weighted jig

What rigs are legal?

Here are some examples of gear that are considered legal.

Jig tied to weightJig with bead

These jigs would be allowed so long as the weight cannot slip down the shank to the bottom of the hook while being fished.

But if the weight can slip down the shank to the bottom of the hook, as demonstrated in this video, it is prohibited.

 

Examples of other gear that are allowed:

Jigs

Jigs, such as the ones pictured, are still an allowed gear.

Hi-Lo Rig

Hi-Lo or Chicken Rig used with live or dead bait to target bottom fish and reef species.

Bottom-rig

Bottom rig used to target a variety of fish species with live or dead bait.

Jigs_and_spoons_2013.jpg

Butterfly jigs and spoons used to target a wide variety of fish species.

These regulations were pulled directly from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Committee website on 5-4-15. Here is a link: http://myfwc.com/fishing/saltwater/recreational/tarpon/.
Please check for updates.

Help Fund the Fight to Protect the Pass

GoFundMe DashboardDon’t allow your voice to be silenced!

We want to thank everyone for their generous and continuing support of Save The Tarpon’s ongoing “Fight Back Fund.” In less than two weeks you helped us meet and exceed our initial $20,000 goal – money we’re already putting to work, money we’re using RIGHT NOW to go toe-to-toe with Gary Ingman and his stable of PTTS lawyers.

We also have some game changing news to share. David M. Snyder , a nationally known media law expert whose clients have included CBS Broadcasting and the New York Times, has joined Save The Tarpon’s “Fight Back” legal team. And make no mistake, the game has now changed.

As you likely know, your efforts haven’t gone unnoticed. You got their attention in the only way Ingman and his flotilla of lawyers understand. Within days of our online campaign’s launch, and after you helped us raise more than $5,000 in a short 24 hour span, the PTTS panicked. You scared them with your outpouring of support. True to form, they’re now threatening to sue Save The Tarpon again. Why? They want to keep us from mustering the resources needed to continue to “Fight Back.”

It’s not happening.

In the face of this latest PTTS threat, and Ingman’s apparent willingness to spend whatever it takes to purchase our collective silence, we’ve taken a fresh look at what will be needed to put the unfiltered truth about the PTTS before a Charlotte County jury when Ingman’s day in court – and his day of reckoning – finally arrives. And with “snag, gaff and drag” a not-so-distant memory, we all understand what’s at stake and how easily it could all be lost.

With your help, we’ve turned the corner and we’re changing the game. Thanks for your continuing support of our efforts to protect and preserve the Boca Grande tarpon fishery.

The History…

In September of 2013, Florida’s fish and wildlife regulators heard you. They listened. They heard and they listened to your more than 27,000 voices as you demanded an end to the exploitation of one the planet’s most storied fisheries.

Your voices prompted the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to stand up to the lawyers, the lobbyists, the legislative hired guns, the phony “Florida Tarpon Angler” front groups and the Tallahassee power players.

The seven FWC commissioners listened to your voices – to the voices of Save The Tarpon, its members and supporters – and cast a unanimous and historic vote to ban the notorious snatch and snag hook known as the “PTTS Jig” from the waters of Boca Grande Pass.

As anticipated, the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series and its owners retaliated less than a month later. The PTTS payback came in the form of a corruption of the court system known as a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation , a perverse legal tactic typically used by deep pocket plaintiffs to spend advocacy groups like Save The Tarpon into submission.

The PTTS quickly deployed an armada of big-time, big-city, SLAPP-happy lawyers armed with truckloads of cash, bottomless billable hours and frivolous legal fictions, all designed to put money over merit by dragging Save The Tarpon from one courtroom to another – with the goal of keeping us in court until we ran out of money and the means to fight back. Two counties and three judges later, that’s where Save The Tarpon now finds itself.

In response, Save The Tarpon has established a legal defense campaign fund with a goal of raising a minimum of $20,000. Money we’ll use to fight back at Gary Ingman, Joe Mercurio, the PTTS and their SLAPP suit lawyers. Money we’ll use to aggressively defend your right to be heard as we work together to protect and preserve our historic fishery. And the PTTS is paying attention. They’re already taking steps to stop us by threatening additional legal action designed to cripple our strategic fundraising efforts. It won’t work.

The Gary Ingmans, the Joe Mercurios and the big money interests who brought us televised gaff and drag, the PTTS snag hook, the Wrap Boat Rodeo, the Spandex Ballet, the play-by-play shark attacks, the gutted tarpon and the tournament’s signature “controlled chaos” have now brought us perilously close to where our ability to carry the fight forward is in very real jeopardy.

“We’ll stop when someone makes us stop.”

With those words, Save The Tarpon was born. With those words, PTTS owner Gary Ingman dared Save The Tarpon into existence. “We’ll stop when someone makes us stop.”

Looking back, Ingman’s refusal to compromise, his refusal to even consider  the most modest of reforms proposed by early critics of  his high-flying TV tarpon tournament was, perhaps, understandable. Why should he?

In the spring of 2012, Ingman and his basic cable fishing  show had figuratively taken title to Boca Grande Pass, a claim underwritten by some of the biggest and most powerful names in the business. Names like MillerCoors, Yamaha, Tires Plus and Costa del Mar. Ingman was holding all the cards. He was on top. For the moment.

Ingman’s “controlled chaos,” as PTTS front man Joe Mercurio would later stand before the FWC and smugly boast, was being piped into “more than 47 million” cable converter boxes throughout North America via ESPN, Fox Sports and the Sunshine Network. Meanwhile, Save The Tarpon was little more than a dinky Facebook page with a handful of followers.  That was about to change.

“We’ll stop when someone makes us stop?” 

Save The Tarpon accepted Ingman’s dare and went to work. Ingman had picked his fight. But we were determined to finish it. Within 18 short months, the improbable happened. Gaff and drag – Gone. The PTTS snag hook – Gone. Also gone were the big names and the big money promotional deals.

Save The Tarpon’s online educational efforts had served to alert the TV fishing tournament’s sponsors to the ugly reality of the abuses they were unwittingly underwriting. Individual economic pressure was also brought to bear. Sponsors slowly began drifting away. Gary Ingman’s dare had been accepted. And Gary Ingman had been made to stop.

In a bid designed to stem the bleeding, Ingman tossed open the checkbook. The high-priced Tampa SLAPP suit lawyers were summoned. And we saw the battleground move away from the court of public opinion and into a court of law where Ingman and the PTTS were determined to buy back all that had been lost.

(Incredibly, the PTTS initially filed suit in Sarasota County Circuit Court. Where, coincidentally, Mercurio’s father Fred happens to be a judge! Nice try, but it didn’t work. The PTTS lawyers later claimed filing in what was clearly the wrong jurisdiction – the one where Joe’s daddy was a judge – was a paperwork error, nothing more than an innocent mistake. What do you think?)

Ingman and his SLAPP suit lawyers are attacking Save The Tarpon’s constitutionally protected right to speak up and speak out in defense of the fishery.  But they haven’t stopped there.

Our ability to work in concert to achieve a common good, a “fundamental freedom” etched into law by the Supreme Court, has also come under attack. As a result, Save The Tarpon now finds itself in danger of being summarily and arbitrarily gagged. And the danger is real. We’ve sadly come to learn that when money talks, the Constitution walks.

The intent of a SLAPP suit is to censor, intimidate and silence critics by burdening them with the expense of fighting costly and frivilous legal maneuvers until they have no choice but to abandon their criticism and opposition. And, absent your help, it’s about to happen to us. Our voices will be effectively and perhaps permanently silenced.

Tragically, there’s just one effective way to slap back at a SLAPP suit wielded by a SLAPP-happy, deep-pocketed Southwest Florida boat dealer out to buy back everything we’ve all worked so hard to accomplish.

Money.

Yes, money. Money for courtrooms. Money for lawyers. Money for motions, pleadings and appearances. Money we’ll need as we prepare to carry the unfiltered truth about Ingman, Mercurio and the PTTS into a Punta Gorda courtroom and place it before a jury of six Charlotte County citizens.

Money that sends a clear signal to the Ingmans, the Mercurios and the entire PTTS posse that we won’t be silenced, that we won’t be SLAPPed around, that we’re here to finish the fight they started and that no matter what, we won’t be bullied and we won’t back down.

Enough is enough.

We’re fighting for more than a fishery. And we won’t back down. We’re fighting for more than our shared right to speak freely and unafraid. And we won’t back down. We are, at the end of the day, fighting for our kids. For our kids and their kids. For future generations. That’s what this is about. What it’s always been about. It’s why it matters. And it’s why we can’t back down, why we won’t back down.

It’s why we’re asking you to take up our fight and once again make it your fight. To help us see it to the end, and to carry it forward in the months, years and decades to come.

Will you stand with us?

We once again need you at our side, to once again stand with us as we wage this latest battle to make our collective voices heard. To preserve all that has been won, with a keen understanding of how easily it could all be lost absent the resources needed to see this fight to the finish. We won’t be silenced. We won’t be bullied. We won’t allow a return to the days of snag, gaff, drag and dump. Together, we can send them a message..

We won’t be silenced.
We won’t be intimidated. 

We won’t be bullied. 
We won’t be spent into submission.
We won’t quit. 

With your help, we’re fighting back.
And we won’t back  down.