Waterline Magazine’s Josh Olive tosses out some questions

Many feel as though “paid advertising section” should be clearly labeled at the top of every article or commentary found among the pages of Waterline Magazine any time the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series (PTTS) is mentioned.  After all, Gary Ingman of Ingman Marine, who coincidentally is also a majority stakeholder in the PTTS, is one of their largest advertising accounts.

As we prepare our answers to Josh Olive’s questions (found on the second page of this editorial), we felt it was fair for us to ask a few in return.  We invite our readers and supporters to ask your own questions in the comment section found at the bottom of this page.  These may be questions for us, questions for the PTTS, questions for Josh Olive, or just questions to the public.  We will use your contributions, in addition to our own questions, in an upcoming response to Mr. Olive’s editorial.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Project Tarpon on PTTS: ‘Virtually all of them die’

Team Sea HuntThe following is an unsolicited response from Project Tarpon‘s Scott Alford to Save The Tarpon’s earlier post “Study was a ‘win-win’ for tarpon, a ‘lose-lose’ for PTTS.” 

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 ProjectTarpon.com stands for. ProjectTarpon.com’s only interest is tarpon.  ProjectTarpon.com 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 preyed 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 ProjectTarpon.com 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, Project Tarpon

Turf War, Snagging Tarpon, and A Crash Course on Boca Grande Pass Etiquette by FWC

With all the talk about the Save The Tarpon movement being simply a turf war, you can’t help but acknowledge that there must be some validity in the argument.  There is some truth behind the accusations, but that truth may not be as clear as has been described.  There is no denying that which side of the pro-jig/anti-jig movement you fall on often has some correlation with where you live.  A vast majority of the jig guides and PTTS participants come to town for the months of May and June, and once the Tarpon head offshore to spawn, that same majority return home to either continue fishing in their home waters or pursue other occupations.  They have very little tie to the local community during the rest of the year. I don’t think there is any denying this fact by either side of the argument.

The notion that the fight over Boca Grande Pass Tarpon fishing is about a group of traditional  pass fishing guides wanting to stop all others from fishing in their “private fishing hole”  is the battle cry of most who oppose the Save The Tarpon movement.  However, nothing could be further from the truth.  This is absolutely a turf war, but not in the way so frequently described by participants of the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series and board members of the Florida Guides Association.

FWC at PTTS Protest  - Save the Tarpon

FWC overlooks the PTTS weigh boat during the June 17th protest.

The fact is that the jig fishing “pack” is supported primarily by the PTTS and the Florida Guides Association.  These two groups often point fingers at the Boca Grande Fishing Guides Association as being behind the Save The Tarpon movement, and proclaim that they are looking to exclude jig fishermen from the Pass because the jig fishermen are “stealing their charter business.”  How can this be the case when you have a grassroots movement, not yet sixty days old, that has more than seventeen hundred supporters? A number that grows by an average of thirty per day.  At last count the Boca Grande Fishing Guide Association had less than fifty paying members, could they be the sole purveyors of such compelling “propaganda” as the Florida Guides Association representatives love to call it?  Could the Boca Grande Fishing Guides Association really “brainwash” that many folks on a regular basis?  Even if they could pull off that feat, could they do so with some of the most experienced and well respected fishermen in Florida, and nation wide?

There are some facts in the arguments levied by the PTTS, Florida Guides Association, and its supporters that need some clarification.  First off, the “authorities” on jig fishing related information that they love to reference are not in fact the first generation of jig fishermen, they are the second.  There was a time when Capt. Dave Markett, one of the most outspoken supporters of the jig fishery, Florida Guides Association West Florida Representative, and self proclaimed jig fishery expert, was struggling to keep up with the likes of Captains Ed  Walker and Chris Klingel. These two were not only catching a LOT more fish on charters, but they were also sweeping nearly every tarpon tournament throughout the year.  That’s sweeping, not just winning.  As a matter of fact, those two talented individuals account for more total dollars of winnings between them then every single first place prize from the PTTS to date combined!  Where are the two ‘kings’ of the jig fishery now?  Well they quit jig fishing long ago of course.  They both have also spoken out against the jig fishery and the PTTS.  But wait, weren’t those people who were against the jig fishery and the PTTS only holding firm to that position because the “experts” in the jig fishery were more successful?  Why then would the two most successful jig captains in history, financially speaking, choose to hang up their beloved tiger shad?  They both seem to think that the jig is nothing more than a snagging device, and that the jig fishery in general is damaging  Boca Grande pass both biologically and socially.  Whats their motivation?  If I answered it would only be conjecture, maybe Capt. Markett should ask them.

So if people are not coming out against the PTTS because of money lost, then why are so many speaking out against it and rallying for not only an end to the tournament but often to the jig fishery as a whole?  The answer here is both extremely complex and exceedingly simple.

The only real supporters of the PTTS and the jig fishery are its participants, owners, sponsors, and the Florida Guides Association.  This is a fairly small group of individuals with a common interest in that they all benefit financially, either directly or indirectly, from the PTTS.  The same cannot be said for the group rallying behind the Save The Tarpon movement, as they are much more diverse group of individuals, with even more diverse interests both financially and socially. Although some are fishing guides or make their living upon the waters of Florida, very few have a financial stake in the game.  This group claims that the PTTS, and correspondingly the jig fishery as it has evolved to date, is causing irreparable harm both biologically and socially to the Boca Grande Tarpon Fishery.  How exactly they are causing these problems is where we start to get into the complexity as not all members or supporters of the movement seem to agree.  They all agree that there is a problem and the PTTS and the jig fishermen are damaging the fishery, but they do not agree on exactly how or why.

The effects of culling out large females, handling them excessively and, as the state and all conservation oriented groups describe as “inappropriately” during the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series has been discussed at length.  For now we will leave that argument to rest as we should not lose sight of the other half of the problem at hand and the crux of the argument against the jig fishery as a whole.

Some say that the jig does nothing more than snag fish.  This is an argument supported not solely by the traditional pass fishermen of the Boca Grande Fishing Guides Association, but also by many of the most winning captains ever to fish with a jig in Boca Grande History.  As a matter of fact, you will not find ANY of the original guides or participants who were instrumental in bringing the jig to Boca Grande Pass and perfecting its use still using the jig today.

The assertion that the jig snags fish, that they are not actually choosing to eat the jig, means that users of said jig are able to aggressively pursue tarpon to a point at which they are more attacking the fish than they are coaxing them to bite. If they had to rely on the fish to actually open its mouth and bite the jig, this hyper aggressive pursuit would prove fruitless.  Case in point, during nearly all times when the jig is yielding a nearly instant hookup, it will prove virtually impossible to catch a Tarpon on anything else regardless of the skill of the captain, the type of bait or lure, or the way in which it is rigged.  If the fish are feeding so aggressively, how can this be so?  Anglers supporting the use of the jig have come up with a myriad of explanations, but none has yet proven to take hold as the official position of the PTTS or the Florida Guides Association.

A 2002-2004 hook placement study, conducted by the significant other of one of the most high profile participants of the PTTS at the time, proved “inconclusive”.  The findings did not vindicate the jig as a snagging device, but did not find sufficient evidence to ban the jig in its entirety.  Remember the FWC is a reactive agency, not proactive.  Mote Marine Laboratory holds a similar position as their official statement is that “more research is required.”

So at this point we are stuck.  We have anecdotal evidence presented by the most experienced among the jig fishermen, as well as  the most winning captains ever to use a jig stating it is nothing more than a snagging device.  On the other hand we  have the current participants of the PTTS, Florida Guides Association representatives, and jig fishing guides saying it does not.  The data to this point has proved “inconclusive” and there is even question as to what exactly constitutes a “foul hooked” Tarpon.  So we are at a bit an impasse.  But is this the whole argument?

If it were simply about snagging or foul hooking a fish in the corner of the jaw, the reactions of participants on both sides would not be so visceral.  AfterBoca Grande Tarpon Fishingall, if one hooks a  fish’s mouth from the outside in, or the inside out does it really make such a large difference in the fish’s survival that guides on both sides of the fence will literally come to blows over it?  Absolutely not!  So why is the battle so heated?  Could it be that there is a little more to the story than just a shift in charter business and overcrowding?

Here we are, back at the complexity of why so many people, from so many walks of life, with so many diverse interests in the fishery and community of Boca Grande are rallying together to fight the PTTS and some say, the jig fishery as a whole.  We often get lost in the complexity of this argument, and at times it seems so complex that proponents of the jig jump to no other conclusion than it is all a farce played out by traditional pass fishermen looking to exclude everyone else from fishing in Boca Grande Pass.  While this may or may not be their agenda (I am not, nor have I ever been a member), it is becoming increasingly clear that this is absolutely a turf war where one user group is excluding all others. However, the description of this turf war has been a bit skewed by those looking to protect a significant stream of income they derive both directly and indirectly from the jig fishery at Boca Grande Pass.  It is the PTTS, Florida Guides Association board members, and the jig fishery guides who are effectively excluding all other fishers from pursuing Tarpon in and around Boca Grande Pass during daylight hours in May and June.

Boca Grande Pass is a very congested place during May and June, and rightfully so.  It offers Tarpon fishing opportunities that are not found elsewhere in North America.  Unfortunately this is not a problem of simple overcrowding, as that would be a much less heated and easier solved debate.  Rather, it is a problem of a culture of disrespect that has become synonymous with the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series and the jig fishery as a whole. Disrespect not only for the fish and fellow fishermen, but also for the community, its inhabitants, and its heritage.  That is not to say that everyone who jig fishes or participates in the PTTS is guilty, but rather refers to the actions of the group as a whole.

No other fishery specifically excludes others from their pursuit of Tarpon in Boca Grande Pass. The relentless, hyper-aggressive pursuit of tarpon while jig fishing is having obvious and devastating affects on other sectors of the fishery.  Further, once these fish leave the pass, these same aggressive and exclusionary tactics carry over to other areas of the fishery, compounding the issue dramatically.  For lack of a better term, no place is safe from the invasion of the horde when the fish leave the pass.  Could the pass and the surrounding fishery support the number of boats currently fishing? Absolutely.  But as the numbers of fishermen and boats increase, and correspondingly pressure increases on the fish, successful continuation of the fishery relies upon increased cooperation among participants in the fishery.  The jig fishery as a whole represents the antithesis to this very need.

So why do we have such a large and diverse group calling for an end to the PTTS?  To put it simply, the PTTS has created and fostered the disrespect for the fishery, its history, and culture. It can be seen publicly from the lowest level participant to the top rungs of management and ownership. Just as the scraps of what once were magnificent fish wash away upon the outgoing tide after each PTTS event, so too will the Boca Grande tarpon fishery as a whole disappear once the respect for the fishery, the community, and the fish are lost, only to be replaced by a relentless pursuit of increased revenue.

Why are many among the Save the Tarpon movement also calling for an end to the jig fishery as a whole?  I cannot speak for all of them, but the consensus among them is that this fishery means to much to us as a community and as the fishing public to be denied access to the fishery by a small group of individuals who are out simply to pad their pocketbook.  Is it a turf war? Absolutely.  The PTTS and the jig fishery are fighting to maintain the strangle hold they have had on Boca Grande Pass for the last decade, and they can feel it slipping away.  The charade is coming to an end, and too many questions and accusations are being levied by too many people for it to continue to simply be ignored.  How large will our numbers have to grow before they stop claiming our actions are those of a small group of local traditional guides seeking to secure a financial interest in Boca Grande Pass?  How long will they cling to the historic slaughter of Tarpon at Boca Grande Pass at the hands of the traditional guides years ago as justification for their own slaughter they commit each and every weekend in May and June to this very day?  How long will they continue to ignore the pleas of conservation minded anglers and organizations to stop what they are doing? Will it take closing Boca Grande Pass to all tournaments or even all fishing in May and June as so many among their ranks have claimed?  Maybe it will, I don’t claim to be an expert, only to have my own informed opinion.

I leave with a parting gift.  The following excerpt was taken from the current FWC brochure published on Tarpon Fishing at Boca Grande Pass.  Keep in mind the arguments of those against the jig fishery when you read the following. The next time you watch the PTTS on TV or happen to be driving through the pass in May or June  ask yourself “are these the actions of the jig fishery participants?”  Maybe you will begin to see why the PTTS, Florida Guides Association, and the jig fishery as a whole have all other user groups of the Tarpon fishery so upset.

Taken from http://myfwc.com/media/2077379/Tarpon_brochure.pdf

 

Tarpon Biology

The majority of tarpon caught in Boca Grande Pass are of reproductive age; therefore, extra care should be taken when handling these fish so they remain healthy to spawn and produce the next generation of tarpon. Practicing good conservation and fishing ethics when tarpon fishing will help ensure a sustainable tarpon population.

Safe Boating and Pass Etiquette

• Operate your boat at a rate of speed that does not create a wake.
• When approaching the fleet make note of the direction of drift, and begin your drift at the head of the pack (up-current side).
• When finishing a drift, move to the head of the fleet by going around, not through the fleet.
• Boat operators should always avoid interfering with another boat’s drift.
• Do not rush over or chase a school of tarpon you see rolling at the surface.
• Do not run through a school of tarpon. Go around them and start your fishing in front of the school.

The same FWC that owners of the PTTS falsely claimed “support” their event seems to realize there is a need for etiquette among fishermen in the pass in order to avoid conflicts. I guess these only apply to everyone  who is a not a “professional” in the Tarpon Tournament Series.

FWC defines ‘proper handing’ at June meeting

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission issued the following policy statement at its June meeting:

“Proper handling techniques ensure the best chance of survival. This includes returning the fish to the water as quickly as possible.”

Although the FWC was referring to snook in this instance, the statement signals the commission understands that “returning the fish to the water as quickly as possible” and “best chance of survival” doesn’t mean gaffing a snook, towing a snook to the beach, tossing a snook into a sling, weighing it, posing it for photos, dragging it to deep water and running it over with your outboard.

In other words, the PTTS definition of “proper handling techniques.”

The FWC might,  just might, have a problem explaining how all this is bad for snook, but good for tarpon.

PTTS: A Far Cry From “Catch and Release.”

Tarpon Gaffed in HeadIt has come to the attention of those involved in every facet of the fight to end unethical and unacceptable angling and handling practices in Boca Grande–namely the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series–that the owners, managers, participants, and supporters seem to think of the PTTS as a “catch and release” tournament.  Let’s take this time to clarify exactly what is taking place in Boca Grande Pass on the weekends.

The term “catch and release” is not one to be thrown about nonchalantly.  It is, in fact, a technical term in the state of Florida and has been successfully held up in court to prosecute fisheries violations.  

The state of Florida describes “catch and release” as the fish being “returned immediately and unharmed.”  It is this very definition that requires the PTTS to use the tarpon kill tag in order to gaff, drag, and weigh the fish during the televised events.

The PTTS and Joe Mercurio would have both the viewers and the sponsors believe that just because they return the fish to the water after they are finished with their antics, that this constitutes catch and release.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.

The very same FWC that Mr. Mercurio says he works closely with will go on to tell you, once you take possession of the fish (i.e. gaffing) you are no longer “releasing” the fish.  Once you move from catch and release to possession, the state does not distinguish between a fish dragged, weighed, and towed off by the ‘release team,’ or a fish whose throat is slit and laid on the beach for the birds to eat.  Though the mortality rate may be different, it is clear that based on extensive catch and release mortality studies, the chances of survival are considerably less than those of a fish who is unhooked, popped off a leader, or otherwise allowed to go free immediately after being caught.

In the world of fisheries management a fish returned to the water with a questionable chance of survival is referred to as a “discard.”  This again is a technical term just like “catch and release.”  It does not exist to make one feel better or worse about the disposition of their catch. Why is the difference between “catch and release” and “discards” so important?  Because a large majority of the PTTS viewers are not particularly skilled or educated anglers.  In general, they have very little knowledge of the intricacies of proper post-catch fish handling.  However, many do understand conservation organizations, both private and governmental, support and promote ethical fish handling such as “catch and release.”  When they are lead to believe the handling they see on TV during the PTTS is “catch and release,” they use the television show as instruction as to how to properly handle tarpon and other big game fish.  This is a dangerous situation.  The fact that these fish are not “released” but rather “discarded” will never even enter their mind.

It is the responsibility of those who profit from fishing to promote proper etiquette, promote ethical angling, and promote true “catch and release.”  The time of kill tarpon tournaments is gone, and now its time to end “catch and discard” tournaments masquerading as “catch and release.”

The same goes for the sponsors of the PTTS who will surely be inquiring as to why Save the Tarpon, Inc is calling for a boycott of their business.  They will be told the same as the television viewers heard. ‘Live release, live release, live release.’  The fact remains, most of the fish mishandled by the PTTS die.  And for no other reason than to provide TV drama in the relentless pursuit for higher ratings.

And though the tournament only officially takes place on weekends, the damage to the resource does not stop on Monday morning.  The fallacy continues throughout the week as tarpon are dragged to the beach at Boca Grande, most illegally without the use of a tarpon tag, simply because charter clients demand the same photo-op they saw on TV back home.  If it’s good enough for the PTTS then it’s good enough for them, right?

Fisheries worldwide have made great strides towards bringing public perception inline with what the scientific community agrees is acceptable fish handling through the promotion of “catch and release.”  Even the oft mentioned Boca Grande Guides Association, accused of killing “countless numbers of tarpon” by members of the PTTS, has not gaffed, dragged, or removed a tarpon from the water in the course of a tournament since 2007.

As we progress through life, especially as anglers, we are constantly learning.   We may not have all made the right decisions in the past, but that does not mean we cannot make them in the future.  Our understanding of fisheries is increasing at a pace quicker than we can get the word out to the general public. It is the responsibility of those who profit from fishing to promote proper etiquette, promote ethical angling, and promote true “catch and release.”  The time of kill tarpon tournaments is gone, and now its time to end “catch and discard” tournaments masquerading as “catch and release.”

 

Capt. Tom McLaughlin, Founding member of SaveTheTarpon.com

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.

Boycott the PTTS

We strongly oppose, and call for the immediate termination of, the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series (PTTS) in Boca Grande, Florida.  Our opposition stems from the destructive, unethical fishing practices and unsportsmanlike conduct promoted by this six week long, for-profit fishing tournament television show.  We believe the disruptive fishing methods endorsed by the PTTS and employed by its participants are likely causing the Tarpon to change their movement, feeding, and spawning behaviors and is threatening the survival of  the fishery.  The hyper-aggressive culture of disrespect created by the PTTS has, and continues to severely hinder fair and equal access to the fishery by all other user groups for the sole purpose of generating increased revenue for shareholders of the tournament and its associated production.

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.