Protest in the Pass

Protest In The Pass

Join Save the Tarpon and its supporters on May 19th at 6:45 am for “Protest in the Pass.”  We are showing up by water to protest the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series (PTTS) as it begins its 2013 season events.

Last year we were on the beach. But, this year we will be on the WATER! If you don’t have a boat, but would like to attend, please contact us and we will connect you with a captain.

All participating boats will meet up on what is known as the Hill. It is the area just East of the old phosphate dock. We will meet at 0645 on May 19th. Please bring your bullhorns and banners. The PTTS opening event is from 0700 to 10am.

WHY: 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.

If you’d like to RSVP, please do so by visiting the Save the Tarpon Facebook page.  Your name will not be visible to the public.

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)

 

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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.”

Randy Wayne White: FISHING’S DIRTY LITTLE SECRET

Critics say tarpon actually are snagged with this popular style of Boca Grande Pass fishing.

By RANDY WAYNE WHITE

(The following was originally published in the Sunday, April 14, 2013 edition of the Tampa Tribune.) Randy Wayne White is a New York Times best-selling novelist and resident of Pine Island, Florida. To learn more about Randy, visit his website or Wikipedia page

On Wednesday, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) will consider a draft rule amendment to protect tarpon that, if approved, will be the first step in addressing among the most brazen cons in our state’s fishing history, and a dirty little fishing secret that has, for a decade, caused one or more FWC biologist to appear naïve or, at best, as an unwilling dupe or dupes.

It is an ugly story, dark with irony, but brighter days are ahead — if the commission takes that first bold step on Wednesday and designates  tarpon [but not bonefish] as a catch-and-release-only species.  The tarpon isn’t considered eatable, yet it’s an iconic game fish, so this sounds like a no brainer, right?

Randy Wayne White

New York Times best selling author, Randy Wayne White.

Wrong.   The sad fact is, this is the first incarnation of the FWC’s seven member commission to exhibit enough fishing savvy to acknowledge a problem exists.  By my reckoning, though, the amendment could be a vote or two shy of passage which is why I’ve decided to throw some sunlight on the dirty little fishing secret, expose the con, and hope that Florida’s thinking anglers will make their voices heard.

Here’s the ugly back story:  In the early 1990s, when tarpon tournament purses in Boca Grande Pass climbed to $100,000 or more (not counting side-bet calcuttas) two local anglers revived an old poaching technique that guaranteed they would boat tarpon (even when tarpon were not feeding) and also fill their pockets with lots and lots of modern hundred dollar bills.

“Floss-fishing,” was the technique, a throwback to the days when European peasants fished for survival, not sport — a deliberate method of snagging trout and salmon in fast flowing rivers.  As the two innovators proved, floss-fishing worked equally well on tarpon that school in the fast tidal rips of Florida’s west coast.

“We thought we were being clever, but there’s nothing sporting about what we did,” Mark Futch, a third generation Boca Grande fishing guide, remembers now.  “A buddy and I grew-up fishing that pass.  There were days when tarpon would stack by the thousands in the deepest holes, but they wouldn’t hit a bait, no matter what you threw at them.  With so much tournament money on the line, I decided to try something different.”

For Futch and his boyhood friend, George Melissas,  it meant designing a specialized rig consisting of a heavy lead weight wired to the bend, or “belly” of a hook that had already been canted off-center with pliers.  To disguise the rig’s true intent, a colorful rubber adornment was added to make it look like a legitimate fishing lure.

“Mark still has the prototype, ” Melissas (now one of the country’s foremost experts on sea mollusks) told me.   “We named it ‘The Prom Dress’  as a joke because it came off in a hurry when we hooked tarpon.  Personally, I didn’t go out there with the intent of snagging fish, but I’d guess about ninety percent of tarpon landed using that technique are snagged.”

Seahunt Ptts Tarpon Jig

Something else the men did was name their creation a “break away jig,” which added to the illusion of legitimacy because actual jig lures (which are weighted at the eyelet, not the belly of a hook) are used world-wide, and considered among the most benign of artificial lures.

The ruse worked, and so did floss-fishing.  Futch and Melissas won or placed in the next fifty consecutive tarpon tournaments using their homemade “lures”, and piled up more than a quarter million dollars in prize money.

“We were landing tarpon when no one, I mean no one, could even get a bite,” Futch told me, “and good fishing guides aren’t dumb.  They saw what we were using, and saw that every tarpon we landed was hooked outside the mouth, not inside the mouth.  Soon, there were a hundred boats in the pass using rigs similar to ours, and we were seeing more and more dead tarpon floating or on the beach.  I know I’m partly to blame for this mess, and that’s why I’ve been working so hard to make it right.”

Because I was a Sanibel fishing guide during that era, I knew Capt. Futch only by reputation (although he is now a good friend) but I can tell you from personal experience what happened next, and how that dirty little secret was transformed into a purposeful con.  Among guides, ‘jig fishing’ became the accepted euphemism for snag fishing, but always in a wink-wink sort of way because boating fish is key to making money in what is a very tough business.  The technique wasn’t illegal but most of us knew it wasn’t ethical, so a do-it-until-they-banned-it approach was embraced by some, rejected by others.  How do I know this is true?  Because, as a fishing guide, I DID it.

In 1998, a half million dollars in winnings, and three years later, Futch and Melissas returned to traditional methods when the Boca Grande Guides association did, indeed, ban “jig fishing” in tournaments.   Instead of following suit, however, the Florida Marine Fisheries Commission (which became the FWC 1999) dismissed the growing animus between traditional tarpon anglers and those who used belly-weighted hooks as “a user conflict.”  Worse, the FWC remained indifferent to the fact that Florida’s legal definition of a “snagged fish” (compared to states such as Washington, Oregon and Michigan) offered enough wiggle room to energize a whole boutique industry based on snagging tarpon — and that’s exactly what happened in Boca Grande Pass, in my opinion.

Sea Hunt Boats Snagged Tarpon

This photo, captured by a guest to a local boat show earlier this year, features a Sea Hunt Boats advertising banner picturing a tarpon snagged just outside the eye.

Enter Silver King Entertainment LLC which, in 2002, came to the area to video thirteen TV episodes of its Professional Tarpon Tournament Series (PTTS).   The show featured fast boats and “pro” anglers, in NASCAR-like garb, who used a run-and-gun, pack approach to chasing pods of tarpon around the pass — a water space where, for unknown millennia, Florida’s sport-fishing cash cow, Megalops atlanticus, has schooled to rest and fatten before migrating off-shore to spawn.  For viewers (and sponsors) the dramatic payoff was video of sharks attacking tarpon that had been played to exhaustion, and “official weigh-ins” after tarpon had been gaffed, dragged to the scale, then  hoisted in transparent body bags.

All perfectly legal by Florida law, but the Boca Grande Guide’s Association — never a warm and fuzzy group when it came to outsiders (myself included) — filed a law suit, and appealed to the FWC to send biologists to do a hook placement study that, local guides felt certain, would confirm that “jigging” is actually snagging.  Such a study, of course, would also return a boomerang of bad karma into lap of the snag-rig’s creator — something no one, by now, wanted more than Capt. Mark Futch.

Finally, our Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission responded.  The commission earmarked $250,000 in funding, and assigned a biologist to lead what would result in a three year, eight page document entitled, Summary Report on the Catch-and-Release Mortality Study on Tarpon in Boca Grande Pass, 2002–2004.

Hello happy ending, right?

Wrong again.

According to data from the FWC’s study, in 2004, 74% of tarpon landed using so-called “jigs” were hooked outside the “buccal cavity” or mouth — including a tarpon that was boated after being snagged in the tail — yet the study (after ignoring other statistical red flags) concluded, “While more tarpon [10%] were foul-hooked using artificial bait than live bait, percentages were not unusually high and did not contribute negatively to the survival of tarpon.”

Huh?

That’s right, our FWC biologists fell for the floss-fishing con — hook, line and sinker.   The authors, in my opinion, accepted the fiction that a belly-weighted hook is a legitimate jig lure, then contorted other definitions (such as what constitutes a fairly-hooked fish) as needed to prop-up their own flawed premise.

An example:  Picture yourself holding a spoonful of cereal.  You swing it toward your mouth but, instead, stab yourself in the forehead, the throat, the cheek, the nose or the eye socket.  By the definition of the FWC study, you have successfully hit your target, and are now chewing your cereal compliments of your head, your cheek, your outside maxillary (in terms of tarpon physiology) but not your mouth as it is used by primates and fish alike.

Absurd!  Tarpon are an ancient species; a marvel of evolution that have outlasted dinosaurs, survived global cataclysms, all due to their ability to hunt, forage, ambush and feed successfully.  With its giant Megalops eyes, its sensitive lateral line, this is an apex predator — an animal that has NOT survived the eons by whacking its head, throat and cheeks against prey it intended to eat.

But that’s what the study claims to be true.  As a result, Florida is now stuck with a document that has, in my view, done more to endanger our tarpon fishery than the twenty years of snag fishing the study, in fact, implicitly endorses.

Honest naivety is to blame, I hope.  If not, all particulars and circumstances regarding the creation of that study should be examined under the sharpest lens of a journalistic microscope.

Ultimate Tarpon Book - Randy Wayne White

Before you can understand how badly flawed the FWC’s 2002-2004 study actually is, you must first understand how floss-fishing works:

Imagine a school of tarpon stacked 40 feet high, mouths pointed into the tide. This mass of fish is then transected by nearly-invisible fluorocarbon fishing lines, heavily leaded-hooks attached, a process repeated hundreds of times over a day. Hooks attached to these lines may be oscillating up and down, but are actually more effective as snag hooks if they are held motionless, allowed to drift quietly near the bottom of the column of fish.

These tarpon aren’t feeding (in this scenario) nor are they unaware. Even so, the jaw structure of a tarpon is such that the side-flaps of its mouth (the maxilla or ‘clipper plates’) are exposed targets, as are the fish’s gills. These flaps are hinged and flair slightly outward, not unlike an overgrown thumbnail, or the backside of a human ear. When fluorocarbon line makes contact with this bony flap, the line is sometimes funneled (flossed) toward the inside hinge of the mouth (clipper plate), or through the gill. The hinge, as it narrows, becomes an effective guide. Soon, as the boat or the fish moves, the flow of line is halted by an abrupt collision: The hook (given additional mass by the heavy sinker) either loops and buries itself outside the tarpon’s mouth or gill plate, or it bounces free. If the hook does stick, the startled tarpon then panics, which causes other tarpon to panic, often through a haze of multiple hooks and lines which can create the illusion of a sudden feeding frenzy.

Shrewd, huh? Key elements to this technique:

1. A heavy (3-6 oz.) sinker must be attached directly to the belly of a hook.

2. Tarpon must be stacked in a contained area (which is why this technique is so effective in Boca Grande, but useless off-shore, or in our back bays.)

3. The hook must be extremely sharp and is more effective if it is a circle hook canted slightly using pliers. (I’ve done this, keep in mind.)

4. Low visibility fishing line –fluorocarbon — and a gray sinker are best because deception is imperative.

5. A high speed reel (to rocket the hook upward through schooling tarpon) and a good boat handler all add to the likelihood of success.

The most devious thing about this technique is that, if you are being paid to produce fish, your clients (if inexperienced) will never question why the tarpon they landed is hooked outside the mouth after “bumping” or “nibbling” at the hook.

Obvious, once you understand how it works, right? Not if you’re an overworked, underpaid biologist, apparently – nor if you’re a fishing guide who has wrestled with the ethics of flossing. Capt. Andy Boyette, a top money winner in PTTS tournaments and an accomplished Charlotte County guide, is a vocal example of just how convincing the floss-fishing con can be.

“It took me awhile to figure out that jigging tarpon is the biggest hoax in the history of fishing,” Boyette told me recently. “I jig fished for eight years [2000 to 2008] and didn’t understand, at first, why almost every fish we landed was hooked outside the mouth. I remember trying to think up new stories to explain it to my clients. Finally, I got sick of lying to clients who I liked and respected, and that was the end of jig-fishing for me. I was good at it – my boat won the last PTTS tournament in 2008 – but I’d rather have a clear conscience.”

I asked Boyette if he believed that all accomplished tarpon “jiggers” knew the truth.

“All I’ll say about that is I think there are new fishermen out there who don’t want to believe it, or have been told the same lie for so long that nothing will convince them. But the best clients, actual sports-fishermen, don’t want to catch a foul-hooked tarpon. That’s what these new guides need to think about.” [Click here for Capt. Andy Boyette’s detailed assessment of “jigging”]

Boyette nails a key point: Florida risks a negative economic backlash by tolerating (in fact, endorsing) floss-fishing, and failing to re-define our own vague snagging laws. In1885, when New Yorker W. H. Wood, fishing in the backwaters of Sanibel, boated the first tarpon ever taken on rod and reel, the destiny (and economy) of Southwest Florida was forever changed by moneyed sportsmen who took the ethics of fishing seriously.

Guess what? Serious anglers still do. But Florida has dropped the ball in comparison to destinations such as Oregon, Michigan, Washington and Alaska which have set an example by honoring sporting ethics via articulate legislation. Our state is guilty of another oversight, too: We pay bargain basement salaries to the biologists and law enforcement people mandated to maintain our multi-billion dollar fishing cash cow, when we should be luring the best and brightest in the country. That doesn’t mean we don’t have good biologists and first rate FWC law enforcement people. We do. But it’s bad business not to reinvest profits in order to maintain the source of those profits.

For now, though, the seven member FWC commission can take a step in the right direction on Wednesday by designating tarpon a catch-and-release-only species (but omit bonefish, which would unfairly burden ethical and responsible tournaments in the Florida Keys.)

Let the FWC hear from you, thinking anglers.

Email the Commissioners at FWC.

Visit the website of Randy Wayne White.

The PTTS dead (err… we mean sleeping) tarpon cover-up

This video was filmed on June 17, 2012 during the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series (PTTS) Tarpon Cup Championship. Unlike all other PTTS events, no DNA samples were taken by the PTTS during this event. Here is a short explanation from a first-hand witness who was on the boat which captured this footage. For more of the story, read this.

“When I was asked to participate in the PTTS championship protest I didn’t know what to expect or what reaction I would receive from some of the PTTS participants as I had been a participant myself at one time. I expected to see some of the typical bumper boat type action the PTTS is well known for. Having not participated in the PTTS for some time now, I was completely unaware of what happens behind the scenes to the tarpon after they are weighed.

In years prior, the team that caught and weighed in a fish was responsible for reviving and releasing that fish. In my opinion, I feel the PTTS was under some pressure from the public for dead tarpon washing up on the beach the day after the tournament. The PTTS decided to use a “trained” release team to be in charge of all tarpon after they have been dragged to the scale and weighed in. I was fully aware of their new policy, what I was not aware of however was the blatant disregard for the tarpon once the release team took possession.

What we filmed that day was a total lack of respect for the the tarpon that were to be released. The PTTS crews were not happy about us filming their actions that day and they did their best to cover up the dead tarpon they were dumping by having other PTTS boats wake our boat. This is what happens at the PTTS behind the scenes.”

Tell the FWC to stop running and hiding: Hold a ‘workshop’ in Boca Grande – where it matters!

NOTE: At the end of this post you’ll find a link that will put you in touch with the nice folks at the FWC. Take a moment – and that’s all it takes – to reach out to the commissioners and ask them to hold a workshop on their proposed tarpon rule changes where those rule changes will mean the most – in Boca Grande, the “Tarpon Fishing Capital of the World.” They love hearing from you – their “customers.” So, let’s make them a bunch of really happy people.

When you think bonefish, you naturally think the Florida Keys. That’s why it makes perfect sense for the Florida Fish and Wildlife and Conservation Commission to hold a “workshop” on proposed changes to bonefish rules in the “Bonefish Capital of the World.” The Keys.

That’s why it also makes perfect sense for the FWC to hold a “workshop” on proposed changes to tarpon rules in the “Tarpon Fishing Capital of the World.” You know – St. Petersburg. Or maybe it’s Dania Beach. Wait. What?

Tarpon Fishing Postcard

For the past century, word on the street has been, go to Boca Grande for tarpon fishing.

In April, the FWC will take its little “public input” show on the road for three one-night stands to get up close and personal with the common folk who will be most affected by the rule changes it’s proposing. On April 2, the FWC will be headlining at the International Game Fishing Association Hall of Fame and Museum in that Broward County tarpon hot spot Dania Beach.

The FWC tour then moves south to Key Colony Beach at Mile Marker 53.5 the following day. But the kickoff comes on April 1 when the FWC rolls into St. Petersburg – we think it’s the one in Florida, not the city in Russia – to spend two hours talking tarpon at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute on Eighth Avenue.

Dania Beach and St. Petersburg. Because when people think tarpon fishing, they naturally think Broward County and St. Petersburg. And if you’re the FWC and you want to talk tarpon with the locals, you need to go straight to the source.

Dear FWC,  Please click here for directions to Boca Grande. Thank you, Save the Tarpon

Dear FWC,
Please click here for directions to Boca Grande.
Thank you,
Save the Tarpon

You want to go where tarpon fishing is a tradition that’s been carried on for more than a century. You want to go to a place where tarpon fishing pumps more than $300 million annually into the regional economy. You want to go where generations of tarpon anglers have gone before you to fish for the mighty Silver King. You want to go where the whole notion of sport fishing for tarpon on rod and reel was born.

Which means, if you’re the FWC, you naturally want to go to Dania Beach. That’s right. Dania Beach. Can somebody please buy these people a map?

Boca Grande – 89 miles south of St. Petersburg (the one in Florida) and 194 miles to the west of Dania Beach – is known throughout the planet as “The Tarpon Fishing Capital of the World.” Tarpon migrate by the tens of thousands to historic Boca Grande Pass every spring. Nobody is entirely sure how this prehistoric species finds the place. Which is, apparently, a whole helluva lot more than the equally prehistoric FWC can do. Or, more likely, wants to do.

There’s a problem with asking people what they think. They might just tell you. And the odds are, if you’re the FWC, it won’t be what you want to hear. Not if you come to Boca Grande. What’s potentially worse, if you’re the FWC, is that the people doing the telling might actually know what they’re talking about. And when those people doing the telling can draw on generations of knowledge focused on the state’s largest and most important tarpon fishery, you can pretty much eliminate the “might.” They will know what they’re talking about. Scary stuff.

So you go to Dania Beach instead. Home to the nation’s largest Jai-Alai fronton. And then you go to the tarpon trophy hunters Hall of Fame. To rub shoulders and other body parts with your BFFs, your pals, your chums, the folks who asked for – and, of course, got – an exception to the rules. A nice little loophole in the catch-and-release regulations that will allow the record chasers to kill the very species the FWC wants us to believe it’s trying to protect. And don’t forget to stick around afterwards for the refreshments, the 50-50 drawing and the thank you gifts.

Perception is everything. By giving Boca Grande a wide berth, by taking a convenient detour over to Florida’s east coast where a friendly, grateful and potentially rewarding reception awaits, the FWC is sending a pretty clear message to those who have invested their time, their energies, their resources and their hearts into the serious work of preserving, protecting and growing the state’s most important tarpon fishery.

By ducking Boca Grande, the FWC is telling us – and, in this case, more than 17,000 of us here in Florida and throughout the world – that it really doesn’t care. Or maybe, just maybe, the FWC simply forgot to put Boca Grande on its 2013 tarpon “public input” tour. Maybe, just maybe, the FWC would be grateful for a little reminder.

So maybe it’s up to us – all 17,000 of us – to do the reminding. Fortunately, the public input-conscious folks at the FWC have made it easy. All you have to do is COPY, CLICK and PASTE.

Here’s the COPY part:

I’m writing to ask the FWC to hold a public workshop in Boca Grande on proposed changes to the state’s tarpon rules. Tens of thousands of tarpon find their way to Boca Grande each year. The FWC can and should do the same. To learn more, please visit http://savethetarpon.com/?p=2823

Here’s the CLICK part:

You will eventually click here. That was easy. But first, take a second to read the rest.  After clicking, you will find yourself on the FWC website. You will be asked to provide your name and email address. Under “Subject” you might wish to consider “Boca Grande Tarpon Workshop.”

For the PASTE part, click on the box provided for “Comments.” Then PASTE. Then click SUBMIT. You’re done. And the FWC will thank you for your interest.

OK. Now you can go ahead and CLICK! You can always drop a copy of the same message on the FWC’s Facebook page.

Florida Sport Fishing magazine takes a look at the PTTS

This article is featured in the recent issue of Florida Sport Fishing magazine.
By: Capt Mike Genoun, Founder/Editor-In-Chief of Florida Sport Fishing
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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.

Pinocchio Tarpon Tournament Series

The following article was pulled from Beel den Stormer Presents the Only Fishery Blog You Need.  It was written by Beel den Stormer.  Check out his “Fish, Fisheries and Queryomics” blog at denstormerpresents.com.

Pinocchio Tarpon Tournament Series, According to Save the Tarpon

Picture of Pinocchio with a long nose

Beel loves big fish, fish festivals, and good times- like shindigs.  But Beel also loves a dog fight.

The Professional Tarpon Tournament Series (PTTS) has been caught up in a web of deceit of its own making, according to a report by Save the Tarpon.  Like Congress, Save the Tarpon made an impactful statement just before adjourning.  In this case, for a fundraising shindig on Sunday (3 March 2013).

Please friends, allow Beel to summarize several claims made by Save the Tarpon.

Save the Tarpon reports that in  September 2012 PTTS television show host Joe Mercurio told Florida Fish and Wildlife Commissioners that PTTS would “voluntarily” replace its gaff, drag, and release tournament format with an alternative format that would be less stressful to the fish.

Reportedly, Mercurio then requested that the commission disregard this this promise.

Save the Tarpon also reports that Mercurio later stated, “I ask that you accept these changes as part of all of our responsibility to ensure the conservation and preservation efforts we have made in the past continue to have a positive impact on the fish and fishery.”

Okay, like a hungry tarpon, Beel will bite.  Which “changes?”  The initial change of format, or the subsequent reversion to the status quo?

Finally, Save the Tarpon reports that Mercurio promised the commission that, “This year, we pledge to provide $15,000 to further support the FWRI’s [Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute] Tarpon Genetic Recapture Study.”

Evidently, the check was lost in the mail as FWRI has not received it as of this date, according to FWRI’s lead tarpon researcher Dr. Kathy Guindon.

Given the nature of the controversy, it is not at all in PTTS’s  favor to be so inconsistent on the record.

Last week Beel commented on this controversy and noted that the PTTS represented, “A Case History of Catastrophically Poor Public Relations.”

Since that report, Beel has learned that Mercurio has a degree in public relations.  Oh well, Beel guesses its all about grade inflation.

“Oh what a tangled web we weave
When first we practice to deceive.”
Sir Walter Scott (1808)

Disclaimer:  Beel actually looked into attending the shindig to speak with Save the Tarpon principles to learn more about this controversy.  However, the 18-hour flight + layover (each way) precluded such a trip.

Sponsors, anglers, FWC asking $15,000 question: What other ‘promises’ will PTTS break?

When a man repeats a promise again and again, he means to fail you.  ~Proverb

PTTS Host, Joe Mercurio

PTTS host Joe Mercurio performs one of his favorite Broadway show tunes for the cameras: “Promises, Promises.”

What’s a promise made by the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series worth? As the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Florida Wildlife Research Institute will tell you, not much. Actually, not anything.

But that hasn’t kept the PTTS from making lots of them as the tournament scrambles to promise everything and anything to its handful of remaining sponsors and participants. And the PTTS is good at making promises. Delivering on them is, apparently, another story. Like we said. Ask the FWC. Ask the FWRI. And if you’re a PTTS sponsor or angler, ask yourself. It’s the $15,000 question.

In September, 2012, PTTS television show host Joe Mercurio, who doubles as vice president and general manager of Silver King Entertainment LLC, the tournament’s parent company, stood before the FWC commissioners and made a lot of promises.

He promised, for instance, that the PTTS would “voluntarily” replace its sacrificial gaff, drag, hoist, weigh, drag and dump “live catch and release” format with some mystery gaff, drag, measure, drag and dump “live catch and release” sleight of hand. He then instantly rendered his promise meaningless by begging the commission to disregard everything he just promised and keep the rules that make gaff, drag, hoist, weigh, drag and dump legal. Confused? So were the commissioners. But Joe had promised. And a promise is, of course, a promise.

Mercurio was in a promising mood that day. “I ask that you accept these changes as part of all of our responsibility to ensure the conservation and preservation efforts we have made in the past continue to have a positive impact on the fish and fishery,” Mercurio said of his gaff and drag promise made to the seven FWC commissioners.

He wasn’t finished. “We will continue to promote conservation and to conduct our activities while exercising the utmost respect for the fishery.” Mercurio’s pile of promises was growing faster than his nose.

Then came the payoff. Literally.

Noting that “our organization and anglers understand that we have a duty to conserve and protect the resource we enjoy so much, and to give back to the community by supporting conservation and preservation efforts,” Mercurio promised to put his money – actually, Gary Ingman’s money and the tournament’s sponsors money – where his mouth was.

Mercurio paused. He looked each commissioner in the eye. There was one more promise to be made by the PTTS that day in Tampa. Mercurio had a big finish he was about to drop on the FWC commissioners, a honking big finish, a jaw dropping “this guy means business” honking big finish wrapped in yet one more promise that made all his other PTTS promises look puny by comparison. It was a Take It To The Bank, May God Strike Me Dead, Mother Of All Promises promise. Joe glanced to his left. Joe glanced to his right. The moment had come.

“This year,” Mercurio promised the seven FWC commissioners as the Florida Channel’s cameras beamed his words live and in color to every cable subscriber in the state, “we pledge to provide $15,000 to further support the FWRI’s Tarpon Genetic Recapture Study.”

No more gaff and drag. We promise. We will continue to promote conservation. We promise. We will conduct our activities while exercising the utmost respect for the fishery. We promise. And to back up all our other promises, we will give you $15,000. We promise. We promise. We promise. We promise.

Kathy Guindon, PhD, is the FWRI’s lead tarpon researcher. She runs the institute’s Tarpon Genetic Recapture Study. The same Tarpon Genetic Recapture Study Mercurio promised the FWC commissioners would soon be cashing a nice, fat $15,000 check courtesy of the generous folks at Ingman Marine, Miller/Coors, Yamaha Marine Group, Sea Hunt Boats, Reactor Watches, Continental Trailers, Miller’s Ale House, Johnson Outdoors, Humminbird and, or so the promise went, the PTTS. Joe promised.

So where’s Joe’s promised $15,000?

“To my knowledge, the tarpon genetic recapture study never received money from the PTTS in 2012, or prior,” says Dr. Guindon. There is, in fact, no $15,000. Just a promise. One of many promises Mercurio made that day to the FWC, its sponsors, its participants, the people of Florida and, through his own words posted on his own PTTS website, roughly three billion people worldwide.

“To my knowledge, the tarpon genetic recapture study never received money from the PTTS in 2012, or prior.”

If nothing else, at least we all know – including the FWC commissioners Joe stood before that day in Tampa – what a PTTS promise is really worth.

End catch and drag. We promise.

Promote conservation. We promise.

Utmost respect for the fishery. We promise.

Fifteen thousand dollars? The check’s in the mail. We promise.

(Want to do something that will actually help the tarpon genetic recapture study? Join us Sunday, March 3 at the Boca Grande Community Center/Community House from 2 to 6 p.m. Our captains will be on hand to explain how the program works. We promise.)