Busted! DNA test links gutted, dead tarpon to PTTS

Capt. T.J. Stewart of Team Castaway Charters and Edgewater Boats is a proud Professional Tarpon Tournament Series competitor. In fact, Stewart brought home first place in this year’s June 17 PTTS “Tarpon Cup,” the tournament’s Must See TV season-ending championship event. For his efforts, Skeeter boats forked over the keys to a brand new ZX-22 “Bay” with a Yamaha SHO strapped to the stern.

Stewart’s equally proud of his contributions to the ongoing Mote Marine/FWC DNA study. In fact, Stewart was recently recognized as one of Florida’s “top 10” DNA samplers. It’s a pretty straight-forward business. Anglers “swab” their tarpon, including those caught during PTTS events, and send the samples off to St. Petersburg where scientists do their science thing.

Dead Gutted PTTS Tarpon

This 124-pound tarpon, found gutted and floating in the Gulf of Mexico on June 4. It was cut open in a failed attempt to send the fish to the bottom so it couldn’t be DNA tested and traced back to the PTTS. This fish, with belly intact, had been sampled the previous day at the PTTS scales.

Just as Stewart did two weeks earlier when he boated, gaffed, dragged, hoisted and weighed a 124-pounder. “You just gotta try and take care of this fish, that’s why we’re here and … there’s nothing better.” Stewart’s tarpon was DNA sampled, of course, by the Florida Wildlife Research Institute. The next morning, Stewart’s fish was sampled again. But this time, Stewart’s fish was dead.

Very dead, in fact. Stewart’s 124-pounder was found floating near Boca Grande Pass in the Gulf of Mexico, a few hundred yards from shore. Last seen being hauled away from the scales behind the Sea Hunt-sponsored, “Tires Plus Release Team” boat, the “revived” fish had been gutted from tip to tail in an obvious attempt to send it to the bottom. A second DNA sample was taken. This, too, was sent to St. Pete.

Researchers say DNA doesn’t lie. There’s no question the gutted fish photographed and swabbed on June 4 was the same fish caught, swabbed and given to the PTTS “Tires Plus Release Team” on June 3 by Team Castaway Charters and Edgewater Boats. To be revived, or so the PTTS claims.

“I don’t know why they would do that,” said FWRI Assistant Research Scientist Kathy Guindon. “I don’t know why they wouldn’t give the fish a chance to survive.” Guindon agreed it was likely Stewart’s tarpon was gutted after being turned over to the Tires Plus “Release Team.” Hiding the evidence? After viewing photos of Stewart’s eviscerated fish, Guindon said what happened to the tarpon wasn’t nature’s doing. It was intentional. And it wasn’t shown to the basic cable audience.

Early results of this year’s study show six fish that were originally DNA sampled during the tournament’s 2012 season were caught or found at a later date. Four, including the one that had been gutted after being placed in the care of the Tires Plus “Release Team,” were dead. Guindon characterized a fifth fish as “suspicious.” Guindon told Save The Tarpon that “research results did show the weighed in fish are more physiologically stressed. One can presume that mortality rates are higher in these weighed-in, longer-handled fish.”

PTTS Team Edgewater Boats Castaway Charters

With Capt. TJ Stewart at the helm, Team Castaway Charters/Edgewater Boats fights the tarpon that would be found gutted and floating June 4 in the Gulf of Mexico near the mouth of Boca Grande Pass.

The covert PTTS fish-gutting revealed by the DNA samples in the FWRI’s possession likely took place virtually under the noses of the same researchers the PTTS claims to support. In September, PTTS television host and spokesman Joe Mercurio stood in front of the seven FWC commissioners and boasted “the PTTS has worked closely with biologists from (the) Fish and Wildlife Institute to make sure we all benefit from the best science available.”

We know better. The FWC now knows better. It has the evidence. And there’s no way the PTTS can really get around this one. When that 124-pound tarpon’s guts were cut open, it wasn’t done for science. It wasn’t the “PTTS working closely with biologists.” It wasn’t “to make sure we all benefit from the best science available.” It was a desperate attempt to keep a lie alive. Or, as Mercurio wrote the day following Stewart’s “Tarpon Cup” victory: “We would like to especially thank the release teams that did such an amazing job releasing these tarpon healthy.”

Joe, look at the photo.

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Differences remain, but we have a lot in common

BY DONDI DAVIS

I have read many comments regarding the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series in Boca Grande Pass. They range from the thought provoking to the downright rude.

It seems to me that supporters of Save The Tarpon and supporters of the PTTS have a lot in common. We all like fishing for tarpon, we all like boating and we are all family oriented. We even like to enjoy the same types of activities when we aren’t “on the clock.” For instance, scalloping in Homosassa, spending time with our families and enjoying what this great state of Florida has to offer.

The main difference between Save The Tarpon supporters and those who have chosen to support the PTTS is learning from past mistakes, standing up for what is right and having the ability to determine the difference between right and wrong.

Tarpon can only be fished recreationally in Florida. The majority of recreational anglers practice catch and release since the fish is not considered to be of any food value. However, anglers can possess them for trophy purposes at the cost of $50.00 per tag, per fish. Without this tag, possession is illegal.  The Professional Tarpon Tournament Series (PTTS) uses this “kill tag”  or “trophy tag” (as seen in the above photo) as a way to drag and weigh the fish for the television audience.

We all know that it’s common sense that when you gaff, drag and handle a fish as the PTTS does, it lessens their ability to recover.

Why won’t the PTTS go to a strict catch and release format? Is it all about TV ratings? Is it not enough to film the excitement of anglers and the mighty silver king as it jumps from the water?

The FWC clearly states “proper handling techniques ensure the best chance of survival. This includes returning the fish to the water as quickly as possible.”

The Bonefish & Tarpon Trust agrees “that research on catch and release fishing generally shows the amount and type of handling of fish after being caught and before being released is an important factor in determining the likelihood of survival after release. Fish that are kept in the water and handled minimally do best, while fish that are handled extensively and exposed to air for long periods of time don’t fare well.

So why does the PTTS insist on calling their tournaments “catch & release?”

Wikipedia defines catch and release as a “practice within recreational fishing intended as a technique of conservation. After capture the fish are unhooked and returned to the water before experiencing serious exhaustion or injury.”

Expertglossary.com defines catch and release as “catching a fish and immediately releasing it.”

Nowhere can you find a definition of catch and release that involves purchasing a $50 tag, gaffing a hole in the fishes bottom lip, attaching said tag, dragging it across Boca Grande Pass, weighing it, dragging it somewhere else and “reviving” the fish so it can be released.

Is it legal? That’s what the state says. But is it ethical? Is it preserving the fishery for future generations? I’ve listened to arguments on both sides. My conclusion is no, it shouldn’t be legal and it is definitely not ethical. Critics will say I wasn’t born here. That I don’t have the right to speak my mind. Nonsense. I live here. I see things with my own eyes. I have experienced catching – and immediately releasing – the mighty Silver King.

With all that we now know about fishing and conservation, the only answer for me is to DEMAND that the PTTS change its format and practice true catch and release. Catch the fish, release the fish. Not catch the fish, gaff the fish, drag the fish, hoist and weigh the fish, drag the fish again, and hide what’s left of the fish.

We have much in common. Let’s work together to preserve this fishery.

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

2011 Tarpon Tags Issued and Returned to FWC

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As we know from the previous article Sponsors – is your PTTS team obeying the law? Here’s one that didn’t even try, there is an obvious problem with how the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series (PTTS) participants are using (or should we say misusing or all together ignoring) the State managed and funded Tarpon Tag program.

To better illustrate the degree to which this permit has been blatantly ignored by a majority of those involved in the PTTS, we have the 2011 Tarpon Tag public records provided by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).  These are the records for the entire State of Florida. Also take a moment to note, of the returned cards, how many PTTS Captains do you see on this list?  Check the number of the returned tags as compared to the total number of fish weighed by the PTTS in 2011, notice anything amiss here?

PTTS Mishandling Tarpon for TV Ratings

All this mishandling of Tarpon for nothing more than higher TV ratings, and they can

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Customer Name Process Date
ABBOTT , CRAIG  W 5/17/2011
ALBANO , CATHERINE  A 5/20/2011
ALSTROM , WILLIAM  C 7/2/2010
ANDERSON , MICHAEL  T 5/18/2011
ANDRETTA , RICHARD  L 5/18/2011
BALCH , CLYDE  R 5/4/2011
BALL , CARL  VERNON 3/7/2011
BARTON , MATTHEW  T 6/1/2011
BAUGHER , ANNE  C 5/20/2011
BAUGHER , ANNE  C 6/9/2011
BEASLEY , JAMES  B 5/19/2011
BERGER , COLBY  L 5/11/2011
BISHOP , BAKER  O 5/19/2011
BISHOP , WILLIAM  D 7/12/2010
BLINCO , ANDREW  D 12/3/2010
BOLIN , MICHAEL  S 6/8/2011
BORDAS , MARTIN  EDWARD 6/14/2011
BOWER , MATTHEW  J 6/10/2011
BOWLER , STEPHEN  F 5/17/2011
BULLARA , CRAIG  P 6/17/2011
BURBACH , WILLIAM  C 5/19/2011
BURKE , MICHAEL  T 2/9/2011
BURNSED , CORDULA 4/26/2011
CAMPBELL , ROBERT  T 5/18/2011
CARTAYA , ARIANNY  S 11/10/2010
CARTER JR , ALAN  JAMES 6/8/2011
CAYO , DONALD  F 5/20/2011
CHANCEY , BENJAMIN  E 5/20/2011
CHAPMAN , CHRISTINE  HELEN 6/8/2011
CHAPMAN , JULIE  T 5/16/2011
CHIVAS , KARSON  ALEXANDER 5/26/2011
CHIVAS , KARSON  ALEXANDER 5/26/2011
CLEMENS , SCOTT  A 5/20/2011
COBLE , THANH  V 8/9/2010
COKER , FITZ  L 1/6/2011
COKER , FITZ  L 4/29/2011
COLLINS , MICHAEL  J 3/2/2011
CRIDER , CURTIS  M 5/20/2011
DEATON , DOLORES 5/17/2011
DEBRUIN , ADAM  B 3/11/2011
DENICK , DAVID  J 1/20/2011
DENICOLA , JOHN 5/20/2011
DENNIS , CLYDE  W 6/3/2011
DENNISON , DAVID  M 5/10/2011
DENNISON , DAVID  M 5/24/2011
DIAMANDI , NINO 9/27/2010
DILLINGHAM , MARK  A 5/6/2011
DINES , WILLIAM  RUSSELL 7/13/2010
DOLL , SHAY 4/1/2011
DOPIRAK , ALLAN  B 4/29/2011
DOUGLAS , RAYMOND 2/10/2011
DUNCAN , CHARLES  W 7/12/2010
DUNCAN , LESLIE  R 6/24/2011
DYER , KEVIN  A 5/4/2011
ERRA , ROBERT  L 4/19/2011
ERSCH , CYNTHIA  C 6/20/2011
FEUSTEL , JEAN-PAUL 5/20/2011
FIELD , PATRICK 6/3/2011
FISCHER , ZACHARY  C 5/20/2011
FLOYD , JESSICA  M 6/16/2011
FRENCH , ANTHONY  D 3/21/2011
FRENCH , ANTHONY  D 6/3/2011
GARN , JAMES  R 4/29/2011
GAY-LAWTON , DEBORAH  A 5/19/2011
GERZENY , ZACHARY  R 7/2/2010
GILMOUR , TERENCE  J 2/15/2011
GLOVER , KEVIN  R 7/8/2010
GOOGINS , BRYAN  C 5/19/2011
GRIFFIN , RICHARD  GEORGE 5/19/2011
GRIFFING III , STEPHEN  F 6/3/2011
GRIZZAFFE , HEATHER  N 5/17/2011
HAGAMAN , JEFFREY  T 5/9/2011
HALEY , PHILLIP  L 5/20/2011
HALEY , PHILLIP  L 5/20/2011
HALFORD , KIM  L 3/29/2011
HAND , JOHN  K 1/21/2011
HARKAVY , HEATHER  M 4/4/2011
HARLESS , ROBERT  G 6/3/2011
HART , WILLIAM  D 6/2/2011
HARTMAN , PHILIP  E 6/13/2011
HAXTER , MICHAEL 3/29/2011
HELENEK , ANTHONY  J 7/2/2010
HELENEK , DANIEL  E 5/13/2011
HERRINGTON JR , EDDIE  J 7/2/2010
HILTON , SHAWN  M 5/12/2011
HIPPS , DAVID  E 5/20/2011
HOCTEL , GARY  M 3/21/2011
HOOD , GREGORY  C 4/25/2011
HOWARD , CHARLES  P 5/25/2011
HUDDLESTON , JAMES  W 4/19/2011
HUESTON JR , RONALD  C 5/17/2011
IDE , PETER  S 10/21/2010
JOHNSON , GERARD  J 5/17/2011
JOHNSON , GERARD  J 5/25/2011
JOHNSTON , GRANT  D 6/16/2011
JOINER , GARY  W 5/20/2011
JOINER , GARY  W 6/3/2011
JONES , MELISSA  D 5/20/2011
JORDAN , RICHARD  E 5/18/2011
JUSTUS , CHARLES  P 5/20/2011
JUSTUS , SUE  M 6/15/2011
KENNICUTT , KATHERINE  ANN 5/27/2011
KILPATRICK , JOHN  S 4/29/2011
KLEIN , TIMOTHY  J 4/6/2011
KOPEL , MICHAEL  D 5/26/2011
KOPEL , MICHAEL  D 6/2/2011
LACHANCE , GREGORY  S 7/9/2010
LAMP , STEVEN 3/4/2011
LINVILLE , NATHANIEL  C 3/31/2011
LOCKE , WALTON  T 4/7/2011
LOGGINS , JOHN  L 5/31/2011
LONG , DANIEL  J 5/18/2011
LONG , DANIEL  J 6/9/2011
LONG , JAMES  E 5/17/2011
LOWREY , SAM  C 5/20/2011
MANNING , CHAD  W 6/9/2011
MANNING , JAMES  R 5/19/2011
MARSH , MARK  L 3/30/2011
MARTEL , ROLAND  P 5/11/2011
MASHKE , EDWARD  J 5/12/2011
MASSARO JR , FRANK  L 5/25/2011
MATHIEU , MARK  A 8/18/2010
MCBRIDE , BRETT  A 5/17/2011
MCKEEVER , RICHARD  A 4/6/2011
MCLAY , JOHN  P 5/10/2011
MCLAY , JOHN  P 6/1/2011
MCLOAD , MICHAEL  B 2/23/2011
MEYER , CHARLES  B 5/5/2011
MILL , ANDY  R 3/4/2011
MILLER , ASHLEND  MARIE 6/3/2011
MILLER , GARY  C 5/20/2011
MILLER , WAYNE  D 5/16/2011
MINIO , ANTHONY  J 5/27/2011
MITCHELL , GRETCHEN  J 5/12/2011
MOENNING , DANIEL  K 5/18/2011
MOENNING , DANIEL  K 5/31/2011
MOENNING , DANIEL  K 6/17/2011
MOHLER , THOMAS  LEE 3/21/2011
MORGAN , THANE 9/20/2010
MORGAN , THANE 5/12/2011
NABOZNY , STANELY 5/23/2011
NAVARRE , CARL 3/7/2011
NORMAN , SPENCER  A 5/16/2011
NORMAN , SPENCER  A 6/1/2011
NORRIS , BRETT  J 5/13/2011
NUTE , HEIDI  J 7/2/2010
NUTTER , TERENCE  J 5/10/2011
OLSON , VERN  A 5/19/2011
ONEILL , CHRISTOPHER  T 5/23/2011
PARKER , DARRICK  A 3/2/2011
PEIPER , DOUGLASS  H 6/9/2011
PERRY , JOHN  H 4/25/2011
PERRY , JOHN  H 5/20/2011
PILLINGER , MICHAEL  G 5/18/2011
PRICE , ARTHUR  H 5/27/2011
PROSEK , JAMES  O 3/3/2011
PURDY , DANWIN  M 1/21/2011
RAHIMI , SHAHROUZ 12/2/2010
REARK , MICHAEL  FREDERICK 5/12/2011
REDDING , CURTIS  F 8/2/2010
REILY , RONALD  M 5/26/2011
ROEHM , JAMES  D 7/13/2010
ROGERS , JOSEPH  E 5/19/2011
ROSATO , LINDSAY  A 5/17/2011
RUDLAFF , FRANK  R 4/27/2011
RUDOLPH , DIANA  A 5/9/2011
SANCHEZ , JOSE  R 9/17/2010
SAPP , JILL  W 6/15/2011
SCOTT , CHRISTY  M 5/27/2011
SECHRIST , RICHARD  C 5/17/2011
SEO , TAEWON 8/6/2010
SHAFRON , DAMIAN  J 5/19/2011
SHEA , DALE  J 1/21/2011
SHINNER , ERIC  MATHEW 5/19/2011
SIMPSON , ROBERT  M 3/29/2011
SINOPOLI , MICHAEL 4/27/2011
SISKA , THOMAS  A 6/6/2011
SKROVANEK , LEWIS  R 5/19/2011
SLOAN , STEPHEN  M 5/10/2011
SLONIM , CURT  DAVID 5/25/2011
SMITHART , CLARENCE  J 7/9/2010
SOOKRAJ , SEEPERSAD 8/19/2010
SPARLING , DALE  T 2/17/2011
SPINKS , JOHN  W 5/23/2011
STALVEY , BRANDY  N 5/16/2011
STALVEY , BRANDY  N 5/25/2011
STARK , DAVID  A 3/28/2011
STARK , DAVID  A 4/5/2011
STEWART , THOMAS  J 4/25/2011
STEWART , THOMAS  J 5/23/2011
STOKER , ROBERT  L 5/20/2011
SYDNOR JR , JAMES  L 5/20/2011
TARI , JASON  L 4/29/2011
THAYER , GREG  A 6/2/2011
THOMAS , SABRINA  N 5/25/2011
THOMPSON , ANDREW  S 5/19/2011
THORNHILL , CHRIS  D 3/29/2011
TIMMONS , BRIAN  J 5/19/2011
TIMMONS , BRIAN  J 6/16/2011
TODD , DONETTE  CLARK 6/13/2011
TRAVIS , ROYAL  T 6/2/2011
TYSON , ROBERT  W 6/9/2011
TYSON , ROBERT  W 6/16/2011
VANHORN , RAY  A 5/2/2011
VASILAROS , JACK  W 5/12/2011
VIZARRO , VICTOR  A 5/23/2011
WALLACE , SCOTT  A 5/10/2011
WALPOLE , SARA  E 4/14/2011
WEAVER , CRAIG  A 5/18/2011
WEBER , SCOTT  P 6/2/2011
WEEKS , MICHAEL  S 5/16/2011
WEEKS , MICHAEL  S 5/16/2011
WELLS JR , MICHAEL  D 5/26/2011
WERT , JAMIE  A 5/20/2011
WERT , JAMIE  A 6/10/2011
WHITE , JAMES  E 5/12/2011
WHITE , JAMES  E 5/25/2011
WHITE , THOMAS  QUINTON 6/2/2011
WHITWORTH , JOSEPH  JOHN 5/17/2011
WILLIAMS , BRANDON 4/29/2011
WILLIAMS , DAVID  G 4/29/2011
WILLIAMS , GARTH  F 4/29/2011
WILLIS , JAMES  R 5/11/2011
WISE , BRITTNEY  N 5/23/2011
WISE , KELLY  A 5/18/2011
WITFOTH , LISA  SWANN 5/18/2011
WITHERS , AMY  M 5/20/2011
WITTER , CONSTANCE  C 4/20/2011
WOODROFFE , WILLIAM  W 5/16/2011
ZOELLNER , VICTORIZ  E 5/6/2011

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Tags returned (as mandated by State Law) for FY 2010/2011.

Please note: those who did not return their Tarpon Tags as required within 5 days of use are prohibited to purchase future Tarpon Tags. Scroll down to review Rule.

FirstName LastName
Gregory Hood
Ben Chancey
Anne Baugher
Dale Sparling
Andrew Blinco
Chris Thurnhill
Kim Halford
John Spink
Gene White
Gene White
Phillip Hartman
Phillip Hartman
Cindy Ersch
Mike Reark
Mike Reark
Gene White
Gene White
Kelly Wise
Charles Justus,III
Charles Justus,III
Dennis Wagner
Dennis Wagner
Joeseph Whitworth
Mark Frapwell
Mark Frapwell
Mark Frapwell
Deborah Gay-Lawton
Deborah Lawton
Deborah Lawton
Deborah Lawton
Deborah Lawton
Deborah Lawton
Deborah Lawton
Eric Shinner
Eric Shinner
Thomas White
Thomas White
Michael Sinopoli
Jose Sanchez
Robert Erra
Robert Erra
Will Woodruffe
Will Woodruffe
Brandy Stalvey
Brandy Stalvey
Spencer Norman
Clarence Smithart
Jessica Floyd
Jessica Floyd
Jessica Floyd
Dan Cayo
Dan Cayo
Dan Cayo
Dave Dennison
Dave Dennison
Robert Tyson
Spencer Norman
Spencer Norman
Douglas Pieper
Dave Dennison
Jill Sapp
Dale Shea
Fitz Coker
Danwin Purdy
James Prosek
Steven Lamp
Steven Lamp
Steven Lamp
Steven Lamp
Steven Lamp
Constance Witter
Heidi Nute
Darrick Parker
Larry Sydnor
Ronald Morgan
Barry Meyer
Michael Burke
Michael Burke
Michael McLoad
James Garn
Andrew Thompson
Andrew Thompson
Andrew Thompson
Andrew Thompson
Andrew Thompson
Robert Campbell
Robert Campbell
Thomas Mohler
Gretchen Mitchell
Kevin Glover
Diamandi Nino
Nino Diamandi
Steve Sloan
Steve Sloan
Steve Sloan
Steve Sloan
Terence Nutter
Terence Nutter
Terence Nutter
Robert Tyson
Robert Tyson

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68B-32.003 Tarpon Tags: Required for Possession; Report; Annual Issuance; Taxidermy; Limitation on Number of Tags Issued Annually; Limitation on Number of Tags Issued to Professional Fishing Guides.

(1) No person shall take, kill, or possess any tarpon, unless such person has purchased a tarpon tag and securely attached it through the lower jaw of the fish. Within 5 days after the landing of a tagged tarpon, the person possessing it shall submit a form to the Commission (Form DMF-SL3200 (3-05), incorporated herein by reference) indicating the length, weight, and physical condition of the tarpon and the date and location where the fish was caught. Additional tags may be denied to any person or guide who fails to provide the required information.

(2) Tarpon tags are valid for the period beginning July 1 each year and continuing through June 30 of the following year or until used, whichever occurs first. Before August 15 of each year, each tax collector shall submit to the Commission all unused tags for the previous license year along with a written audit report as to the number of unused tags, on forms provided by the Commission (Form DMF-SL3210 (3-05), incorporated herein by reference). Tarpon tags are nontransferable, except for those distributed by professional fishing guides pursuant to subsection (5).

(3) Subsection (1) shall not apply to anyone who immediately returns a tarpon uninjured to the water at the place where the fish was caught. The prohibition of possession of an untagged tarpon in subsection (1) shall not apply to a taxidermist who removes the tag during the process of mounting a tarpon. The removed tag shall remain with the fish during any subsequent storage or shipment.

(4) In any license year, the total number of tarpon tags issued shall not exceed 2,500.

(5) Each professional fishing guide may purchase tarpon tags for subsequent transfer to individual customers; provided, however, that the total number of tags issued during any license year to professional fishing guides shall not exceed 1,250.

Specific Authority Art. IV, Sec. 9, Fla. Const. Law Implemented Art. IV, Sec. 9, Fla. Const. History–New 11-30-88, Amended 11-1-89, 10-1-90, 12-4-91, 11-26-92, 11-29-93, 1-1-95, 1-1-96, 11-27-96, 11-12-97, 11-16-98, Formerly 46-32.003, Amended 3-1-05.

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A local Captain speaks out regarding Tarpon DNA research

Captain Mark BennettThis article was contributed by Captain Mark Bennett, a local full-time fishing guide in the Charlotte Harbor and Boca Grande region.  For more information on his Snook, Redfish, and Tarpon fishing charters, please visit tarponsnook.com.

In the three years that I was tagging (DNA sampling) tarpon I dominated the competition.  Tagging and releasing more adult tarpon than anyone, anywhere in the world.  I set a record in 2009 for tagging 147 tarpon in one season.  Since the program started in 2005, previously no one had ever even come close to this number in one season.  Previously only one person ever broke 100.  In 2010, I tagged 148.  April through July 2011, I tagged 165 at which point I ceased to tag tarpon for the remainder of the season.

Even stopping early, in July, I still tagged more tarpon than anyone on the West Coast of Florida and more adult tarpon than anyone anywhere.

Unfortunately, because of several unethical actions of the FWRI and it’s employees that were recently (some not so recently) brought to my attention, such as advertising, promoting and endorsing a tournament series that undeniably is the number one greatest threat to the health of the Florida tarpon fishery,  I can not in good conscience continue to help in their agenda.

I honestly thought the research they were doing was meant to help tarpon, not kill them.

2011 was my last year DNA sampling tarpon.

What did they do?

Funny, I have been asked that question many times this season.  The answer is not what did they do, but what they are doing every weekend in May and June.  The tournament series they promote kills just about every tarpon weighed.  They drag the tarpon all of the way to the beach to be weighed and photographed.  The FWRI and FWC are there DNA sampling the fish that come in to the scale.  They see this happening and do nothing.  They also stand around while the tournament officials slit the bellies and pop the eyes of the tarpon that are already dead or are too exhausted to make it.  This is done so there are less dead fish floating on the surface the next day.  The majority of the fish weighed are the largest females that the FWRI says can be 40-50 years old.  The damage to the tarpon fishery can not be undone in many lifetimes.  This affects tarpon populations all over the state, not just Boca Grande.

Tarpon from all over the state come here to spawn.

I first heard of the Tarpon Genetic DNA tagging program in March ’09.  I was browsing the Florida Wildlife Research Institute’s website.  I was interested in the findings of the past and thought I could help out by tagging a lot of tarpon that upcoming season.

What really got my attention was they were keeping track of how many samples each guide/fisherman obtained.  This was a way to FINALLY show who caught the most tarpon over an entire season.  Some of the best tarpon guides from all over the state are already involved.  Any and all naysayers are invited to participate.

Put up or shut up…What a concept!

How do you get a DNA Sample from a tarpon?

Essentially, when a tarpon is boat side, I grab the leader in one hand and the fish by the lower jaw.  Then I rub a piece of scotch-brite pad on the side of his upper jaw.  Then the pad is placed into a small vial that is index numbered by the FWRI.  Lastly, I record all of the pertinent information about the fish size, weight, capture location etc.

That is a little easier said than done.  First and foremost a photo for my client with his or her fish is my number one priority.  Secondly, holding onto a less than happy fish with your hands that weighs over 100 pounds is not that easy to begin with.  Then adding scrubbing his face with a scotch-brite pad.  It tends to make them a bit perturbed to say the least.  During the course of the season if I got samples off of 50% of the tarpon we landed I felt good about it.

This program gives the recreational anglers a chance to see how their numbers stack up against the pros and it gives the pros a chance to put their money where their mouth is.

Actual numbers from the 2011 season were withheld by the FWRI for some unknown reason. One of the many mysteries we have become used to from the FWRI.

Below are the numbers from 2009 and 2010:

May and June Tarpon Challenge Results

Hello Tarpon DNA Anglers,

We are also pleased to announce that Capt. Mark Bennett is the winner of the 2nd annual Markett Tarpon Challenge for 2010.

Capt. Mark Bennett has claimed this honor for the second consecutive year-by collecting 95 samples during the months of May and June.

We have included the May-June Top Ten list for your review:

  1. 1.       Capt. Mark Bennett – 95
  2. 2.       Tie — Capt. Gary Maconi and Capt. Paul D’Antonio – 77 each
  3. 3.       Capt. Jeff Hagaman – 39
  4. 4.       Tie — Jeff Owens and Capt. Tom Stephens – 37 each
  5. 5.       Capt. Skip Neilson – 36
  6. 6.       Capt. Jay Withers – 34
  7. 7.       Capt. Jeff Malone – 32
  8. 8.       Tie — Capt. Carl Ball and Capt. Dave Markett – 30 each

Cheers,

     The Tarpon Genetics Team

2010 Overall Results

  1.    157                     Jon Mallory – East Central, FL
  2.    148                     Capt. Mark Bennett – Boca Grande/Charlotte Harbor, FL
  3.    101                     Capt. Paul D’Antoni – Key West, FL
  4.    100                     Capt. Carl Ball – Ft. Lauderdale, FL
  5.    94                       Capt. Ed Walker – Boca Grande, FL
  6.    93                       Capt. Gary Maconi – Key West, FL
  7.    91                       Capt. Skip Nielsen – Islamorada, FL
  8.    78                       Capt. Jeff Malone – Duck Key, FL
  9.    76                       Capt. Francisco Rosario – Puerto Rico
  10.    73                       Capt. Robert McCue – Tampa Bay/Boca Grande, FL

The Tarpon Genetics Team

 

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.