Josh Olive & Waterline Magazine, are you ignoring the recreational angler?

Save the Tarpon, Inc was recently contacted by Nick Garbacz, a local resident and recreational angler.  He provided us with a copy of a letter dated July 16, 2012 which he sent to Josh Olive, Publisher of Waterline Magazine, a weekly publication distributed in the Sun family of newspapers each Thursday.  As you can see from his message below, Josh Olive did not acknowledge, reply to or publish his letter.

To: Save the Tarpon
From: Nick Garbacz

Message:

Below is a letter I sent to Josh Olive that he did not acknowledge. I wasn’t openly aware of your organization at the time, but felt I had to respond to his ridiculous editorial so in my amateurish way I responded as forwarded.

I have signed the petition and encourage the right fight to Save the Tarpon.

Respectfully yours,

Nick Garbacz

 

July 16, 2012

Mr Josh Olive
Publisher, Waterline Magazine
23170 Harborview Road
Port Charlotte, Fl 33980

Dear Mr Olive,

I consider myself to be an average sportsman and conservationist and have been able to hunt, fish, and observe nature in various places in the world. I do not presently belong to any conservation or sportsman’s organization and have no ax to grind with those that do. I do however take exception to your articles concerning the PTTS and those that oppose its concept and execution. Your attempts to gain the middle ground in my opinion fail miserably. I must also confess I do not view the PTTS in a favorable light even though I know and respect many of the participants in the event.

As everyone knows the tarpon gather each year in the May to July timeframe to seek and accomplish pre-reproductive activities and this occurs in a very small area with the Boca Grande Pass so it seems like the old saying “LIKE SHOOTING FISH IN A BARREL” has meaning in the case of the PTTS. Could you picture the FLW Tour staging a BASS Tournament in a Four Acre Farm Pond stocked with 10 pound bass? I would also ask any sportsman to view the PTTS TV show or boat around the pass during the event and truthfully say this looks like a true sport fishing event – maybe a Daytona 500 crash. I am especially fond of the one where the participant holds the DNA swab and says ”Just doing our bit for preservation of the species” for a fish he just caught that has less than a 70% chance of living.

If the show must go on, why not have it after the tarpon have accomplished their goals for being in BG Pass . Of course the obvious solution to preserving the fishery, would be to close Boca Grande Pass to all fishing during May and June, isn’t that a novel idea ? You could still fish for tarpon just not in a very small area.

If you believe that most fish in the pass are not foul hooked you are a very light thinker. The last time I fished the pass I was 3 for 3 foul hooked and that is why I stopped, but have fished the walls, beaches and other areas with crab, lures, and white bait with great success. Also, just because a tarpon is hooked in the jaw does not mean it wasn’t foul hooked. Almost 100% of Sockeye Salmon are legally snagged in the mouth with sockeye fly rigs and techniques as they do not eat upon entering the rivers. (It is yet to be proven if tarpon actively eat in pre-spawn pass activities)

In answer to your question “It’s all about saving the tarpon – right?” In the case ot the PTTS it certainly is all about the M_O_N_E_Y that is the one fact all can agree on.

Respectfully yours,

Nick Garbacz

Other Recent Articles by savethetarpon.com regarding Josh Olive:

Josh Olive and The WaterLine Magazine: A Disgrace to Journalism and Conservation

Waterline Magazine’s Josh Olive tosses out some questions

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.

Mercurio’s ‘controlled chaos’ needs less chaos and a lot more control

PTTS Fishing Tournament in Boca Grande Florida

Just below the headline on the October 14, 2011 World Fishing Network blog post on the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series, you’ll find a button labeled “Report Abuse.” The network, which broadcasts the PTTS, obviously didn’t pick up on the irony oozing from this one.

If it were only that easy. Just a few clicks, and the “abuse” that has become synonymous with the PTTS goes away. Tried it. Didn’t work.

The article is headlined “Behind the Scenes of PTTS: Controlled Chaos.” It is credited to Joe Mercurio, identified as “host of Professional Tarpon Tournament Series.” Back in October, writing this curious little PR yarn probably seemed like a great idea to someone at the PTTS and the cable TV outfit. Today it reads more like a guilty plea.

“Controlled chaos,” the author writes, is a term that has become overused. It’s a cliche, Mercurio says. Except when it comes to describing the PTTS. “Talk to someone about the Miller High Life Professional Tarpon Tournament series, however, and if you don’t hear that term, something’s wrong.” Yes, Joe, we agree. Something’s wrong.

With this joke, you don’t have to read to the end to get to the punchline. It’s right up front. “When the term ‘controlled chaos’ was coined,” Mercurio wrote, “the PTTS is what the originator had in mind.” Chaos is defined as (1) “Complete disorder; utter confusion.” (2) “A disorderly mass; a jumble.” Which is pretty much what the Florida Legislature was targeting when it did a little term coining of its own.

Our lawmakers came up with something they called “careless operation.” And they made it unlawful. “All operators are responsible for operating their vessel in a reasonable and prudent manner with regard for other vessel traffic.” And, of course, “anyone who operates a vessel with willful disregard for the safety of persons or property will be cited for reckless operation, a first-degree misdemeanor.” Strangely, there’s no exemption for operating a boat in a controlled “unreasonable and imprudent manner.” What were they thinking?

Perhaps Capt. Artie Price, who Mercurio notes is a “six-time Skeeter Team of the Year winner,” put it best. “There are some wild things going on out there,” Price said, adding “it’s one of the things that makes Boca Grande so much fun to fish.”

Back to you, Joe: “Picture 50 boats of varying styles jockeying for position without wrecking each other, around pods of tarpon … Oh yeah, don’t forget the non-tournament, weekend warrior trying for his shot at a huge silver king, right in the middle of it all.” Hey, as Price says, it’s what “makes Boca Grande so much fun to fish.” Just ask the family, out for a relaxing morning in the Pass, that finds itself suddenly caught “right in the middle of it all.” Hey kids, you having fun?

“Controlled chaos” is no longer in the tournament’s vocabulary. Either are “complete disorder” and “utter confusion” and “a disorderly mass.” Same with those “wild things going on out there.” You know, the stuff that once made Boca Grande Pass “so much fun to fish.” In Tallahassee, the people charged with law enforcement are scrambling to explain why, as all this “careless operation” was taking place within clear view, the PTTS was seemingly given a Get Out of Jail Free Card by the state.

The Lee and Charlotte county sheriff’s offices are empowered to enforce boating safety laws. Many deputies in both agencies are cross-sworn – they share jurisdiction when it comes to Boca Grande Pass. The FWC has shown it either can’t or isn’t willing to get the job done. And Mercurio has provided the world with evidence that there is clearly a job that needs doing.

Save The Tarpon Inc. sees no need for new laws. Those already on the books, if enforced, are more than sufficient. Accordingly, Save The Tarpon Inc. will be requesting that marine deputies from Lee, Charlotte or both counties be detailed to Boca Grande Pass during any future PTTS events to give local residents and the boating public assurance that existing law is, in fact, enforced as the legislature intended. You will be asked to add your voice when the time comes.

The legislature has an obvious and compelling interest in the enforcement of the laws it creates. It also has broad investigatory powers. Save The Tarpon Inc., with your assistance and support, will also be contacting local lawmakers with our shared concerns. Mercurio’s words will, of course, be Exhibit A.

When it comes to the PTTS, there has been no shortage of “chaos” on the water. It’s the “control” part that has been sorely missing. It’s time to click on that “abuse” button.

Senior Vice President of Florida Guides Association makes position clear

Captain Troy Sapp, Fishing GuideThe following is an email we received from Capt. Troy Sapp, senior vice-president of the Florida Guides Association, PTTS participant, and a seasonal Tarpon Guide in the Boca Grande Area in response to our posting of a letter by Scott Alford of ProjectTarpon.com:

Mr. Alford,

Seeing you have tagged a lot of Tarpon and you know which ones lived or died could you please post the Data and the post release mortality rates. I too have DNA, sonic tag sampled and PAT sampled a fairly large amount for BTT and FWRI. 

With the known post release Mortality rates it seems that the PTTS would have a very small impact on the fishery as a whole when you consider the total directed effort on the Tarpon fishery. The other thing that troubles me about the fishery we only know the mortality rates of the fish we tag.

What happens to a tarpon that has been hooked and escapes capture? Could we presume that this escaped fish may have been hooked in a soft tissue area "Throat, Stomach" and the hook tore free. Tarpon are suction feeders and they don't chew their food. What goes in their mouth is headed straight to their stomach and many times attached to a very sharp J hook. Just because a hook is in the bony area of the mouth on the fish we land doesn't mean that is the first place that the hook came in contact with the fish.

I also question what happens to a hooked fish when it jumps violently multiple times. Is this tarpon not subjecting itself to the same stresses as being hoisted out of the water? Have you not observed Tarpon shaking their head so violently that blood comes from their gills or that they excrete spawning fluids?  How many times have you seen the heavy leader pulled back through the gill plates during the fight?

I am asking these questions as there are many individuals that claim to hook several hundred fish a year. If they land 50% of them some are going to perish. If this is about saving tarpon we better come up with some answers and a different plan.  

Yes I participate in the PTTS. But the number of fish I handle and weigh is insignificant in comparison to fish I bring boat side either on my charters or recreationally fishing with my family and friends. I Tarpon fish in many regions and with a variety of methods. It is interesting how many juvenile "under 20 pounds" gut hooked fish I have landed in comparison to adult fish. Could it be that the smaller fish don't pull hard enough to tear loose? Maybe that's another factor we should consider when fishing natural bait.

If Tarpon are truly in trouble there are many factors to be considered.  Picking 1 event and  1 method of fishing  and attacking it like it's the cure all doesn't represent well for trying to save Tarpon. I wish it were that simple but it's not.

It would be nice to advocate mandatory use of circle hooks.
Know the dynamics and water quality effects now that the shipping channel in and out of BGP are no longer being dredged and are filling in.
A stock assessment.
Conditions of the estuaries where juvenile spend their youth.

You know, the things that may make a real impact on a fishery where no intentional harvest takes place.

Respectfully,

Capt. Troy P. Sapp

The Following is our response, sent directly to Capt. Troy Sapp:

Dear Mr. Sapp,
Thank you for your comment submission on SaveTheTarpon.com.  As I am sure you are aware, it was not approved for inclusion in the discussion. We felt the subject of your questions and concerns were better suited for Scott Alford’s site, ProjectTarpon.com.  Your questions have been forwarded to Scott Alford so he may address them directly. Again, thank you for your participation on our site.  We welcome any future comments you may have.  Please keep in mind we try to keep the discussion focused around the mission of our website–the preservation and protection of the Boca Grande tarpon fishery.

Regards, Jennifer McLaughlin

The following is the next contact we have with Capt. Troy Sapp, senior vice president of the Florida Guides Association:

How does a realtor/ artist become the moderator for a organization that claims they are about saving Tarpon? What are your qualifications or first hand experience concerning Tarpon? My comments did nothing more than raise some valid questions about the fishery you say you are trying to protect. Why would you not want your followers to engage in conversation where valid questions concerning tarpon are presented?

I already know the answer.
Your mission is very clear.

I have a feeling you are going to get what your asking for and then some. Myself and many other guides will be in the pass next year if anyone is fishing in there. We will also frequent the beach and harbor more. I have spoken to over 20 guides who will not be run off if their preferred methods of fishing are changed. Certainly the PTTS being there or not won't make a difference. There are many that have established a good bit of business in BGP. I really don't think any of my clients care how when or where they catch fish.

Good luck trying to save the tarpon of Boca grande pass, the same fish that swim around all over the state. No matter the outcome your mission will do nothing to Save the Tarpon. This issue isn't like commercial fishing.

You can't buy your way into it while locking out others.
Capt. Troy P. Sapp Fins and Tails Guide Servicehttp://finsandtailsguideservice.com/#welcome Florida Guides Assoc. Senior Vice Pres. Tsapp22334@aol.com WWW.Florida-guides.com

Well Capt. Sapp, no one at Save the Tarpon is looking to “lock others out.”  No one is asking any person who has come here to fish to  in the past not come here and fish in the future.  What we are asking is for an end to a made for TV series, turned charter booking service, that looks to exclude all others from fishing the pass by employing hyper-aggressive fishing techniques in order to protect “a good bit of business they have established in BGP.”  We are also asking that those that fish for Tarpon in the Boca Grande area use handling techniques that, to the best of their ability, ensure the highest chances of survival of the fish they are targeting unless they plan to harvest the fish. We also want those who are deliberately mishandling those fish in order to increase revenue for their TV show to stop both the mishandling, and the exclusion of all other anglers in order to further the success of their charter booking service, namely the PTTS.

If we are successful in that mission, then we will re-evaluate our situation and come up with a direction to take our organization that we feel best supports our stated mission and that is within our area of expertise and the scope of our organization at that time.

The constant threat from PTTS participants that “the pass will be closed to all fishing if you don’t stop this” will not stop us from supporting what we believe is right.  Should we stop calling attention to what you are doing if  we feel it is wrong simply out of fear of the repercussions? If the situation is so dire, shouldn’t the PTTS be doing more to help curb the user group conflicts and fish handling problems?  Why does the PTTS go to such great lengths to hide what they are doing from the public if there really is nothing to hide?

The mission of Save the Tarpon is very clearly established and can be found on the About Us page, along with a current list of our board of directors. There are no ulterior motives.  Any motivations you may assume we have are just that, assumptions.  We are not looking to exclude anyone from use of the pass, as a matter of fact we are fighting to STOP the exclusion of fishermen from the pass.  You can cling to your assertion that Save the Tarpon is simply a front for BTT or the BGFGA all you want, but I believe our board of directors makes up a representative sample of two members from virtually all of the user groups who have an interest in Tarpon fishing in Boca Grande Pass or the surrounding area.  The universal support by all other user groups who have rallied on behalf of Save the Tarpon to stop the for-profit exploitation of the public resource in Boca Grande pass at the hands of the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series and the Florida Guides Association certainly speaks volumes to the validity of our mission. The same cannot be said for those coming to the defense of the PTTS.

We have left the door open to your involvement in this discussion, as long as it pertains to subject matter that falls within the scope of our mission and our area of expertise.  We also invite you personally to involve yourself in our forum which is specifically designed to answer questions people may have, whether in support of our movement or not, in an open, public, and controlled environment.  you can read more at:

http://savethetarpon.com/save-the-tarpon-opens-forum-for-questions/

Capt. Tom McLaughlin

Save The Tarpon

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.

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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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.

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

 

FWC and Mote Marine Clarify position on PTTS, Ingman’s and Mercurio’s lies exposed

Updated: Monday, June 25, 2012 with statement from Mote Marine.
Mote Marine & FWC

Over the last several years those following the PTTS, and the controversy around it, have often heard the statement that the “PTTS is backed by FWC and Mote.”  As a matter of fact, this exact statement is a quote attributed to none other than Mr. Gary Ingman himself, as published in the Englewood Sun on Monday June 18, 2012.  Apparently the writer of the article, Drew Winchester, did not take it upon himself to contact FWC or Mote Marine to verify this outlandish statement.  We did, and here is what we found.

We contacted FWC and were put in contact with Amanda Nalley, a spokesperson for FWC. We were quickly and clearly informed that the FWC does not sanction, endorse, support, or back the PTTS. They attend the events in a law enforcement position, and have one biologist on site to collect samples. FWC also does not condemn the event, but “certainly does not back or support it in any way.”  Ms. Nalley also went on to say “What the PTTS does is legal, but our position is that if you are going to release a fish that you do so immediately and that you do not gaff, drag, tow, remove from the water, or otherwise excessively handle the fish. Especially with large fish such as Tarpon.”  This sentiment is reflected very clearly on the FWC website and in several publications relating to proper fish handling.

What did Mote Marine Laboratory &  Aquarium of Sarasota, Florida have to say about “backing” the PTTS?  “Mote does NOT help organize, endorse or receive funding from any tournament.” says Hayley Rutger, public relations coordinator for Mote.  She also went on to say that their official position is  “More research is needed to understand how two common fishing techniques — jig fishing and live bait — affect tarpon or the tarpon fishery.”  We at SaveTheTarpon.com couldn’t agree more!

Mr. Ingman and Mr. Mercurio have been quoted, and published in their own words, that both FWC and Mote Marine Lab support, endorse, back, or “oversee” their events.  As a matter of fact it has been one of the most compelling arguments echoed throughout the PTTS community.  We think its time that the PTTS start explaining to its participants, followers, and critics just what they meant by those statements.