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.

Study was a ‘win-win’ for tarpon, a ‘lose-lose’ for the PTTS

Inserting Satellite Tarpon Tag

Measuring a big tarpon and inserting a satellite tag means holding the tarpon at each end, and hoping it doesn't explode into life at the wrong moment. Photo by Joe Richard © 2012

In a letter dated May 4, 2012, Project Tarpon’s Scott Alford requested the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series cooperate in a “collaborative effort” to satellite tag fish caught and weighed by the PTTS. The project would be fully funded.”At least two of the tarpon research projects being conducted by the marine biologists at the University of Miami could draw a great deal of benefit from the participation of the anglers competing in the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series,” he wrote. “The first is the tarpon specific weight formula research, and the second project is the satellite tagging program.”

The “tarpon specific weight formula” is a reference to a project to fine tune a method of calculating a fish’s weight by measuring it at the boat rather than towing it to the beach and hoisting it on a scale.

He notes that “since killing tarpon is prohibited in many locations and certainly frowned on in most, it is difficult for these researchers to obtain weight data for tarpon.” But luckily “the PTTS offers a unique opportunity for the biologists …”

He continues: “The possible cooperation between the PTTS and biologists is obviously a win-win for both.”

And finally: “The PTTS has a long standing cooperation with biologists and research efforts. The satellite tagging seems like a natural and easy fit to further the PTTS’s conservation and research objectives.” And “this is truly a great opportunity for both the PTTS and tarpon research. I hope we can make it happen.”

The PTTS, Alford says, never responded. They didn’t “make it happen.” Color us shocked. Not much of surprise on this one.

Alford, of course, never had a chance. A satellite tag, obviously, would track the movement of the tournament’s tarpon after they are gaffed, towed, hoisted from the water and released. The same tag would also, obviously, track the non-movement of the tournament’s tarpon after they are gaffed, towed, hoisted from the water and released. You can do the math. The PTTS already did.

The PTTS also knows those weigh boat shots, those up close and personal eye candy interviews with the jubilant team captain, make Must See TV for the folks watching at home. A perfected tarpon specific weight formula would end the need for gaff, drag and weigh. The scales could be replaced by a far less photogenic and equally boring boatside tape measure. The tarpon would obviously benefit. But what do fish know about making good TV?

Tarpon satellite tag, painted a dull color so it won't invite unwanted attention from other fish. This tarpon is about to swim free. Photo by Joe Richard © 2012

In his letter, Alford also notes that “the PTTS gains by having additional material for the TV shows, which many viewers will likely find fascinating …”

In reality, many viewers will likely find it fascinating that most of those satellite tags on those “live release” tarpon aren’t moving.

After waiting, and waiting, and waiting for a response from the PTTS, a frustrated Alford went public with his letter. He could have saved himself the stamp.

PTTS apologists will likely claim Project Tarpon has some sinister agenda. They will, given enough time, ultimately link Project Tarpon to al-Qaeda and Planned Parenthood. That this new-fangled satellite technology is unproven. That developing a tarpon specific weight formula is yet another attempt at phony baloney voodoo science. The PTTS noise machine will, predictably, drone away.

Alford unintentionally went to the heart of the debate (and ended any chance the PTTS would cooperate) by noting “killing tarpon is prohibited in many locations and certainly frowned on in most.” That in this respect, “the PTTS offers a unique opportunity.”

We didn’t know how special we were.

See for yourself. You can read Alford’s letter here. The gaff and drag Photoshop Rangers over at that other Internet place can have someone read it to them.

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 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.

 

Who Owns the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series (PTTS) in Boca Grande Florida?

ingman marineThe Professional Tarpon Tournament Series (PTTS) in Boca Grande Florida.

(Originally posted by On )

The gift of world-class Tarpon fishing in Boca Grande is a precious resource given to all of us to enjoy and be enriched by.  It is a gift we must all work together to preserve and respect.  However, some for-profit businesses have decided to make a fishing tournament designed to “enrich” their own pockets while unnecessarily compromising this resource for their own financial gain.  If you think the PTTS (Professional Tarpon Tournament Series) is cool, that’s because it has been cleverly designed to achieve this response.  It is through the emotional response triggered by “good TV” that you happily turn your money over to them in one way or another.  And every time they have an angler or professional guide defend their tactics or participate in their tarpon tournament,  they laugh all the way to the bank.  They are disrupting and damaging a fishery that doesn’t exclusively belong to them–it belongs to all of us and our children.

What’s wrong with a tarpon tournament in Boca Grande, you ask? Well, nothing. (Here’s a link to one of the conservation-minded tarpon tournaments.)  There are plenty of other Tarpon tournaments which pose no threat to the waterways or fishery.  However, the PTTS is not one of them.  It has purposely adopted unethical fishing practices to help facilitate higher TV ratings–fishing practices that have long been known to the angling community (and almost all other fishing tournaments) as outdated and unsportsmanlike.

The gaffing, dragging, weighing, and often subsequent death of the Tarpon are for nothing more than increased TV ratings and shows a blatant disregard for the fishery. By glorifying this damaging process on National television,  it also actively promotes the same contemptuous behavior to recreational anglers who use the TV show as a guide for how to fish for Tarpon in and around Boca Grande Pass.  Now, outside of the hours of the tournament, you are seeing recreational anglers, and even their fishing guides, dragging exhausted Tarpon to the beach for a photo op.  Additionally, the dangerous and disrespectful boat operations also promoted through the PTTS television show has created an entire group of individuals who try to emulate these behaviors upon their visit to Boca Grande.  This endangers the lives and livelihood of the residents and law-abiding citizens who also use Boca Grande Pass and its surrounding waters.

The PTTS is owned and operated by the Tarpon Anglers Club.  Again, don’t be fooled.  This is not a non-profit anglers club happily created to promote sportfishing. It is a for profit LLC registered in the State of Florida.  Here are the current State records available on sunbiz.org.

TARPON ANGLERS CLUB, LLC

Registered Agent Name & Address

GARY INGMAN
1189 TAMIAMI TRAIL
PORT CHARLOTTE FL 33953 US

Manager/Member Details

INGMAN, GARY (President of Ingman Marine)
1189 TAMIAMI TRAIL
PORT CHARLOTTE FL 33953

MIZE, GARY (Vice President of Ingman Marine)
1189 TAMIAMI TRAIL
PORT CHARLOTTE FL 33953

The PPTS (Professional Tarpon Tournament Series) Television Show is owned and operated by SILVER KING ENTERTAINMENT, LLC.  Here is the info from sunbiz.org as well:

Registered Agent Name & Address

GARY INGMAN
1189 TAMIAMI TRAIL
PORT CHARLOTTE FL 33953 US

Manager/Member Detail

Title MGRM
GARY INGMAN
1189 TAMIAMI TRAIL
PORT CHARLOTTE FL 33953

Title MGRM
JOSEPH MERCURIO
1189 TAMIAMI TRAIL
PORT CHARLOTTE FL 33953

Title MGRM
RODNEY TAUCHER
1189 TAMIAMI TRAIL
PORT CHARLOTTE FL 33953

Title MGRM
VICKIE MIZE
1189 TAMIAMI TRAIL
PORT CHARLOTTE FL 33953

For many of the locals, you know Gary Ingman as owner and President of Ingman Marine, a boat dealership in Sarasota, Placida and Port Charlotte.  Many in support of ethical angling have directly asked Gary to change these harmful, unsportsmanlike, and outdated aspects of the tournament in regards to the handling of the Tarpon.  He has declined to make changes.  It is because of this I ask for your support in boycotting the services and products offered by Ingman Marine.  An alternate choice for Yamaha service is The Boat House on Placida Road. They are located only minutes from the Placida Road location of Ingman Marine.   I also personally recommend using Abels Marine on Gasparilla Road. They are also close-by and good local people who do solid work.  In fact, it is very likely both of these alternatives to Ingman Marine will save you money on any service performed to your boat.  Let them know why you are using them instead of Ingman Marine, and they may even show appreciation by offering a discount.

Another helpful tactic would be to contact Grady-White Boats (Ingman Marine is an exclusive dealer of this boat manufacturer) and let them know you will not support Ingman Marine or their products because of their destructive attitude towards the Boca Grande Tarpon fishery and local environment.  Their contact information is as follows:

Grady-White Boats Inc 5121 Martin Luther King Jr Hwy, Greenville, NC 27834 (252) 752-2111 ‎ gradywhite.com

Or email them at custserv@gradywhite.com .

Eddie Smith, Jr., CEO of Grady-White Boats has this posted on the company’s website:

“Dedication to Fisheries Resources and Coastal Environment
Eddie Smith has led Grady-White to be recognized as the boating industry’s leader in recreational fishing and coastal environment issues. Eddie himself has been recognized for lifetime achievement by the American Sportfishing Association, and has also been honored by the International Game Fish Association and many others for his commitment. Many of the managers and other employees at Grady-White are similarly dedicated to the long-term health of fisheries and coastal areas. A Grady-White boat is truly a symbol of dedication to the best kind of future for our children, our fisheries and our waterways.”

Dear Yamaha Motors, Your Actions are Disgusting Us. Stop Sponsoring the PTTS!

Yamaha Motors Puts Profits before PrinciplesBelow is yet another letter sent to Yamaha Motor Corporation regarding their participation in the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series (PTTS).    Call, email, or post a comment at the bottom of this post.  Let Yamaha Motors know Mr. Cannella is not alone on this.

And thank you Mr. Cannella for taking the time to voice your concerns to Yamaha Motor Company and allowing us to post a copy for our audience.

To all of the backers of the Save the Tarpon movement: Lets hold these companies and their brands accountable.  Oh, and please remember, Yamaha Motors also owns Skeeter Boats. Skeeter Boats are given as the Grand Prizes in the tournament.

From: Norman Cannella
Sent: Thursday, June 07, 2012 2:22 PM
To:ben_speciale@yamaha-motor.com
Subject: Boca Grande Pass, Florida and the Tarpon

Mr. Speciale:

Allow me to introduce myself. I am nearly seventy years old. A lawyer for the last thirty-nine years. A retired United State Navy Commander. A life-long fisherman. A resident of Tampa, Florida for all of my life save the time I was on active duty with the Navy.  I own property on Gasparilla Island and travel weekly from my Tampa home to Boca Grande. I fish every weekend.

At a very early age, and before the bridge was built to allow vehicle access to Gasparilla Island, I was fishing the waters around the Island. In the late nineteen fifties a bridge and causeway were built and the Island changed. For many, many years preceding the bridge Boca Grande, as the Island is known, was historically world known for tarpon fishing in the pass. The method of tarpon fishing developed beginning in the early nineteen twenties involved live bait and a controlled drift.

Approximately fifteen to twenty years ago breakaway jig fishing was unfortunately introduced. More unfortunate was the influx of out of the area guides employing outboards in an nontraditional and dangerous fashion. Because of the “success” of breakaway jig fishing and the advent of outdoor television shows, Joe Mercurio, along with Gary Ingman, a man I am certain you know, created several corporations which sponsor and sell the film of their Professional Tarpon Tournament Series.

Tarpon, for over one hundred years, have been favoring Boca Grande Pass on their yearly migrations.Most all of the tarpon over one hundred pounds are females. Moreover, a tarpon of one hundred pounds an larger are old. Of course it is impossible to precisely age the fish, it is not uncommon for a large tarpon to be fifty to sixty years in the water. Therefore, many of the fish visiting Boca Grande have been doing so for quite some time.

I doubt if you have been present for one of the PTTS events. If you haven’t, you should attend. After all, you do lend your corporate name to the list of sponsors. The event is nothing but a spectacle. The method and means of fishing is embarrassing to say the least. Well over fifty outboards continuously motor about looking at bottom machines for the sign of tarpon below. You do know outboards exhaust underwater. As soon as fish are located, down go the jigs fished on light line in order to maintain the line as vertical as possible, If the fish move, the fleet moves; that beat goes on for hours. Officers from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission are usually present for the spectacles. One, however, never sees these enforcers of the law venture into the midst of the melee to check for compliance with rules and regulations of the Commission. Why? It simply is too dangerous.

A great majority of the hook-ups are from outside in rather than the traditional inside out. An outside in hook-up would be snagging but for the law defining snatching which requires a treble hook.

Tarpon are not dumb. To put it bluntly, if the fifty or more outboards continue to hover over these tarpon, they will soon alter their migration habits and there will be no more tarpon of Boca Grande.

The heat is on PTTS. Mr. Mercurio recently wrote a team is in place at the shore where the tarpon are weighed and photographed after being towed for distances of up to seven and eight hundred yards. Mercurio writes the team is present to see the fish survives. It has been documented over the years that after each tournament slaughter dead egg filled females are found either washed ashore or floating interestingly without the required tarpon tag.
Many supporters of PTTS take the position the resource is public and for everyone’s use. If the PTTS continues, there will be no resource for the public.

I own a Yamaha outboard. If the PTTS is not stopped, I will never own another Yamaha product not will I drink another Miller product or step foot into one of the boats manufactured by a boat sponsor or any other product or service associated with a sponsor of the PTTS. Many concerned people, not just tarpon fisher people, feel the same way. Do the right thing for the future of the tarpon fishery at Boca Grande. Say good bye to Joe Mercurio and Gary Ingman’s PTTS.

Sign the Petition

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boycott the PTTS

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

Help Fund the Fight to Protect the Pass

GoFundMe DashboardDon’t allow your voice to be silenced!

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

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

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

It’s not happening.

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

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

The History…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Money.

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

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

Enough is enough.

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

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

Will you stand with us?

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

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

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

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