PTTS tarpon seen dying on the beach of Boca Grande

This video was shot on June 17, 2012 as the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series (PTTS) was filming their final episode of the 2012 season–the Tarpon Cup Championship.  The tarpon seen in this footage had just been “revived and released” by the official PTTS Tires Plus Release Team after being caught and weighed during the tournament.  Instead of quietly drifting down into the deep dark waters of Boca Grande Pass as the preceding four fish had, this one swam towards the beach.  The final fight for life ended with the tarpon drifting belly up under the gentle surf of Boca Grande’s famous lighthouse beach.  The lifeless tarpon was later retrieved by the Tires Plus Release Team and dragged off shore and out of view of the onlookers as it was stuffed into the prop wash of cooperating PTTS participant boats in an apparent effort to hide the evidence.

More video will be released in coming days illustrating the tragic cover-up performed by the PTTS management and its participants. Please stay posted.

See comments from Capt. Tom McLaughlin at the bottom of this page for more info on the filming of this video.

It’s not just a “local” thing – End the PTTS

Moderator’s Note: This post was written by our newest savethetarpon.com contributor, Panhandle Fly Guide.  Please welcome him aboard the Save the Tarpon campaign.

Don’t you just love how if you oppose the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series (PTTS) or support Save The Tarpon you automatically get character-assassinated by Mr. Collecchio, Mr. Mercurio or some other PTTS crony?  Okay, I’ll bite—I’m guilty on both accounts so fire away.

End the PTTSHere, I’ll help you out: I think the PTTS is the ultimate example of fishing gone wrong and perpetually abuses the fishery, scoffs at conservation and stewardship and mishandles one of the noblest game fish on earth just for corporate profit.

I must therefore be one of those “left-wing environmental extremists” Mr. Mercurio loves to talk about on his Facebook page:

http://savethetarpon.com/ptts-attacks-supporters-of-tarpon-conservation-efforts/

Except that I’m not, I’m a sportsman.  I just don’t support all fishing practices.  You call me elitist because I don’t consider snagging fish to be sporting?  Do you consider dynamite fishing sporting?  If the goal of tournaments is just to “catch” the biggest fish with method being no object why don’t you just net them or better yet electroshock them then race to see who can get the biggest one that floats to the surface?  Sound absurd?—you extremist, you!  If you really don’t believe that pass-jigging snags fish then how about instituting a rule that each “catch” be evaluated by the FDW for hook placement?  To make it even more fun you could have the rule stipulate that any fish hooked outside the mouth automatically disqualifies the team (no biggie, remember that you don’t believe that jigging snags fish).

Well, obviously I must just have a thing against jig-fishermen.  I must be one of those local live-bait guides who’s just trying to start a turf war and only motivated by money.  Except that I don’t live in the area, I don’t fish with live bait nor do I guide in Boca Grande.  I just don’t want this donkey-show going in ANYONE’S backyard.  Furthermore, those same fish that get hounded by the PTTS around the pass at Boca Grande in May are the same ones I fish for up here in July.  So you’ll pardon me if I’m perturbed by the sight of dead tarpon in the water or washing up on shore in the wake of the PTTS and I roll my eyes at your insistence that the PTTS has nothing to do with it.

So clearly I must be an uneducated, unscientific, weak-minded person who’s been swayed into believing that the PTTS is harmful by an organization with an agenda.  Except that I’m not—as a physician I am actually quite adept at critically evaluating scientific evidence.  Remember that it took decades to scientifically prove that smoking causes lung cancer, meanwhile it became the number-one cause of cancer-related death.  During the interim life insurance companies charged higher premiums for smokers despite the lack of scientific proof not because of discrimination but because they realized that smoking was harmful and resulted in increased cost.  By the time the scientific proof was there the damage was already done, just ask the families of those who died from lung cancer while amassing the evidence—they are irreplaceably gone.  Just as by the time tarpon fishery and mortality statistics are amassed the damage is already done.

The bottom line is that Mr. Colecchio, Mr. Mercurio and the PTTS resort to the tactics they use because they feel threatened and rightfully so.  They’ve seen the rising tide of people like you and me who want to end the PTTS and they’re having a harder and harder time passing us off as extremists, elitists, exclusivists, ignorami or any other title that will marginalize us.  They’ve received a first-hand lesson in what happens when you abuse the system and a group of dedicated individuals decides to hold you accountable.  Six months ago they mocked Save The Tarpon and anyone that got in their way of doing things.  Now the times have changed: they’ve caved on their gaff, drag, hoist and weigh format, they’ve lost sponsorship and it’s harder and harder to portray the event positively on TV when there are so many people voicing their displeasure.  Keep up the hard work and make it your goal to make this the last year of the PTTS.  Don’t worry Mr. Collecchio, I’m sure there’s always work for you at big-tobacco—you clearly already have the rhetoric down.

Introducing: PTTS Co-Owner, Rodney Taucher

As the adage goes, “a picture is worth a thousand words.”  This one? Well, it makes us speechless.

Enter Rodney Taucher.

Rodney Taucher - Budget Heating & Air

PTTS Managing Member Rodney Taucher chuckles as he steps on a dead tarpon DNA connected to the PTTS.

For those of you who have not been properly introduced, Rodney Taucher is the newest partner of Silver King Entertainment, LLC, the company responsible for bringing us the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series (PTTS).

Here is a statement from Joe Mercurio, tournament VP and Manager, dated December 29, 2011:

“In order to properly manage the growth of our organization we needed to grow our staff. For the past 3 years Rodney Taucher has assisted us in organizing our registration process and developing our statistic tracking programs. Rodney’s extensive knowledge of online media, computer programming, and his business organization skills has helped us get better. It’s for these reasons that we have invited Rodney to become an equal partner with the Ingman family and Joe Mercurio. This new partnership should strengthen the corporation and allow for future expansion.”

Rodney Taucher, Owner, Budget Heating & Air

Owner of the PTTS and BudgetHeating.com (Budget Heating & Air Conditioning Inc.)

In addition to his co-ownership of the PTTS, Rodney also owns Budget Heating & Air Conditioning Inc. (BudgetAir.com), a PTTS team sponsor. You can find them on our boycott list.

So now that you’ve been introduced, lets get back to this heart-warming photo showing a jovial Rodney Taucher, co-owner of the PTTS, carelessly propping his foot upon a dead Silver King on the shore of Boca Grande. Oh yea, and sporting his official PTTS Tires Plus Release Team jersey no less.

At the time this photo was taken, Week #2 of the PTTS was underway. It was May 27, 2012 and the Women’s Professional Tarpon Tournament Series (WPTTS) had just taken place the previous day.  This tarpon was found floating in Boca Grande Pass by a FIT researcher who towed it to the beach to retrieve the eyes for her tarpon retinal research.  She submitted a scale to FWRI for the DNA sample.  Months later, the DNA results were released and linked this dead tarpon to Capt. Troy Sapp of Team Yamaha.  The tarpon had been caught during Week #2 of the WPTTS by Team Yamaha having been unnecessarily gaffed, dragged, hoisted from the water, dragged again and killed for the sake of TV face time for the high profile team sponsor.

As the researcher was taking her samples, a young boy walked up, drawn by the opportunity to see this magnificent fish close-up. He was distraught and actually wept at the sight of this 50 or 60 year old animal lost forever.  Yet, Rodney Taucher, PTTS co-owner, felt it was appropriate to use it as a foot stool.  This telling reaction further solidifies what those local to the Boca Grande area have known about PTTS owners and management  for a long while.

Capt Troy Sapp's Dead Tarpon

A young boy weeps at the sight of a dead tarpon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The jig’s up: Local captain reveals his PTTS tarpon snagging tricks of the trade

The following article, written by former Professional Tarpon Tournament Series (PTTS) participant (and winner), Capt. Andy Boyette, is being republished in its original form with permission.  Obviously, we are not posting this article to help instruct anglers on how to jig fish, rather, to help educate the general public on exactly what jig fishing for tarpon is.  We felt this was important follow-up to the new “Battle in Boca Grande” article published in the Winter 2013 issue of Guy Harvey Magazine and welcome your input in the comments section following his article.

Capt. Andy Boyette is an accomplished tarpon angler and full-time fishing guide in the Charlotte Harbor region.  He no longer participates in jig fishing or the PTTS.   When discussing why he left, Capt. Andy answered, “I want no part of a totally disruptive, rude and obnoxious tournament that blocks other anglers five weekends in a row during prime tarpon season.”

How To Jig Tarpon In Boca Grande Pass

Capt. Andy Boyetteby Capt. Andy Boyette/Go Fish Charters

Edit: It has come to my attention that some may think that I am teaching snagging here but YOU should be aware that this IS the method employed in Boca Grande Pass. Although it is known as jigging, my intent is to educate you so that you can decide for yourself what it is. It should also be noted that I NO LONGER DO THIS AND HAVE NOT FOR SOME TIME NOW.

How to catch tarpon using the Boca Grande jigging method:

In order to be successful you must first understand that this method is not really jigging. The term jigging is a EUPHEMISM that the guides and tournament anglers use. Although this term is used to describe it there is no resemblance to actual jigging.

First, I will go over how this method was developed and then evolved, and the controversy that surrounds it. I cannot say for sure that this was actually the beginning, but it is when the method caught on here. Some may have been experimenting with it long before. In the Nineties there were numerous Boca Grande Pass fishing tournaments with lots of money at stake. Some purses promised as much as $100,000, $200,000, and even up to $1,000,000 to a winning team.

These figures do not include any Calcutta money (cash bet on the side to pick the winner). With so much money at stake and the prestige of claiming the win and bragging rights as the best of the best, many of these tournaments were filled with fishing guides. These tournament anglers began searching for a way to win, which typically means a shortcut that manages to stay within the rules. A few of the successful participants later admitted to and confessed to using the jig method.

At this point the tournament scene split into two factions: live bait only and an open tournament that rarely sees any live bait used but is 99.9% jig fishing. There were law suits filed and FWC mortality studies and hook placement studies to determine if indeed a jig caught fish was snagged, since this was the issue that caused the split of the participants and the players of the Boca Grande Pass Tarpon scene that continues to this day.

I know. I have been in this scene as a guide since 1998. I have lived it and seen it and heard it, been there and done that, and still fish here to this day. I have fished for tarpon (to my own knowledge) in just about every way you can fish for them, including for an 8 year period exclusively with the jig fishing method. I choose now to fish with live bait and various artificial lures, plugs, swim baits, etc.; but I no longer use the method known as jig fishing.

Next, I will explain rigging, techniques, tips, and tricks that work and why they work. Keep in mind here that the FWC along with their own researcher determined this to be a legal means to catch tarpon so no one should contact me or bash me, or question my intentions.

When looking across the jig fishing arena in the Pass it becomes evident that there are a lot of anglers struggling to catch as many fish as some of the others. It’s not hard to look across the Pass and see that there are some boats that seem to be hooking up a lot more than others.

If you think that the few fish you caught were good enough, you should know that when I used this method I could achieve as many as 15-20 hookups a day and sometimes many more if I was fishing with clients that had been taught to use this method in previous seasons. I called them my ” I am going to look good today” clients.

With all that said, forget the term “jigging”. As I stated earlier, it is not jigging. Here is a better term and a better description: FLOSSING or LINING. Do some research if you do not recognize the terms. Google the words “FISH FLOSSING” and you’ll find a few forum discussions and videos on the first page. After some research you then need to think about the presentation of the Boca Grande jig.

Here is one FLOSSING video that has some good footage of the presentation. If you need to, turn your monitor sideways and you will see his hook looks similar to a Boca Grande jig.

When you FLOSS (aka Jig) in Boca Grande it is vertical and the only weight required is attached to the bottom of the hook. The angler is holding the other end of the line to keep the hook straight, and the current and the boat driver will present the bait to a dense school of tarpon balled together. I should interject here that when the fish are not in a dense school in deep water you should put away your jigging rods and get some live bait. It will increase the amount of fish you catch, and that is the objective, after all.

Equipment:

1) Rod should be a medium light to medium power 7 footer with extra fast action. The fast action allows you to be in constant contact with the weight and line and enables you to feel the subtle movements as the tarpon are under your boat.

2) Reel should be 6:1 retrieve. There are a few a bit faster but 6:1 works fine. This allows the line to be retrieved an average of about 4-5 feet for every 1 turn of the reel handle. It should have a long crank arm and speed ball that fits in the palm of the hand for speed, and be capable of holding about 250-300 yards of line. This type of reel with this amount of line gives you the capability of speed reeling your jig through the dense schools of fish.

3) Line should be 40# monofilament. If you can get it, use fluorocarbon. This is because the tarpon are capable of seeing the line, and smaller diameter and/ or fluorocarbon help in concealment. Absolutely do not use braid, not because it hums like many say, but because tarpon see it and move away from your line.

4) Leader should be 80# fluorocarbon no longer than 12 inches for concealment.

5) Octopus circle hooks (offset) 8/0. Not the original style circle hooks but the octopus circles (the ones that look like J hooks with a little bend in the point). This way you cannot be accused of snagging and you will land more tarpon.

5) A Boca Grande Tarpon Jig typically in 4oz weight. If you use non-painted jigs the tarpon cannot see them as well. The better your concealment, the more fish you hook.

How to rig and why:

I will only cover the business end of the rigging since everyone should know to put line on the reel. In order to FLOSS (aka jig) tarpon in Boca Grande Pass you should understand that seldom is a tarpon caught inside the mouth with a tarpon jig. They are mostly all caught on the outside of the mouth in the clipper or the soft tissue of the cheek. I know that many will say that is not true but I caught thousands of tarpon with a tarpon jig and out of the THOUSANDS not more than TEN had the hook inside the mouth.

If there are other guides achieving better results they should take pictures and/ or have their clients verify this. But it really does not matter that it’s hooked on the outside since, as I said earlier, the FWC and their lead researcher determined that this was all legal.

You need to tie a small Bimini twist in the main line. Use the least amount of wraps you can get by with so you have small knots. I used about 15 wraps. My knots were nice and compact, and concealment is important: tarpon see very well. Attach the leader to the Bimini with a uni-to-uni or some other line to line connection, again with as small a knot as possible. Now, and this is critical, the double line of your Bimini where it meets the first knot should only be about 3-4 inches long and the leader should be only 12 inches long. Yes, I said a 3-4 inch long Bimini and 12 inch long leader, and I also said critical.

When you are FLOSSING (aka jigging) tarpon it is about concealment at the hook and above. You need the smallest of knots and the shortest of leaders and 40# line is half the size of the Bimini you just tied and much smaller than the 80# leader. You are about to drop your line down ahead of a dense school of tarpon and drift over them as your line passes by and speed reel your hook a through a stack of tarpon and if you have a long leader the fish see it and separate and are no longer dense under your boat. The great density of fish directly under your boat is the primary requirement of this technique.

How to present the jig:

Presenting the jig is done in tandem by the boat driver and the angler holding the rod. First the boat must be positioned stern into the current so that you can constantly reverse into the current allowing the boat and fishing line to drift at the same speed through the dense schools of tarpon in 40-80 feet of water. In other words, your line must be straight below the tip of the rod, at a near perfect 90 degree angle with the water’s surface, and must be kept that way for the entire drift. There is no exception to this so count it as a rule.

The line cannot be paid out or angled at all. It must be straight down under the rod tip. The rod must be held perfectly still and the jig should be dropped to the very bottom and fished within inches of the bottom. This places the lead just above the bottom hook facing up ready to be retrieved. Once you feel subtle movement like the fish bumping into the line you reel your 6:1, speed handle equipped (4-5 feet retrieved per revolution of the handle) reel as fast as you can.

This is done to drag the line over the fish, and if everything lines up you will hook a tarpon in the side of the cheek or the clipper. If you miss the first one your jig passes, there will be another above, since you should now be hovering above a dense school of tarpon. After all, you are retrieving at 4-5 feet per handle turn as fast as you can. Most of the time it takes 3 to 5 (sometimes more) turns of the handle to hook the fish. If one had actually bit the jig at the bottom it would not have required much more than 1 turn with that much retrieve, since you’re directly above the fish with no slack in your line, and since the hook is heavily weighted, there is little stretch in the line.

There are those who say it is impossible to snag fish with a circle hook. Here is a little test you can do. Set up the jig just as described, on a 4 foot piece of line, said circle hook attached to a 4oz. jig, bend over and put the line across your neck. With the jig now hanging over your neck, take the end of the line that does not have the jig attached to it and pull the jig and hook over your neck. It WILL hook you so be careful.

You might also simulate how the pass works by hanging about 150 tarpon jigs (which would equal a slow day in the pass) from a tree in your yard and then walk through the jigs hanging from the tree. Be careful here too. If you do it fast you might even jump when you get hooked. Most people think circle hooks do not snag. That is incorrect. Circle hooks hook a fish and lessen the chance of gut hooking.

Circle hooks were designed for long line commercial fishermen who put out miles of unattended lines where a fish would bite the bait, swim away and become hooked by snagging themselves. That is how they work. Here is a video which shows how circle hooks can and do snag fish outside the mouth. Notice there is no bait on the hook; it is pulled into the side of the fish’s face. Colorado is the only state I know that made it legal. Google Moffitt Angling System (out of business and ruled to be snagging or foul hooking almost everywhere). Most states say hooking outside the mouth is foul hooking.

Circle hooks hang on the clipper of a Tarpon.

Here are a few tips and tricks that are used in the Pass. The circle hook can be offset more with your pliers making it much more successful. The lead should be unpainted for concealment. When it’s just gray it is more like a shadow. The tails should be narrow and skinny, not the shad style. I used the Cocahoe Minnow from H and H lures. If the water is clear and you are not hooking tarpon, they are seeing your line or your lure. Try biting your tails in half to make them smaller.

After dropping your jig to the bottom you must hold your rod tip pointed at the water and not move it or you will not feel the subtle movements on the line. If the fish are spread out in the pass and not balled up into schools they are difficult to hook because there are fewer chances to FLOSS (aka Jig) one under these conditions. You get fewer chances as you quickly retrieve your jig when there are only a few fish under your boat.

First thing in the morning is the best time because they can’t see the line. If you reel on the first bump you will hook the fish outside in on the clipper, but if you wait and do not reel until the second bump, the line will loop around the tarpon and hook on the opposite side and hook the clipper inside out. Fishing and FLOSSING/LINING (aka jigging) are two different things and if you understand this, you can be better at using the Boca Grande jig.

Remember, the FWC and their leading researcher made this legal, so if you have a problem with this you should contact them, not me. Here is link to the data.

They even call it foul-hooking on their website.

Capt. Andy Boyette
1-888-880-0006
www.gofishcharters.com

Guy Harvey Magazine highlights “Battle in Boca Grande”

The newly released Winter 2013 issue of Guy Harvey Magazine includes a six page article by Fred D. Garth discussing the controversy surrounding the Boca Grande Pass tarpon fishery.

 

 

 

 

 

The day the man with nothing to say had nothing to say

Gary Colecchio - Southwest Regional Director of the Florida Guides Association

The Florida Sportsman Forum is usually friendly turf for Gary S. Colecchio, the man with 4,900 posts since June of last year. But it wasn’t so friendly on Sunday, Dec. 16.

It’s not often that PTTS apologist-in-chief Gary S. Colecchio, the fishing forum’s queen bee and the tallest midget in the wrap boat circus, is at a loss for words. But on Sunday, Dec. 16, history of sorts was made. Colecchio, who seldom has anything to say even when he says it, apparently realized he really doesn’t have anything to say.

Not in response to the spanking administered by a poster who goes by the screen name “White Bacon.” And certainly not in response to the interesting account of a fishing trip gone wrong written by RJ Kirker, who coincidentally goes by the screen name of “RJ Kirker.”

The posts have been formatted for our site. They appear here in their entirety. If and when Colecchio is told what to post in reply, we’ll update. If it’s anything worth updating, that is. 

Get out the popcorn and enjoy:

AUTHOR: White Bacon

After having read all the debate, once again there are only a few reasonable conclusions to make regarding the now infamous gutted tarpon, first captured by the PTTS.

The gutted tarpon in question was proven to have been caught and released by a PTTS participant during a PTTS tournament. It was observed dead the next day, apparently gutted to prevent it from floating. The PTTS vehemently denies the gutting, and Gary C doesn’t buy any reasonable explanation without “supreme court level proof.” Glad to see nothing has changed with Gary or the PTTS.

Assuming that the PTTS’ claims are true, one must conclude that the previously hooked, gaffed, dragged, and weighed tarpon survived the initial PTTS trauma. Then you must make a galactic leap and believe this battered tarpon was caught again within hours of release by thePTTS and correctly identified by the second angler to be one of the weighed fish from the PTTS held the previous day. Then…..the sinister second angler guts the tarpon in an effort to further impugn the PTTS record of “catch-and-release”success.

It’s beyond laughable to believe that such a scenario is even plausible. I can’t imagine anyone with at least a third grade education would consider such an outlandish tale. Mercurio strongly denies any PTTS involvement related to the tarpon gutting. Gary C demands proof!

Colecchio and Mercurio remind us of Johnny Cochran and OJ Simpson. At least the tale spun by Cochran and Simpson while laughable, was conceivable.

I think we can all agree Colecchio and Mercurio are intelligent people. For them to make such outlandish statements only solidifies the intentional intellectual dishonesty they continually spew in their defense of the shameless pursuit of profits, and the total disregard for fellow anglers and the tarpon fishery the PTTS routinely exploits.

Mercurio and Colecchio have cemented themselves in the ‘Zero Credibility’ Hall of Fame.

AUTHOR: RJ KIRKER
(RJ is writing in response to an earlier post where Gary S. Colecchio claimed Save The Tarpon was “picking” on him because Save The Tarpon feared him. In fact, RJ figured it out. Read on …)

Mr. Colecchio, I’m guessing Save The Tarpon isn’t showering you with all this attention because you’re feared by them. I think they’re doing it because they want to make you the public face of the PTTS. If so, every word you write plays into their strategy. As someone who supports the efforts of Save The Tarpon and the FWC to protect and grow our local fishery, I encourage you to keep right on posting.

Yes, Mr. Colecchio, this is my first post. I figured you would point this out based on your habit of attacking the messenger and ignoring the message. But my husband and I, both avid anglers who retired to the area a few years ago, have been following this issue very closely for reasons that are very personal. This is apparent by my “join” date. Like you, we commend the PTTS for its promise to stop gaffing and weighing these fish. It’s a good start. Promises can be broken, however. By creating a sport fish designation and ending possession, the FWC is doing the right thing by making the PTTS promise official.

We joined Save The Tarpon for the very reason you’ve been advocating throughout this thread. Public access. You say you don’t fish the Pass, so you really don’t know what is happening there in May and June. We can no longer fish when the PTTS holds its tournaments. It’s a small sacrifice, but considering your view on this issue it’s one no angler should be forced to make. I read where the PTTS describes the situation during its tournaments as “chaos.” That’s an understatement.

We made the mistake of hooking up while leisurely drifting a hundred yards or so from where a pod of PTTS boats was circling and swarming. They obviously noticed. Within 30 seconds we were surrounded. Our line was run over and cut, and someone on a loud speaker was demanding we get out of “their” way. A boat with “law enforcement” on its side was standing off and witnessed what was happening to us. The officer on board looked the other way and did nothing.

We eventually escaped, but the lesson was learned. It was unlike anything we had ever experienced in all our years on the water. I honestly feared my husband was going to have a heart attack unless I beat him to it. This was supposed to be a leisurely morning of fishing.

I later went online and emailed the tournament to describe what had happened. I received a terse unsigned reply telling me the PTTS was “licensed” by the state to conduct these tournaments and that recreational anglers and their boats were obligated to yield or risk prosecution. Yet you have the gall to suggest Save The Tarpon is out to exclude others? Mr. Colecchio, you need a reality check.

Save The Tarpon got two new members as a result of what happened to us that day. We also learned we weren’t alone, that many others just like us were turning to the group for help. As it’s obvious the PTTS will only change its ways unless its back is to the wall, this appears to be the only solution. No group is perfect, but these people are the best hope we have at the moment.

So help them out and please keep posting.

NON-RESPONSE: Gary S. Colecchio

“Captain.”

AUTHOR: White Bacon

Captain Gary,

Man, so glad you couldn’t resist. Tell us again, based on the allegations cited in this thread, how the tarpon gutting can be logically explained? Option one: The PTTS did it. Option two: The STT sympathizers did it (although implausible).

Please, please give your superior explanation, so us dumb hicks can understand. Thanks.

NON-RESPONSE: Gary S. Colecchio

“Must be a boring day in Matlache.”

AUTHOR: White Bacon

Or Boca Grande. So I’m assuming you have no credible explanation? Didn’t Joe send you the talking points? I think you’re slipping. Say it ain’t so……..

NON-RESPONSE: Gary S. Colecchio

(There was no response.)

AUTHOR: White Bacon

Captain Gary,

I really have missed the forums, and the verbal combat with you. Some of us in the real world rely on anecdotal and circumstantial evidence, absent applicable physical evidence or scientific evidence, which you often cite and rely on.

I don’t need a study to confirm the government spends too much, that there are currently 150 snook under my dock, or that you continually promulgate irrelevant arguments, always relying on your superior intellect and writing skills to deflect from the real issues.

It’s not surprising at all that you cower when challenged. Make sure you and Joe get your stories straight, I’d hate to impeach your credibility further.

Colecchio ‘exposes’ imaginary plot to gut tarpon, frame PTTS

Gary Colecchio wants to believe, too.Our old friend and unrepentant PTTS apologist Gary S. Colecchio should probably come down from the grassy knoll, take off the foil beanie and consider the absurdity of the odd little conspiracy theory he’s been trying to peddle to his fish forum followers in recent days.

In a shrill attempt to be relevant again, Colecchio wants his forum friends to believe the now-famous dead tarpon that researchers have linked to a June 3 PTTS event was, in his alternative reality, gutted by someone affiliated with Save The Tarpon. Why? To make the tournament look bad – or, more accurately – worse.

To get his theory to work, Colecchio has resorted to inventing a nameless Save The Tarpon renegade evil genius he’s endowed with the power to magically defy all known laws of probability while simultaneously proving to be the most clueless person on the planet.

While he’s understandably vague on the mechanics at work here, Colecchio claims his purported STT perp cold-bloodedly gutted the fish with some mystic mathematical expectation that it would, miraculously, later be found floating by some random passing boater. A person Save The Tarpon’s evil genius somehow calculated the fates would put in precisely the right place at precisely the right time. A person with absolutely no affiliation with Save The Tarpon. Someone who happened, just happened, to have a FWRI-issued DNA sampling kit on board.

Sure, Gary. Heard from Elvis lately?

But there’s a bigger problem with Colecchio’s conspiracy conjuring. It’s the floating part. The supposed purpose of slitting open a tarpon from tip to tail is, obviously, to make the corpse sink. The fish, DNA and all, goes to the bottom, never to be seen again. Which is pretty much what all of us, if we happened to be in a tarpon gutting mood, would reasonably expect to happen.

In other words, to simulate an attempt to sink the evidence, you would most likely wind up doing exactly that. You’d sink the evidence. Brilliant! Colecchio’s theory essentially requires you to believe something he doesn’t: Save The Tarpon’s master of dirty tricks was apparently smart enough to come up with this convoluted scheme, but too stupid to realize the evidence would most probably head straight for the bottom.

The fact that the eviscerated PTTS tarpon didn’t wind up sleeping with the fishes baffles even the most experienced and knowledgeable Pass hands – a group that doesn’t, by his own admission, include Colecchio. But our old friend has never left an absence of knowledge or experience get in the way of a good fish forum post.

Tarpon are naturally buoyant  Unless you cut them open. Then they stop being buoyant  Whoever cut open that PTTS tarpon did a thorough job of it. Based on the photos and descriptions provided the FWRI, that gutted PTTS tarpon and its PTTS DNA shouldn’t have been floating in the Gulf near Boca Grande Pass on the morning of June 4.

It should, by all reasoning, have sunk. There should, by all reasoning, have been no possibility it would be found by a passing boater with a camera and a DNA kit just one day after it was caught, gaffed, dragged and sampled. It and its DNA shouldn’t, by all reasoning, have been found lifelessly treading water a day after taking a ride on the PTTS scales. By all reasoning, the fish should have vanished without a trace after it was hauled away to be “revived” by the PTTS Tires Plus Release Team.

But you know what they say about karma.

The case against the PTTS is, of course, largely circumstantial. There’s no question the fish was last seen, supposedly alive, in the loving care of the tournament’s Tires Plus Release Team. Also known as “opportunity.” Slitting it from tip to tail required nothing more than a knife. This falls into the category of “means.” Then there’s the third requirement. “Motive.” You can be the judge on this one.

Colecchio is demanding proof the gutted tarpon was the work of the PTTS. The case, as it stands, is largely circumstantial. But you can ask the folks in prison about circumstantial evidence. Colecchio is also demanding Save The Tarpon prove it didn’t do it.

Aside from the commonly accepted near-impossibility of disproving a negative, the facts as they’re known and the sheer idiocy of Colecchio’s “sink the tarpon so it doesn’t sink” theory, we’re left with nothing but a few photos, a video record of the June 3 tournament, the observations of scientists at the Florida Wildlife Research Institute and two matching DNA samples.

Next thing you know, Colecchio will be demanding to see the tarpon’s birth certificate.

PTTS fires off Facebook attack on ‘extremist’ supporters of FWC tarpon conservation push

As the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is poised to adopt language endorsed by Save The Tarpon Inc. and other groups that would pave the way to make tarpon a catch-and-release species, a spokesman for the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series is leveling harsh words against those who support the measure as well as the FWC’s other efforts designed to grow the state’s tarpon fisheries.

Joe Mercurio, VP & Host of the PTTS

Joe Mercurio, VP, General Manager and Host of the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series.

Joe Mercurio, host of the PTTS cable TV show, responded to a Facebook poster’s question on Monday by calling those supporting the FWC’s tarpon conservation efforts victims of “left wing, environmental extremist propaganda.” Mercurio added that those backing the FWC plan, which is expected to be approved by the seven-member commission on Wednesday, don’t have “the facts” and are “disgruntled and disenfranchised individuals.”

In September, Mercurio told the FWC commissioners that the PTTS is opposed to regulations that would force the tournament to stop gaffing, roping, dragging and weighing tarpon, a practice FWC researchers have labled “excessive handling” that leads to observed higher mortality rates.

Mercurio’s Facebook remarks are the tournament’s first in the wake of the FWC’s disclosure of preliminary results of its 2012 tarpon DNA sampling program. FWC researchers said last week that six fish weighed and DNA sampled during this past summer’s PTTS events had since been “recaptured.” Four of the recaptured PTTS tarpon were discovered dead within days of being caught and hoisted onto the tournament’s sling. A fifth PTTS sample was labeled “suspicious” by the FWC. Just one PTTS fish was recaptured alive.

Among the four dead tarpon that have been DNA-linked to the PTTS was a fish that was gutted in an apparent botched attempt to cause it to sink. The gutted fish was photographed and its DNA sampled by a passing boater. The fish was found floating in the Gulf of Mexico near Boca Grande Pass on June 4, a day after it was caught, weighed and originally DNA sampled during a PTTS event.

FWRI Assistant Research Scientist Kathy Guindon, PhD, who oversees the tarpon DNA program and had seen the photo, agreed the gutting was suspicious. “I don’t know why they would do that,” she said. “I don’t know why they wouldn’t give the fish a chance to survive.” The fish, a 124-pounder, was last seen after being turned over to the tournament’s Tires Plus “Release Team” to be “revived.” Guindon said the incision, which ran from the tarpon’s tip to tail, wasn’t the result of natural causes.

Later Monday, in a Facebook posting authored under the alias “Professional Tarpon Tournament Series,” the PTTS anonymously challenged the observations made by the FWC researchers as “baseless.” Mercurio had earlier discounted the FWC observations, suggesting instead that people “rely on credible news organizations and sources.”Joe Mercurio's Cash Cow

“EVERY weighed fish, over 80 were DNA sampled. More were sampled that were caught & released. We’ll present the full facts & figures in regards to the DNA sampled fish, and will address the baseless allegations & claims that have been made,” the PTTS said in its unsigned Facebook post.

The PTTS has otherwise remained mum concerning the gutted fish. FWC researchers have said that recapture rates in this type of study are, understandably, very low. Recaptures of less than one percent aren’t uncommon. So far this year, using the PTTS claim of 80 sampled fish, PTTS tarpon were recaptured at a rate of 7.5 percent – well above the numbers scientists say they would normally anticipate and need to conduct meaningful research.

Below is a screen shot of the PTTS Facebook page. It was made Monday, Dec. 3. Unlike that gutted tarpon, PTTS web content has a habit of vanishing. 

PTTSTV Facebook Dec 3 2012

 

Busted! DNA test links gutted, dead tarpon to PTTS

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

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

Dead Gutted PTTS Tarpon

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

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

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

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

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

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

PTTS Team Edgewater Boats Castaway Charters

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

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

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

Joe, look at the photo.

If you appreciate the work we are doing here at Save the Tarpon, please consider donating a few bucks and following us on Facebook. As a volunteer not-for-profit, we depend on contributions and Friends to help spread the word about this important cause.  Even as little as $5.00 helps out!

Donate Online
Like us on Facebook!

 

What A Difference A Summer Can Make!

By: Heather Taylor

We are recent 180-degree converts from being avid PTTS fans to passionate advocates of saving the tarpon of Boca Grande Pass.  My husband, Kevin, and I not only watched the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series on television, we even recorded it on our DVR so as not to miss a single episode.  I “liked” them on Facebook.  I even got a little thrill when I saw PTTS host, Joe Mercurio, at a restaurant.  But that was then, and this is now…

My husband is an avid fisherman.  He has fished in the Pass and surrounding area for over 20 years.  His most recent passion, which he took up about a year ago, is fly fishing.  He has instilled a passion for fishing in our two teenage daughters and it is one of our favorite family pastimes.

Jig Fishing for Tarpon in Early Morning

This past spring we enlisted a Realtor to help us find a vacation home in the place we love to spend our free time;  the place we love to fish; the place that hosts this tournament we love to watch on TV.  We have spent a lot of time in the area since March.

What we discovered this spring and early summer about the PTTS was shocking and heartbreaking.  The PTTS had misled us and so many other viewers into believing that they are an ethical catch and release tournament which promotes conservation. But we saw with our own eyes that this is simply NOT the truth.

It doesn’t take a marine biologist to watch the hoard of boats pound the fish ruthlessly day after day to understand that what is happening is bad news for the fishery.  Also, the tackle and technique is simply unfair to these magnificent fish.  What we saw during and after the tournament was tragic evidence of this … massive female tarpon floating in the pass or washed up on the beach and lost forever.  Finally, the majority of the old timers my husband interacted with during the season indicated it was one of the worst ever.  The fish were not only sparse and inconsistent, but very skittish when present.

The PTTS supporters would like to make people believe that they are a huge economic boost to Boca Grande, but I do not even think that is the case. We rented both on and off the island during our home-buying process.  Our experience was that the PTTS folks rent elsewhere in the area, for the most part, and do not spend a significant amount of money on the island.

Those renting on island at that time of the year are predominantly those who have vacationed there and fished recreationally for years.  Other than Millers (Boca Grande Marina), we never saw PTTS participants at a restaurant where we dine (The Temp, South Beach, Sisters, the Gasparilla Inn and The Pink Elephant).

The PTTS has to be stopped.  It is so sickeningly against the ethical treatment of animals, I do not see how it has continued this long! What can we do to stop it?  Please tell us.  We are 100 percent on board with all efforts to stop this travesty of “sport” fishing!

Do you have a story to share? We would love to hear it.  Email us at contact@savethetarpon.com.