You made it happen in 2013, but the job is far from over

Protest Boats At Dock

Back in the spring of 2012, a defiant Gary Ingman proclaimed his Professional Tarpon Tournament Series wouldn’t stop the gaffing, the dragging, the snagging and the televised hijacking of Boca Grande Pass – all brought to you by his “controlled chaos” wrap boat spandex rodeo – until “someone tells us to stop.” In 2013, you told him enough was enough. In 2013, you told him to stop.

As we look ahead to 2014, we can look back at 2013 as a watershed year that saw our combined efforts produce two landmark regulatory reforms that will, with aggressive enforcement and your continued vigilance, give Florida’s most iconic tarpon fishery the kind of fighting chance that once seemed so beyond our reach. But you made it happen.

In 2013, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission listened to your more than 23,000 voices. It responded by unanimously adopting rules that laid the groundwork needed to continue the job of preserving, protecting and growing the “Tarpon Fishing Capital of the World” for us, our children, our children’s children and beyond. And you made it happen.

You told the FWC the time had come to put an end to gaff, drag, weigh and dump. In 2013, the seven-member commission heard you. It unanimously adopted a rule making tarpon a catch and release species. And we’re going to be in the Pass this spring to make certain this rule is strictly enforced.

Save Some Tarpon For MeYou also told the FWC the time had come to outlaw the bottom weighted snatch hooks popularized by the PTTS and promoted as a legitimate fishing lure to its cable TV “audience.” In September, the FWC listened. Save the Tarpon made your voices heard that day in distant Pensacola as the commission voted 7-0 to beef up its outdated foul-hooking rules and ban the so-called “tarpon jig” from the waters of Boca Grande Pass. You made it happen. And yes, we’ll be there this spring to make certain this rule is strictly enforced.

Your educational efforts also bore fruit in 2013. Your continued support helped us spread the message to those who have since come to understand they were underwriting the potential destruction of a fishery. In 2013, MillerCoors, Yamaha, Costa del Mar, Miller’s Ale House and others showed us and the world they truly are responsible corporate citizens. And you made it happen.

While 2013 will rightfully be remembered as the year you made it happen, 2014 will continue to present opportunities and challenges. In 2013, sport fishing enthusiasts across the globe became aware of the issues threatening Boca Grande Pass thanks to your efforts. They made their voices heard. But we all understand we can’t collectively afford to declare victory, drop our guard and go back to the era of silent indifference that nearly brought us to the brink.

Yet there are those eager to see a return to the days of “anything goes.” As you know, the man who once so defiantly challenged you to make him stop, the man who brought “controlled chaos” to Boca Grande Pass and has signaled his willingness to pay any price to keep it there, has dispatched a small armada of lawyers intent on silencing your voices and reversing the grassroots gains we worked so hard to achieve together in 2013.will rightfully be remembered as the year you made it happen, 2014 will continue to presen challenges.

Flight To Fwc MeetingYou stood up for the future of our fishery in Lakeland, in Pensacola and in Tallahassee. But all we’ve accomplished remains at risk absent the resources we now need to head off efforts by Ingman and others to undo what we’ve worked so long and so hard to make happen over the course of this past year. While our legal team has been supportive in our defense and committed to our shared cause, the fight to keep your voice from being silenced continues to drag through the courts as we enter 2014. Silence didn’t make catch and release happen. Silence didn’t ban the bottom weighted snatch hook. Silence didn’t end the corporate underwriting. Silence did not, and will not, make it happen. We will not be silenced.

We’re grateful to those who have provided so generously of their time, their talents and the resources that have allowed us to stay in the fight and make our voices heard. But despite a continuing string of reversals, the PTTS persists in what has become a transparent bid to shift focus away from the Pass, to thwart our efforts to protect and preserve the fishery, and to return to business as usual. And with every dollar spent, that risk becomes increasingly real. At your urging, we’ll soon be establishing (and, yes, it’s a cliche we hoped to avoid) a “legal defense fund” that will enable us to aggressively put this matter to rest and turn our full attention back to the job that needs to be done. Also, on Sunday, March 2, 2014, we’ll be gathering once again in Boca Grande for the 2nd Annual Save the Tarpon Shindig. Please save the date for Save the Tarpon.

For more information, please don’t hesitate to drop us an email at contact@savethetarpon.com or give Jennifer McLaughlin a call at 941-457-0845. It was a great 2013 for us, for you and the future of our fishery. It’s not going to be an easy act to follow. But, as 2013 revealed, “easy” isn’t in our dictionary. It’s 2014. Together, let’s keep making it happen.

Become a member today.

PTTS demands Florida Sportsman name names of its forum members

Silver King Entertainment Save The Tarpon Subpoena To Wick Enterprises, Inc. 1 Page 1

Click to enlarge image.

Southwest Florida boat dealer Gary Ingman and the outfit behind the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series are back in court again, this time in an attempt to force the owners of a popular online outdoors forum to publicly name names and fork over other personal information contained in its corporate database of more than 18,000 members and nearly 1.7 million posts.

The latest maneuver by Silver King Entertainment LLC in its protracted legal battle to silence Save The Tarpon Inc. and others critical of the PTTS surfaced November 12, 2013 in papers filed with the Charlotte County Circuit Court.

Port Charlotte-based Silver King is claiming Save The Tarpon, its directors and its more than 22,000 supporters worldwide have caused the televised Boca Grande Pass fishing tournament to lose more than $500,000 in sponsorship and other revenues since the tarpon conservation group’s efforts began in May of 2012.

MillerCoors, the signature sponsor of the PTTS through its Miller Lite brand, recently moved to sever its ties to Ingman’s controversial NASCAR-style, made-for-TV tournament after the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission voted in September to outlaw a fishing method commonly used and promoted by PTTS participants throughout the event’s nine-year Fox Sports-affiliated cable television run.

SUBPOENA TO PRODUCE THINGS WITHOUT DEPOSITION
TO: WICK ENTERPRISES, INC.

YOU ARE COMMANDED to appear at Feldman Morgado, PA, 501 N. Reo Street, Tampa, Florida 33609 December 12, 2013 at 5:00 p.m. and have with you at that time and place the following:

1. Any and all documents, records, correspondence, legal documents, files and information regarding the user accounts of forum participants for user names RJ Kirker, WhiteBacon, Joey Buttons, OldHewes18Red, Jirvin70 and RestlessNative in connection with the website forums of http://forums.floridasportsman.com.

If you fail to appear, you may be in Contempt of Court.

Ingman and his Silver King partners are directing their current legal salvo at Wick Enterprises Inc., a Stuart, Fla. company that publishes Florida Sportsman Magazine and operates a companion Florida Sportsman Forum. The Florida Sportsman Forum is a widely-read online message board that hosts a broad range of candid member discussions centering on local and statewide fish and game topics.

In a two-page notice filed with the court, Ingman’s company revealed its intent to go after Florida Sportsman’s business records in an attempt to ferret out the identities of forum members who have posted comments critical of the PTTS and its methods.

The PTTS move comes close on the heels of a now-deleted Florida Sportsman Forum conversation that centered on certain documents offered up by the tournament’s lawyers as potential evidence in its lawsuit against Save The Tarpon and others.

The PTTS documents that triggered the short-lived forum discussion were, according to information posted to the Florida Sportsman site, found to contain links associated with sexually explicit and compromising material reproduced by the tournament’s host and general manager Joe Mercurio.

The PTTS is seeking to force Florida Sportsman to turn over private personal information about its forum members.

The PTTS is seeking to force Florida Sportsman to turn over private personal information about its forum members.

Following a brief, two-page discussion contained within a 2,068-post conversation boasting 108,569 views, Florida Sportsman moderators locked the thread and ultimately deleted all references to Mercurio and the compromising material turned over by the PTTS lawyers.

In apparent response, PTTS attorney Dennis A. Creed III of the Tampa area firm of Feldman Morgado P.A., is aiming his latest legal broadside at the Florida Sportsman Forum and six of its 18,000-plus hunting and fishing enthusiast members. His notice filed with the court, and the corresponding subpoena, both fall under Florida’s sweeping public access and broad open records laws.

His demand that Florida Sportsman produce the identities of its members, who traditionally post under so-called “screen names,” is a move likely to draw the interest and ire of online privacy advocates. Florida Sportsman could also opt to invoke privilege under Florida’s “Shield Law” in response to Creed’s forthcoming subpoena.

If Creed prevails in his bid on behalf of the PTTS to pry open Florida Sportsman’s books, the tactic also runs the obvious risk of creating a precedent-setting chilling effect.

There are, among the thousands of registered forum members, many who would likely be alienated or driven away by the potential prospect of having their personal and professional identities revealed if they permit their screen names to be attached to future Florida Sportsman forum posts.

Creed’s subpoena would give Wick Enterprises Inc. and Florida Sportsman until December 12 at 5 p.m. to turn over “any and all documents, records, correspondence, legal documents, files and information regarding the user accounts of forum participants.” Creed then identifies six of those forum members by their adopted screen names.

Creed also delivered a warning to Florida Sportsman’s owners, threatening that if they fail to turn over the forum member identities demanded by the PTTS and its lawyers by the December deadline, “you may be in contempt of court.”

Waterline publisher warns ‘defiant’ Mercurio, PTTS: Don’t ‘skirt the rules’

Josh Olive, Waterline Magazine, Southwest Florida

“That’s just not true,” Waterline Publisher Josh Olive tells PTTS host Joe Mercurio in response to Mercurio’s repeated complaints the FWC banned the jig “in spite of any scientific data.”

The publisher of an influential Southwest Florida outdoors magazine says the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series needs to do some “soul searching,” admit the now-illegal bottom weighted “jig” was, in fact, used by PTTS anglers to foul hook fish, and distance itself from what he says are efforts to “skirt the rules” designed to put an end to years of tarpon snagging in Boca Grande Pass.

Josh Olive, publisher of the Suncoast Media Group’s widely read weekly “Waterline” supplement, used his Thursday, Oct. 10 column to refute PTTS host and general manager Joe Mercurio’s repeated allegations that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission banned the controversial device “in spite of any scientific data … that indicates an abnormal amount of fish caught using the Boca Grande jig were being foul hooked or snagged.”

“That’s just not true,” Olive replied, noting that instead of accepting the opinions of recognized experts and the resulting 7-0 FWC vote to ban the device, Mercurio’s “tone has been rather defiant” and that the PTTS continues to base its opposition on an obsolete hook placement study that has been widely discredited by the scientific community and renounced by those it cited. (Read Joe Mercurio’s September 19th letter to the editor here.)

Joe Mercurio, PTTS Host

Read Joe Mercurio’s Sept 19 letter to the editor following the recent FWC ruling.

Olive, once a booster of both the PTTS and the jig favored by the TV tournament’s participants, used his weekly column to call for  Mercurio and his tournament to heed Save The Tarpon’s message. “Tell us you’re going into 2014’s tournament season with the right attitude: Respect the fish. Respect the Pass,” he wrote.

“Well, now we know. The Pass jig snags tarpon. The Pass jig snags tarpon! What remains to be seen is how former jig anglers cope with the loss of a very effective fish catching tool. Will they try to skirt the rules and develop new devices that adhere to the letter, but not the intent, of the law? Much of their reaction may depend on how the PTTS chooses to proceed,” Olive warned.

Olive might have reason to be concerned that a “defiant” PTTS could be attempting to “skirt the rules.”

Shortly after his pro-jig, pro-PTTS “Florida Tarpon Anglers Association” lost a pivotal procedural vote on the new regulations in June, the group’s vice-president Craig Abbott posted a photo to a PTTS-backed social media site that purported to show a jig clone Abbott claimed had caught two tarpon in 12 minutes.

Sea Hunt Boats representative and PTTS captain, Larry Jett, spoke out after the September FWC ruling.  Sea Hunts Boats is an official sponsor of the PTTS.

Sea Hunt Boats representative and PTTS captain, Larry Jett, commented on the PTTS Facebook page after the September FWC ruling. Sea Hunts Boats is an official sponsor of the PTTS.

A week later, part-time fishing guide Mike McCarty followed up with a post alleging “a start of full production is a couple of months out in order to have them for next season. There’s discussion of letting the PTTS reveal this new bait first. No worries there (sic) coming.”

Since then, the internet has been buzzing with rumors of experimental and “totally legal” lures designed to take over for the banned jig when the PTTS resumes next year.

On September 5, in the aftermath of the final FWC vote, the PTTS boasted on its Facebook page that “our world class competitors have already developed new artificial lure designs that have proven to be very productive, and we’re confident additional designs will continue to be developed.”

On the same day, Tampa fishing guide and Team Sea Hunt angler Rick Silkworth wrote “we are not going anywhere, the new jig is coming, mold is being made to poor (sic) new jig head.”

Capt. Dave Markett

Outspoken jig proponent and PTTS Team Power-Pole captain, Dave Markett, spoke out September 20 on Facebook.

More recently on September 20, high profile PTTS Team Power-Pole leader Dave Markett claimed the next generation jig was already on the market. Markett said the devices were being sold by a Tampa area tackle shop. He thanked the store “for already having a full rack of brand new and totally legal Boca Grande tarpon lures already on their shelves.”

“Welcome “Knockers” to our world,” Markett wrote. He then added “And the FOOLS thought we were whipped. Not quite, Not EVER!!”

Olive said that he had “searched his soul” as his opinion of the jig, the PTTS and Save The Tarpon evolved.

“The Professional Tarpon Tournament Series intends to go on, and I’m concerned that tournament organizers may not have done the same level of soul searching,” he wrote.

(Read Josh’s column here.)

PTTS general manager and host posted this quote to Facebook.

PTTS general manager and host posted this quote to Facebook.

Who’s next? Florida trucking firm pulls sponsor plug on PTTS

One day after Miller’s Ale House officially severed its sponsorship ties to the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series, yet another PTTS sponsor has announced that it, too, is walking away.

PTTS Team Patterson Freight Systems

Looks like Team Patterson Freight Systems will be saying ‘bye-bye’ to the PTTS in 2013.

Patterson Freight SystemsFlorida-based Patterson Freight Systems Inc., with corporate headquarters in Plant City, is a division of The Patterson Companies. The company was a long-time PTTS sponsor, supporter and participant. It joins a growing list of brands that have recently elected to end corporate affiliation with the controversial cable TV fishing tournament.

According to Bobby Tyson, director of sales and marketing, Patterson Freight Systems Inc. is “not participating in the PTTS events this year.” Tyson added, “like you we are interested in the preservation of the species as well as the fishery that is Boca Grange Pass.”

In announcing Patterson’s decision to cut the PTTS financial cord, Tyson also cited economics, noting “we did not feel that the advertising expense was hitting our market enough to justify the outlay.”

Another one bites the dust: Miller’s Ale House latest to quit PTTS

Teamalehouse

The Miller’s Ale House PTTS team. Make that the FORMER Miller’s Ale House PTTS team.

You spoke, they listened.

On Monday, March 11 you put out the call for Miller’s Ale House to end its long-standing and high profile affiliation with the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series. Just 21 hours later, the company made it official.

“We do not sponsor the PTTS,” messaged Chris Frawley, the Florida-based restaurant chain’s divisional vice president. “We are no longer a sponsor.”

Miller’s Ale House had been a prominent PTTS player through its sponsorship of the notorious “Miller’s Ale House Weigh Boat” and its financial backing of one of the TV tournament’s most “competitive” teams. The company, as of 8:24 a.m. EDT Tuesday, March 12, now joins a list that includes Tires Plus Total Car Care, Costa del Mar Sunglasses, Skeeter Boats, Farlow’s On The Water, Andros Boatworks and other brands that have cut the PTTS money cord.

You did it again. To date, five PTTS sponsors have been the focus of SaveTheTarpon.com’s “Do The WRITE Thing” campaign, an effort designed to ask companies that have attached their names to the PTTS to “Do The RIGHT Thing” and walk away. Through your emails, your phone calls, your letters and your Facebook posts, all five have pulled the plug on the PTTS. Yes, you did it again.

You can also cross Miller’s Ale House off the boycott list. Your local Ale House restaurant can be found here.  Stop by. And don’t forget to tell the folks there how much you appreciate the company’s swift and responsible decision to end its PTTS affiliation.

The PTTS continues to list Tires Plus Total Car Care and Miller’s Ale House on its “Sponsors” page. Bridgestone, the parent company of Tires Plus, publicly ended its PTTS affiliation last month. A number of team sponsors have also quietly withdrawn their PTTS participation or have informed Save The Tarpon of their intent to do so. The PTTS has also removed Yamaha Motors from its sponsor page and is no longer billled as being “presented by Yamaha.” The company, which earlier pulled its Skeeter Boats division out of the PTTS,  has yet to officially confirm its 2013 status.

The tournament’s remaining name sponsors are:

  • Johnson Outdoors
  • Sea Hunt Boats
  • Reactor Watches
  • The Beached Whale
  • Continental Trailers
  • J.J. Taylor Distributing of Fort Myers (Miller/Coors)

NOTE: Miller’s Ale House is not affiliated with Chicago-based Miller/Coors or J.J. Taylor Distributing. Miller/Coors continues to attach its Miller brand to the PTTS. We ask that you continue to boycott the company’s products. And here’s a little musical something to go with that nice, cold non-Miller brew:

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

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

PTTS Host, Joe Mercurio

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then came the payoff. Literally.

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

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

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

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

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

So where’s Joe’s promised $15,000?

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

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

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

End catch and drag. We promise.

Promote conservation. We promise.

Utmost respect for the fishery. We promise.

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

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

Letter to the Sponsors of the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series (PTTS)

Below is a copy of a letter which went out today to a few of the major sponsors of the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series (PTTS).  If you have a moment, please take a moment to write some of these sponsors as well.
Dana.Metz@tiresplus.com
Don.Becker@tiresplus.com
Jeremy.Persinger@tiresplus.com
Stuart.Watterson@tiresplus.com
dale_barnes@yamaha-motor.com
ben_speciale@yamaha-motor.com
aperkinson@costadelmar.com
cmacdonald@costadelmar.com
Nehl.Horton@millercoors.com
Andrew.England@millercoors.com
rick.gomez@millercoors.com
We have written you previous emails informing you that there exists a growing public backlash against the PTTS and its highly destructive fishing and handling techniques. Today there are many, many newspaper articles being written, online sites and blogs are humming, communities are organizing, sponsors are withdrawing, petitions and bumper stickers are appearing and a plane flew a negative banner over the PTTS events. We had informed you this might grow into a real brushfire. It is starting. A boycott of your product is now being advocated. Your brand will be caught up in this whirlwind and it will not be positive for your image, nor your sales. Your brand is generally respected, but now the wider boating and fishing community is turning against you as a management, and against your product because you are supporting and thus condoning the PTTS. The controversy is becoming self sustaining.
Again we ask that you consider the consequences. If you have questions, suggestions or need more information about the real and potential damages caused by the PTTS,
Mark Futch has asked that you contact him directly. Mark Futch is the Secretary of the respected Boca Grande Fishing Guides Association.
PTTS Sponsor Boycott
Captain Mark Futch
Cell: (941) 740-0662
bgseaplane@gmail.com
www.bocagrandefishing.com