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 Save the Tarpon made your voices heard that day in distant Pensacola as the commission voted 7-0 to beef up its outdated foul-hooking rules and ban the so-called “tarpon jig” from the waters of Boca Grande Pass.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.

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:

Tell Miller’s Ale House: PTTS sponsorship not a ‘reel great’ way to make ‘raving fans’

JackClaire

Jack and Claire Miller.

Miller’s Ale House is a high-profile sponsor of the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series. It has, in years previous, attached its brand to the notorious Miller’s Ale House weigh boat. The company is not affiliated with the Chicago-based Miller/Coors industrial beer conglomerate – another PTTS sponsor.

JackMiller

Jack Miller talks about giving away free cars.

Miller’s Ale House operates three restaurants in Southwest Florida: Sarasota, Fort Myers and Estero. The Jupiter, Fla. company now has 60 locations nationwide, with all but 13 of these here in the Sunshine State. The first Miller’s Ale House was opened in 1988 by Jack and Clair Miller who continue to remain at the company’s helm. Here’s a video of Jack. (Give your browser permission to run it if prompted,)

Although Miller’s Ale House has apparently scaled back its sponsorship stake in the PTTS, its brand continues to be prominently attached to the tournament. It remains on Save The Tarpon’s boycott list.

The company is generally responsive. Its “guest relations manager” closely monitors and is quick to address critical online reviews on sites such as TripAdvisor.com, inviting dissatisfied customers to privately email their concerns to an anonymous corporate account. Its “locations” page on MillersAleHouse.com provides email addresses that can be used to reach out to your local Ale House management with questions and comments about the company’s involvement with the PTTS.

MillersalehouselogoThe Miller’s Ale House fishing-themed motto is “A Reel Great Place to Catch a Good Time!” The more than 15,000 supporters and members of Save The Tarpon will likely never know. Not as long as the company’s brand continues to remain associated with the not so reel great PTTS.

Miller’s Ale House boasts of its “Run It Like You Own It” culture when it comes to its restaurant managers. The chain’s local managment, Miller’s says, has “the ability to make decisions and impact change, right at your own store!” There is some reason to believe that the “decision” to sponsor the PTTS was made locally and, perhaps, summarily endorsed at the corporate level without the proper vetting. Management, with your assistance, now needs to be encouraged to follow through on the “impact change” part of the company’s philosophy. Same with the folks in Jupiter. The city, not the planet.

Teamalehouse

Team Miller’s Ale House poses for a ‘brag photo’ with its graffed, dragged and hoisted PTTS tarpon. They are having a ‘reel great’ time. The tarpon isn’t.

Use this link to find the Miller’s Ale House outlets in your region. Scroll down to the area below the map of the U.S. Enter your Zip Code. A list of restaurants, especially if you are in Florida, will appear. Each location contains an “Email Us” link. Left click on this link to open a new message in your email program. Or right click to copy and paste the address into your browser-based email application.

You can also reach out to corporate by following this link to a contact page.  You will be prompted to enter a restaurant location found on a drop down menu. Select one. The company monitors these incoming contacts. You can also reach the company by phone at (866) 743-2299. Ask for Guest Relations. Or request to be transferred to Jack Miller’s office. And, as always, be nice.

The company’s mission statement is “All Actions Create Ale House Raving Fans.” Let’s urge Jack and Clair Miller to take a very important action by ending their affiliation with the PTTS and joining their more than 15,000 potential customers who seek to respect, protect and grow the Boca Grande tarpon fishery. It’s an action likely to create a whole lot of “Raving Fans” eager to once again support “A Reel Great Place to Catch a Good Time!”

The Miller’s Ale House corporate Facebook page can be found here. Just in case you feel like wandering by and leaving a Reel Great message.

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.)

Sponsors – is your PTTS team obeying the law? Here’s one that didn’t even try

Miller's Ale HouseHats off to the Miller’s Ale House PTTS team captained by Artie Price. His Miller’s Ale House team caught and weighed a 154 pound tarpon to win Week 2 of the PTTS 2011 season.

But Price didn’t get the job done all by himself. The Miller’s Ale House PTTS team of Greg Devault and Frank Massaro, both of New Port Richey, plus Myakka’s Jon Turner also share credit for “gettin’ ‘er done.”

Unfortunately for Miller’s Ale House, the boys aboard Price’s Miller’s Ale House boat left Miller’s Ale House with something of a public relations black eye where Florida law is concerned. You see, the boys aboard Price’s Miller’s Ale House boat didn’t really get the job done that week. Not the whole job. They probably guessed nobody would notice.

Putting a $50 tarpon tag on that 154-pounder they weighed got just half the job done for the Miller’s Ale House team. But FWC regulations say, quite clearly, that the Miller’s Ale House team was required by law to finish the job by returning a tag card to the state within five days of its Miller’s Ale House 2011 Week 2 PTTS victory. These cards, to be filled out by the angler who “possessed” the tarpon, help the FWC with its conservation efforts. Especially in Boca Grande Pass. The tag cards tell FWC researchers where the fish was caught, its condition, its size and other useful tarpon conservation information. Useful, only if someone cares enough and takes the time to put the tag card in the mail.

See a list of all tags issued and returned in 2010/2011 here.

According to FWC records, Miller’s Ale House captain Artie Price never returned the required tag card for that tarpon the Miller’s Ale House team caught in Week 2. Miller’s Ale House team member Greg Devault never returned the required tag card for that tarpon the Miller’s Ale House team caught in Week 2. Miller’s Ale House team member Jon Turner never returned a tag for that tarpon the Miller’s Ale House team caught in Week 2. Miller’s Ale House team member Frank Massaro never returned a tag for that tarpon the Miller’s Ale House team caught in Week 2.

Here's one of the tarpon which Team Ale House weighed without using a legal tarpon tag.

 

In fact, it seems nobody aboard the boat sponsored by Miller’s Ale House bothered to return a card for that 154-pound tarpon the Miller’s Ale House team caught in Week 2 of the PTTS. Or, for that matter, any other week during the 2011 PTTS season. Cards returned for tarpon caught last year in Boca Grande Pass: 38. Cards returned last year for tarpon caught in Boca Grande Pass by the Miller’s Ale House team of Price, Devault, Turner and Massaro: 0. That’s zero. Zilch. Nada. None.

According to FWC records the Miller’s Ale House team never caught that 154-pounder. According to FWC records the Miller’s Ale House team didn’t capture, gaff, drag and weigh that 154-pounder. According to FWC records the Miller’s Ale House team couldn’t have won Week 2 of the 2011 PTTS, Miller’s Ale House couldn’t have won that nice new boat. That’s because, according to FWC records, Miller’s Ale House wasn’t there. According to FWC records, in 2011 the Miller’s Ale House team didn’t exist.

Except it did. It was on the TV.

The Miller’s Ale House team that went out and got the job done in Week 2 couldn’t be bothered to take the time or make the effort to get the whole job done as state law requires. But we understand. Filling out those forms, putting them in an envelope, spending money on stamps and hiking these things out to the mailbox can be inconvenient and expensive for a Miller’s Ale House team whose career PTTS winnings as of Week 2 of the 2011 season totaled a scant $300,000.

And really, who’s going to notice? Where tarpon regulations are concerned, it’s easy for teams like Miller’s Ale House to get away with just about anything with a wink and a nod. And even though FWC regulations state that failure to return a tag card can cost you the privilege of purchasing future possession tags and weighing fish in future PTTS tournaments, nobody in Tallahassee is paying attention to any of this. Either is the PTTS. Either, apparently, is Miller’s Ale House. Maybe they should.

In 2011 the tarpon tag program generated little more than $15,000 for the FWC. Care to guess how much the FWC spent on administrative and other costs associated with the tarpon tag? Care to guess what four letters benefitted most from what, in reality, is a financial drain on an agency that can better use its resources just about anywhere else than subsidizing a television show?

Sponsors like Miller’s Ale House need to spend a little time questioning what’s going on in their name in Boca Grande Pass, what’s going on their name in the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series and what’s going on in their name aboard the boats bearing their name.

If a law so simple and basic and beneficial as returning a tarpon tag card to the state agency that oversees Florida’s conservation efforts is being so blatantly ignored, it should give sponsors pause to ask what else is or isn’t happening inside this sports exhibition called the PTTS? Are those aboard all those boats all wrapped up in all those logos for all those folks at home to see really playing by the rules, following the regulations and obeying the law?

Is it honestly worth taking the chance that their team, their PTTS, their television show and, by association, their valuable brand name might – like team Miller’s Ale House – not be getting the whole job done?