Peaceful Protest of the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series (PTTS)

Please join us for a peaceful protest of the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series (PTTS).

Where:  Gasparilla Island State Park (Boca Grande Lighthouse) at the South end of beach. Look for the PTTS weigh-in area.

When: Sunday, June 17th, 2012 at 9:30 AM

What to Bring: Yourself, your friends, banners and signs.  Please add SaveTheTarpon.com to your materials. Also, make sure you bring a few bucks for each person to pay entry to the park. Oh, and cameras to help document the event.

Parking: There may not be any parking left in the State Park lot, so plan accordingly.  Come by boat, bike, golf cart, hot air balloon…whatever it takes.

It is very important everyone stay calm and controlled to uphold the integrity of our cause. 

Email us if you have any further questions.

Important Links

Use the flyers and logos below to help spread the word.  The flyers are standard letter size so print some out and hang them around town.

Here is a link to the protest flyer.

Here is a link to the general Save the Tarpon flyer.

Here is a link to a high res image for a t-shirt or print material.

 

 

PTTS: A Far Cry From “Catch and Release.”

Tarpon Gaffed in HeadIt has come to the attention of those involved in every facet of the fight to end unethical and unacceptable angling and handling practices in Boca Grande–namely the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series–that the owners, managers, participants, and supporters seem to think of the PTTS as a “catch and release” tournament.  Let’s take this time to clarify exactly what is taking place in Boca Grande Pass on the weekends.

The term “catch and release” is not one to be thrown about nonchalantly.  It is, in fact, a technical term in the state of Florida and has been successfully held up in court to prosecute fisheries violations.  

The state of Florida describes “catch and release” as the fish being “returned immediately and unharmed.”  It is this very definition that requires the PTTS to use the tarpon kill tag in order to gaff, drag, and weigh the fish during the televised events.

The PTTS and Joe Mercurio would have both the viewers and the sponsors believe that just because they return the fish to the water after they are finished with their antics, that this constitutes catch and release.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.

The very same FWC that Mr. Mercurio says he works closely with will go on to tell you, once you take possession of the fish (i.e. gaffing) you are no longer “releasing” the fish.  Once you move from catch and release to possession, the state does not distinguish between a fish dragged, weighed, and towed off by the ‘release team,’ or a fish whose throat is slit and laid on the beach for the birds to eat.  Though the mortality rate may be different, it is clear that based on extensive catch and release mortality studies, the chances of survival are considerably less than those of a fish who is unhooked, popped off a leader, or otherwise allowed to go free immediately after being caught.

In the world of fisheries management a fish returned to the water with a questionable chance of survival is referred to as a “discard.”  This again is a technical term just like “catch and release.”  It does not exist to make one feel better or worse about the disposition of their catch. Why is the difference between “catch and release” and “discards” so important?  Because a large majority of the PTTS viewers are not particularly skilled or educated anglers.  In general, they have very little knowledge of the intricacies of proper post-catch fish handling.  However, many do understand conservation organizations, both private and governmental, support and promote ethical fish handling such as “catch and release.”  When they are lead to believe the handling they see on TV during the PTTS is “catch and release,” they use the television show as instruction as to how to properly handle tarpon and other big game fish.  This is a dangerous situation.  The fact that these fish are not “released” but rather “discarded” will never even enter their mind.

It is the responsibility of those who profit from fishing to promote proper etiquette, promote ethical angling, and promote true “catch and release.”  The time of kill tarpon tournaments is gone, and now its time to end “catch and discard” tournaments masquerading as “catch and release.”

The same goes for the sponsors of the PTTS who will surely be inquiring as to why Save the Tarpon, Inc is calling for a boycott of their business.  They will be told the same as the television viewers heard. ‘Live release, live release, live release.’  The fact remains, most of the fish mishandled by the PTTS die.  And for no other reason than to provide TV drama in the relentless pursuit for higher ratings.

And though the tournament only officially takes place on weekends, the damage to the resource does not stop on Monday morning.  The fallacy continues throughout the week as tarpon are dragged to the beach at Boca Grande, most illegally without the use of a tarpon tag, simply because charter clients demand the same photo-op they saw on TV back home.  If it’s good enough for the PTTS then it’s good enough for them, right?

Fisheries worldwide have made great strides towards bringing public perception inline with what the scientific community agrees is acceptable fish handling through the promotion of “catch and release.”  Even the oft mentioned Boca Grande Guides Association, accused of killing “countless numbers of tarpon” by members of the PTTS, has not gaffed, dragged, or removed a tarpon from the water in the course of a tournament since 2007.

As we progress through life, especially as anglers, we are constantly learning.   We may not have all made the right decisions in the past, but that does not mean we cannot make them in the future.  Our understanding of fisheries is increasing at a pace quicker than we can get the word out to the general public. It is the responsibility of those who profit from fishing to promote proper etiquette, promote ethical angling, and promote true “catch and release.”  The time of kill tarpon tournaments is gone, and now its time to end “catch and discard” tournaments masquerading as “catch and release.”

 

Capt. Tom McLaughlin, Founding member of SaveTheTarpon.com

Unafraid, unfazed, and certainly not intimidated.

“Truth is by nature self-evident. As soon as you remove the cobwebs of ignorance that surround it, it shines clear.”   Mahatma Ghandi

Each May and June, cobwebs of ignorance sprawl across Boca Grande Pass.  These cobwebs seem to multiply exponentially each year, running rampant across this world famous tarpon fishery, and collectively tightening a web of lies in an attempt to suffocate the truth.  The cobwebs of ignorance enshroud the harsh realities of the damage done by the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series.  Until now, the truth has been covered up and well hidden from the general public. The atrocities committed during this tournament can no longer be tolerated.  The consensuses among a growing number of those in opposition to the tournaments existence feel that this cover-up is a heavily strategized, deliberate, and collective effort undertaken by those involved.

The Profession Tarpon Tournament Series, or “PTTS” tournament as it is often referred to, is a source of major controversy in this area.  On paper this tournament appears to be espousing conservation.  But a closer look at the tournament practices reveals that conservation of the species might not be quite as important to the competitors as they claim. These “anglers” (we will call them anglers for ease of reference, and not because of any actual skill or competence while fishing) compete for money or prizes in a series of 5 tournaments.  Each of these tournaments is a travesty; they are a despicable display of grown men prioritizing greed, ego, and the need for recognition over character, self-respect, or species preservation.

It appears that the PTTS believes that in its infantile existence it has amassed a wealth of tarpon fishing knowledge that trumps the collective knowledge of generations of Boca Grande families and fishing guides.  The PTTS defends the tournament practices that they employ, and give no reverence to any opposing party, nor heed any warnings about potential long-term harm they might be causing.  But there are generations of fishing guides who have watched the fishery change before their eyes, and they are speaking out against the PTTS to protect a fish, and a way of life passed down to them.  Do not be fooled by the propaganda spewed by the PTTS crowd. This is not, as they would like the public to believe, a movement brought on by a bunch of “angry old fishing guides.”   This is a movement made up of a wide range of socioeconomic groups, coming from all over the country. We are not of a common demographic, and there is no label that you can put on us. We are diverse in all respects.  We are all brought together by one common goal; we aim to protect the fishery that we all cherish. More specifically, we join together to protect and to preserve the tarpon of Boca Grande Pass.

This letter is a call to action. I call on the public to demand an explanation from the PTTS tournament. I call on the public to demand the truth. If it is so “obvious” to all the PTTS anglers that tarpon aren’t snagged by the jigs, that the fish aren’t dying, that the migration patterns aren’t being changed, and that conservation is a priority, then evidence supporting these contentions should be readily available.

I have never jigged fished in my life. Therefore, I will not pretend to know everything that happens at the bottom of Boca Grande Pass. Rather, I will pass along information that I have heard from people that have.  I have interviewed current PTTS anglers about jig fishing. I have interviewed Captains that have personally competed and won PTTS tournaments. This is the information I have collected: Those individuals who are against the PTTS claim that the fish are primarily, if not exclusively, snagged by the use of “Jigs.” The tournament rules state that no tarpon can be snagged, which mirrors the state of Florida rules regulating tarpon fishing.  The PTTS “anglers” and staff claim that the use of circle hooks makes it impossible to snag fish.  However, circle hooks can be bent or “offset” which allows jig fisherman to easily circumvent the rule proscribing the use of circle hooks. In fact, many tarpon Jig fisherman callously refer to jigging as “snagging and dragging.”  Let that phrase sink in.

Ever hear a jig fisherman defend himself by using the “tarpon bite” defense?  Those that defend the PTTS ask “if tarpon don’t eat jigs, why does the bite go hot and cold during the day?” A simple explanation that I received is available to dispel this rumored tarpon bite. The tarpon jig is designed to snag the tarpon in the gill, the clipper plate, the face, or any body part it will grab tightly enough. It is effective because tarpon stack up in the pass in massive numbers, literally on top of one another. Jig boats make drifts past the tarpon, and “anglers” are instructed to reel as fast as possible at the slightest bump. These bumps that are felt are the jigs passing the tarpon, bouncing across their bodies. A successful hookup is when the hook snags a fish on its way past the schools. Snagging is less effective when the fish aren’t stacked in a small area.  So a hot “bite” is when more fish are being snagged, and a cold “bite is when the fish aren’t in a place where snagging is possible. It’s pretty simple, really.

This is just what I have been told by the people who fish in these tournaments currently, and those who have fished them in the past. But the PTTS rules explicitly say that fish that are hooked outside of the mouth are ineligible for weight or leader touch points.  I can’t imagine that the sponsors, tournament directors, and anglers knowingly violate the rules of the tournament as well as the rules of the State of Florida. Can you imagine if such a blatant violation of the law was taking place in such a storied and cherished fishery? Can you imagine the public outcry, not to mention the potential legal ramifications of such violations? I know that I would be concerned if I was in any way involved in such an abhorrent display of disrespectful and irresponsible behavior.

This is NOT a catch and release tournament. According to the state of Florida "catch and release" is classified as the fish being "released immediately and unharmed". This lifeless Tarpon was harvested only for the purpose of creating television drama for the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series (PTTS). Regardless of whether it was thrown back after the fact, its chances of survival have been drastically reduced by this handling.

Perhaps the most pathetic attempt at justifying these brutal fishing tactics is referencing the fishing practices of the past. Yes PTTS advocates, we all know that the early years of tarpon fishing saw countless tarpon being hung from trophy boards.  Ask any of the Boca Grande Families, and they will tell you that tarpon were killed for mounts, for tournaments, and for photos. I am personally guilty of holding fish out of the water for photos before I knew of the dangers. Tarpon fishing history is rife with what would now be considered wrongful actions. But that is not an excuse to condone the behaviors of today.  The PTTS commonly uses the tactic of pointing to the harms done in the past as way to justify what they are doing now.  But guess what guys, the fishing practices have evolved…Maybe you can join the evolution, and stop pleading ignorance.  I know that I am not proud of holding tarpon out of the water when I was younger and uninformed. But I quickly became informed, and made an effort to cease any practice known to cause unnecessary harm to the fish.  Everyone makes mistakes. It is human nature.  But the real test of human character is the way people respond when they are given the chance at redemption. It is not too late to stop these practices, as many of us have already done. I am asking the public to do the same, and I am asking the PTTS to join us.  We all care about the same fishery.  We take for granted that these fish will continue to return here each year. But what if that’s not the case?

Let’s be clear about a few things: this is not about “territory” or who has the fishing rights to Boca Grande Pass. And this is not simply about jig fishing. This is about an entire style of fishing that has infected our waters.  Years ago, live bait boats and jig boats fished the pass together. This was before the PTTS gained popularity.  Jig fishing, although frowned upon as unethical by many anglers, is not the only problem.  It has become an entirely different style of fishing because of the popularity of the PTTS.  The PTTS brought to Boca Grande a “run and gun” mentality.  Anyone who fished Boca Grande Pass before the inception of the PTTS knows that the style of fishing was one of respect. It was calm, it was elegant, and it was beautiful to watch.  Now, it is utter chaos.  Visually, it is a nightmare. But this is not the true cause for concern. The real cause for concern is the impact is has on the fish populations and migration patterns.  Pre-spawn tarpon come here to feed, to rest, and to congregate before they move offshore to reproduce.  However, with the “run and gun” style of fishing, these fish are constantly bombarded by a fleet of boats and a pack of heavy lead jigs. It is overly disruptive. It should be stopped before it is too late.  Are we, as recreational anglers, captains, guides, and members of the community, really willing to take a risk so great? Are we really willing to gamble on our cherished fishery? I hear advocates of the PTTS constantly defend the practices they employ, but how sure are they that this style of fishing is not doing any lasting damage?

The PTTS rules say that an observer is allowed on each PTTS boat. Several individuals, myself included, will be happy to observe and document the championship tournament. We will gladly watch, photograph, and take notes of the tournament practices.  Will the PTTS, since they have nothing to hide, allow us to do so? Let’s find out.  More importantly, if such ethical and legal violations are occurring, will the public demand recourse? Will we stand up hold accountable those responsible? I think we will.

Captain Chris Frohlich

A letter to the PTTS from a school teacher

(This moving article and letter was submitted to us earlier today.)

As an elementary school teacher for more than 28 years, I have always told my students to follow their hearts in doing what is right for a cause. The awareness that this video has created for the “Tarpon of Boca Grande Pass” is one of my proudest moments and a testimony for all those who have walked through my classroom door. The photos taken that day, tell the REAL truth, because the camera doesn’t lie.

Please understand I am not against tarpon fishing, but against the disgraceful methods of tarpon handling leading to its death. I would like to commend all the people who have rallied to SAVE THE TARPON, the website is outstanding. To those of you who place the VALUE of NATURE over MONEY thank you for standing up to be heard. One by one, the TRUE STORY is told as the video is forwarded to family, friends, and coworkers. In the first 24 hours, when “TARPON was searched” on Google, the movie was at the Number 1 spot. KEEP THIS UP and don’t STOP for this is a testimony to all of you who aren’t afraid to stand up to the bullies and want a better world for our children and grandchildren. Today, I am proud to be an educator of many, in my heart SAVE THE TARPONS be one of my greatest lifelong lessons.

Let’s continue our vigilance for the TARPON! Let the cameras tell the truth.

TO THE PTTS (Professional Tarpon Tournament Series) ….
I was not hired by anyone, I was just an unbiased observer, who happened to have a camera on a public beach, while enjoying this beautiful state I treasure with its unmatched beaches and wildlife.

I didn’t know who you were until this Memorial Day weekend. You have placed blamed on the Boca Grande Guide Association, and others, however I told this story as a concerned citizen who witnessed an event FOR PROFIT that was gut wrenching, disrespectful, and without regard to the HANDLING OF THE TARPON in its habitat, during spawning season, so vital to its existence.

What motivated you to try to block me taking photos of the fish weigh-in? Then, you took pictures of me as an intimidation tactic, however, I already had taken 358 photos, and the camera doesn’t lie.

On this respectful Memorial Day weekend, for the sake of attracting the military audiences, PTTS cowardly hid behind the rouse of the “Wounded Warrior Project”. American and military flags waving off the back of boats and “warriors with rods in hand”. However, one of the military wives I talked to said her husband was on a boat and he was not comfortable with the method of fishing, he said if he wasn’t with “friends” who chartered together he would have taken his family and gone home.

This is another example of misleading the public, the camera doesn’t lie.

When the banner plane flew overhead, and shameful comments began chattering among the boat radios, “…that it was too bad nobody had a rocket propelled grenade, or RPG, handy to shoot the little Piper out of the sky. Someone promptly told them to SHUT UP…people might be listening”.
You were right…and watching…the camera doesn’t lie!

Why did your teams begin to drag the TARPON in on the far side of the boat, away from the viewing crowd on the beach? Because the camera doesn’t lie!

To the FLORIDA Fish and Wildlife Commission… to allow this dangerous “Bumper Boat Derby” weekend after weekend. So dangerous that YOU avoid the swarming of 40+ boats, staying safely on the beach parked next to the weigh boat. There is NO monitoring of FLORIDA STATE “rules and regulations” for the handing of the TARPON at such a long distance from the action. Also exposed is the role that the FWC plays in this FOR-PROFIT event, which obviously needs to be re-evaluated since it’s been reported that TAX PAYERS have been footing the bill for years.

After watching the TARPON SLAUGHTER MOVIE, my 9-year-old students were speechless and had tears in their eyes, they felt it necessary to have their voices heard and started a letter writing campaign to the Governor to stop the mishandling of THE TARPON. These children GET-IT, but the ADULTS DON’T!

Because of greed, profit for sponsors, and TV sporting want-to-be’s…the TARPON were loosing.
But not anymore, the camera doesn’t lie.

Save the Tarpon discussed on WENG Radio Broadcast

Captain Tom McLaughlin, one of the founding members of SaveTheTarpon.com, was a guest co-host on The Boating Life radio show with Captain Tom Healy.  In this recording, he discusses what the Save the Tarpon movement is about and how to take part in it.

 

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

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

(Originally posted by On )

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

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

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

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

TARPON ANGLERS CLUB, LLC

Registered Agent Name & Address

GARY INGMAN
1189 TAMIAMI TRAIL
PORT CHARLOTTE FL 33953 US

Manager/Member Details

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

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

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

Registered Agent Name & Address

GARY INGMAN
1189 TAMIAMI TRAIL
PORT CHARLOTTE FL 33953 US

Manager/Member Detail

Title MGRM
GARY INGMAN
1189 TAMIAMI TRAIL
PORT CHARLOTTE FL 33953

Title MGRM
JOSEPH MERCURIO
1189 TAMIAMI TRAIL
PORT CHARLOTTE FL 33953

Title MGRM
RODNEY TAUCHER
1189 TAMIAMI TRAIL
PORT CHARLOTTE FL 33953

Title MGRM
VICKIE MIZE
1189 TAMIAMI TRAIL
PORT CHARLOTTE FL 33953

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

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

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

Or email them at custserv@gradywhite.com .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mr. Speciale:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Josh Olive, publisher of WaterLine Magazine, we expected better from you

Waterline Magazine and Mr. Josh Olive,

Apparently you did not receive the memo published directly by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission regarding safe Tarpon handling in Boca Grande Pass.  You also seem to have fallen victim to the bright lights and fame of seeing your magazine’s name adorn the side of a tournament sponsored boat.  Has your interest in the tournament actually clouded your judgement this badly?

 

Taken directly from MyFWC.com, Tarpon and Boca Grande Pass:Waterline Weekly Magazine

• Never gaff a fish unless you are going to harvest the fish.  “Gaff and release” is a practice that may leave the fish with an open wound making them vulnerable to predation.

• Leave fish in the water while photographing, removing the hook, or cutting the leader.  Boating large fish is dangerous to you and your crew, and can injure the fish. Don’t boat your fish, if you can help it.

 

In order for you to have “proof,” why must one use DNA testing to prove the PTTS is killing fish when obviously their handling of the fish is outside the bounds of what is acceptable to every single conservation oriented organization that has an interest in Tarpon fishing?  What is worse, is you personally know that this deviation from the norm is for nothing more than increased drama to boost television ratings and is entirely unnecessary.  Why is it unnecessary you ask? Mr. Olive are you not a supporter, promoter, and sponsor of the Guy Harvey Ultimate Shark Challenge?  The shark tournament that you tout as bringing tournament shark fishing inline with conservation?  How do you handle your sharks for the tournament? I believe you do not gaff the fish and drag them to a weigh in, but rather briefly hold them up to the side of the boat while they are still in the water whilst a film crew or observer records the length.  I personally have made this suggestion to Mr. Gary Ingman, owner of the PTTS and it has fallen on deaf ears.

If safe fish handling practices tell you that you are likely to have an increase in mortality, and these practices are not condoned by any conservation entity, then why would you continue those practices when they cause so much animosity towards the tournament and its participants, not just by fellow fishermen, but also the hundreds of visitors who sign the Save The Tarpon petition each and every day? The answer is simple: TV Drama, ratings, and money. I guess once your business is plastered on the side of one of the boats on TV no one is above the influence.

I would have expected better from you Mr. Olive, it is sad to see your publication fall to this level of disgrace.

 

Captain Tom McLaughlin, Founding Member of SaveTheTarpon.com

 

CORRECTION:

It has come to my attention that Waterline does not in fact sponsor a boat for the tournament.  One of the contributors for the Waterline operates a “Waterline” wrapped boat in the Pass, but captains a different team during the actual tournament.  After an extensive conversation with Mr. Olive by one of our founding members, we stand by our assertion that Mr. Olive sold out his journalistic soul to Ingman Marine, his largest advertiser and the focus of our Boycott.  Here is some more information for your reading Mr. Olive if you think that handling a tarpon the way the PTTS does and operating their boats the way they do has no effect on the fishery, but those same actions are unacceptable when it comes to your shark tournament.  A true reporter of “facts” would have no problem finding information such as Dr. Adams has provided in his opinion letter below.

http://bocabeacon.com/news/editorial/4636-letter-to-the-editor-responsible-catch-and-release-is-essential

We are also not here to discuss the merits of the Boca Beacon, Dr. Adams is widely considered the worlds leading Tarpon biologist. His opinions are clear though he does not mention the PTTS by name.

Our letter to the PTTS and its Sponsors

It has come to our attention, in an attempt to do “damage control,” Joe Mercurio, spokesman for the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series (PTTS), has contacted the tournament sponsors, affiliates and participants to inform them of our cause.

The following is the email from Joe Mercurio:

Dear PTTS Competitors, Fans, Family and Friends,
As you may know, there is a group of individuals that are directly attacking not only our organization but the content of all our characters. If we could band together by professionally refuting these false claims based on untruths and propaganda, we could stand up for our rights and work toward ending this problem once and for all.
As we continue to discover misleading material, we will be sending all of our members emails that include links to the derogatory postings on Facebook, YouTube, News Media sites etc. to make it quick and easy for you to flag or make a quick professional comment to help defend and uphold our integrity. (Please find  3 links below)
Please share with your friends and family as the more people we have behind us the better.
In order to make posting on YouTube you must have an account. For your convenience a link to create a YouTube account can be found on the bottom of this email. It is quick and easy to set up and should not take more than a minute. Thanks again!
Below are a few key bullet points about issues our tournament values:
�         Circle hooks are required
�         Release teams are in place specifically to ensure the fish are healthy
�         A minimum of 50lb main line is required to reduce fight times
�         If on the rare occasion that a fish is not hooked in the mouth it is disqualified promptly

A response from one our founding members:

Mr. Mercurio, Mr. Ingman, and Mr. Mize,

Please let us be very clear about what the Save The Tarpon movement is about.  This is not an argument about whether or not jigs snag fish. What happens under the water in this regard is a heated topic and we each hold to our own convictions as to whether or not the fish are snagged.  This however is not where most of the contention lies for the members of the Save The Tarpon movement. We have made no accusations or claims about what happens on the business end of the fishing line, but rather about what happens in plain view of each and every one of us who frequent Boca Grande Pass.  It is obvious from your “key bullet issues” that you have not taken the time to consider what Save The Tarpon is actually about. What type of hook you use or the breaking strength of your fishing line is of no consequence to us. So before you jump to conclusions please take the time to read this letter from one of our founding members, and yes Mr. Mercurio you are correct…this is a direct attack on the content of your character as well as that of Gary Ingman, Gary Mize, and others who profit off of the destruction of a valuable and precious public resource:

The relentless, high speed, hyper-agressive pursuit of Tarpon in Boca Grande Pass portrayed during the PTTS events has carried over to much more than just tournament day.  These techniques are obviously disruptive and destructive, and the fish handling after the catch can only be described as deplorable by even the novice angler.  It is well documented that high speed boat operation of this magnitude has a profound negative effect on the habits of fish during pre-spawn rituals. You also will find volumes of scientific data by numerous respected marine scientists, both private and state sponsored, that indicates that the way in which the fish are gaffed, dragged by the lower draw, what is at times a considerable distance, and hoisted into the air drastically decreases its chance of survival no matter how skilled or caring your “release teams” are.  For an organization who is so quick to use science to defend their actions, the PTTS sure falls short in this aspect. It should be clear to viewers that the actions taken by the PTTS to ensure higher TV ratings and profits would be illegal in the state of Florida would it not be  for the kill tag inserted into the Tarpon.  This is not a “temporary possesion until later released” tag, but is rather a tag meant to be  permanently affixed to the fish designating your intent to harvest the fish.  The state of Florida and its biologists have made it very clear through both increased regulations and several public memos that handling Tarpon in these ways will very often lead to the death of the fish.  The glorification of the “weigh in photo” in the television series has lead to the wholesale slaughter of tarpon outside tournament time as viewers who travel to Boca Grande after watching the show demand their shot holding a soon-to-be-dead Tarpon as well.  It takes only moments online to find literally dozens of recent examples posted by many members of the PTTS.

Let us also not forget that the Tarpon fishery of Boca Grande is a gift of nature to be treasured and enjoyed be each and every one of us.  The actions and techniques portrayed, or rather glorified, on the PTTS television series have over run their bounds of simply a three to six hour, once weekly tournament and are now a seven day a week problem.  No other fishing style employed for Tarpon, not just at Boca Grande but all Tarpon fisheries, specifically excludes others from their pursuit of these fish.  It is often said that this is a conflict between two user groups, or an overcrowding problem.  It is neither.

Those that frequent the pass not just during a few weeks in May and June, but rather year round, will tell you that it is wonderful to see many more boats than the numbers participating in PTTS working together in harmony, using fishing tactics as varied as the individuals themselves at many times throughout the year as well as at times other than when the “pack” is present.  Those same people will tell you that should you attempt to employ any technique other than those portrayed in the tournament just about any morning in May or June, you are simply a fool.  Not only will the actions of the “pack” have a negative impact on your success, but often the boats will intentionally step up their already agressive actions in order to intimidate or frustrate other anglers.  Is this level of disrespect what the sponsors have in mind when they plaster their names and websites along the sides of the boats whos operators are treating fellow fishermen this way?

To make matters worse, the mentality fostered and supported by the PTTS and its participants is spilling over to other areas of fishing and at other times. Few now are the days of many boats of all different styles and sizes working in harmony while the fish peacefully move offshore in the evenings.  We now must contend with the same “wrap boats,” as they have come to be known, frantically rushing around at high speed on top of the fish in shallow water, much to the dismay of those who cherish these moments that were already exceedingly rare.  Even a small number of these mini “packs” can make quick work of disbanding an otherwise ‘happy group of fish?’ Gone are the mornings when the quiet march of boats up and down the beaches carefully navigate amongst each other as each vie for their opportunity to toss a bait or fly to the holy grail of beach Tarpon fishing, the daisy chain!  The beaches are now run amuck with a parade of brightly colored sponsored boats flying up and down the beach or across the harbor, the thought of their negative impact on others fishing the area not even a flicker in the minds of their operators.

These are not issues pertaining to the number of boats or their fishing style, but rather to the respect of their operators for both other anglers and the fish themselves. These actions are not carried out by all PTTS participants nor are all those who carry out these actions participants of the PTTS.  The most unfortunate part is that these actions are not necessary for, or even conducive, to any particular type of fishing, jigging or otherwise.   That being said, this mentality has been born, bread, and raised by the PTTS to become the problem that it is today.  The negative impacts on both the fishery and the community are numerous and extensive.  These impacts are a direct result of the promotion and glorification of unethical and unacceptable behavior by the PTTS not in the name of sportsmanship, but in the name of profit. This resource belongs to all of us and is here to be enjoyed and cherished by all of us.  It is not here to be exploited by Gary Ingman, Gary Mize, and Joe Mercurio for the sake of lining their own pockets.

Who is Save The Tarpon?  Save The Tarpon is the voice of local residents, visitors, anglers, guides, parents, children, and anyone who wishes to preserve this historic fishery for generations to come through the promotion of ethical and responsible angling.  The heart of this fishery beats deep within all of us who have fallen in love with Boca Grande, residents and visitors alike.  We will not be detered by your feeble attempts to preserve your revenue stream at our expense.

Capt. Tom McLaughlin

Founding Member, SaveTheTarpon.com

To the sponsors and participants of the PTTS

Beginning tomorrow, we will start our official boycott campaign.  The campaign will consist of picking one unique sponsor each day to spotlight in the boycott.  We will create a webpage–specific to that sponsor– and explain why the public should participate in a boycott of the brand, products and/or services.   We will also actively promote this boycott in the news media, on Facebook, as well as other social-media outlets.  This boycott will remain active until you meet the following demands:

1. Permanently terminate your sponsorship of the PTTS and its affiliates, effective immediately.

2. Provide SaveTheTarpon.com with adequate evidence of this termination.

If you are able to meet the above demands, we will happily remove you from the boycott list and remove all mention of your brand on our site and Facebook page.