Randy Wayne White Withdraws His Sponsorship of the PTTS

Below is a copy of the letter written by Novelist Randy Wayne White to the PTTS informing them of his decision to withdraw his sponsorship.

Thanks to the BocaBeacon for being the first to present this.

 

This message is to “Professional” Tarpon Tournament Series, Ms. Sheli Sanders, Mr. Joe Mercurio, PTTS Sponsors and participating anglers
Sirs:

This is to inform you that neither I nor the Doc Ford Restaurants will participate as sponsors in any fishing tournament that allows snag-fishing (‘jig fishing’ is the common euphemism) for tarpon or other game fish. Snag-fishing has, justifiably, been banned to protect numerous game fish world wide, and I am, frankly, mystified why the tarpon (among Florida’s most valuable natural resources) has not been granted the same protection by governing state bodies.

As a former Sanibel Island fishing guide, I do not hold participating captains in any way accountable for using whatever means allowable to bring a tarpon to the boat. Their job is to catch fish. If tournament rules allow the use of snag-fishing techniques, a working professional is necessarily obligated to give his clients an equal chance. I also understand that snag-fishing is a boon to film makers and TV producers because snag-fishing all but guarantees that tarpon will be landed. As reprehensible as the technique is, it does provide the sort of action demanded by producers of the Jerry Springer ilk.

However, sponsoring such an event is a very different matter. Sponsorship tacitly endorses snag-fishing, and snag-fishing is contrary to every historic ethic associated with sport fishing – a fact I hope to communicate unequivocally to other sponsors. It is too late to pull our ads this year, but we urge all sponsors to join us by withdrawing from future tournaments and/or video productions that promote snag-fishing by turning a blind eye, by using silly euphemisms (‘jig-fishing’), by failing to ban this most “unprofessional” of techniques.

Randy Wayne White
docford.com
Sanibel

PTTS – Profitable Televised Tarpon Slaughter

Thanks to Sun-Herald Columnist Gary Dutery for this article.

If news is defined as something that doesn’t happen every day, then what happened this past Sunday at the entrance to Charlotte Harbor qualifies as news. It’s likely a few of the military veterans, Wounded Warriors invited to gather on the beach in front of the Port Boca Grande Lighthouse, recognized the aircraft flying overhead as a Piper L-4C. Perhaps, considering their day began with four skydivers, a color guard and the national anthem, they likely figured the flyover by the L-4C was part of the Memorial Day observance.

It wasn’t. Not officially. But maybe it should have been. Trailing behind the plane, more commonly known as a Piper Cub, was a large banner. You know the kind. They’re usually found being towed into the wind just beyond the breakers wherever people gather to go blanket-to-blanket and shoulder-to-shoulder on a stretch of hot sand. But this one wasn’t touting Coppertone or salt water taffy or some boardwalk saloon.

The message on the banner read “Save Boca Grande Tarpon. No Jigs. No Killing.” Down below, their buzz boats churning the waters of Boca Grande Pass, were 31 teams of “anglers” playing dress up in their NASCAR-style costumes covered in NASCAR style logos of NASCAR-style sponsors, both real and imagined. They were part of a cable TV infomercial posing as a sporting event known as the “Professional Tarpon Tournament Series.” Or, as the locals have tortured the acronym, the “Profitable Televised Tarpon Slaughter.” The banner was meant for them.

It’s a debate that’s been raging in the Tarpon Fishing Capital of the World ever since someone came up with the notion of attaching a green latex tail and a brightly painted lead weight to a miniature grappling hook way back when. It worked. The thing caught tarpon. Literally. While traditional live bait methods of fishing tarpon tended to involve some participation on the tarpon’s part — like actually eating the bait — the device all but eliminated the need for the fish to get involved. The jig, as it’s known, doesn’t so much attract fish. It attacks them. Through what can charitably be called a “design flaw,” the jig grabs whatever part of the tarpon’s anatomy it happens to find. The tail, the gills, the outside of the jaw. Even, sometimes, the mouth. Doesn’t really matter.

The thing is even more effective when the jig angler, sensing a fish has bumped his line, begins wildly reeling up. Drag a weighted barbed hook towards the surface through a stack of a few thousand tarpon and, like the carnival game with the metal tub and little plastic fishies, you’re bound to wind up with something. That something, more often than not, is shark food. Jiggers discovered the device worked best when combined with lightweight monofilament line rather than the heavy stuff favored by the traditionalists. As a result, it takes nearly twice as long to bring your tarpon to the boat — if, that is, the hook embedded in its tail doesn’t fall out after the first 30 seconds or so. The fish, of course, is exhausted and — when sharks are in the water — easy pickings. Chomp. They even proudly post video of these attacks on Youtube. ROFLMAO!

The jig, ultimately, begat the PTTS. Which begat a cable TV show modeled after all those popular professional bass fishing things. To make good TV, the PTTS needed good TV. And this came in the form of tarpon being gaffed, roped, dragged across Boca Grande Pass, hoisted out of the water and, as the anxious NASCAR-style team looked on, weighed. Then there were the photos of the happy anglers posing with their fish. This naturally begat people who reckoned that when tarpon are gaffed, roped, dragged across Boca Grande Pass, hoisted out of the water, weighed and asked to smile for the camera, they would likely wind up dead. The tarpon, that is. The anglers would go out drinking.

Bill Bishop is a Tampa wildlife artist and author. He is also an avid tarpon fisherman. “I have a love affair with the sport,” he says. “It’s been a love affair of mine for a very long time. I probably fish 150 days of the year.” Bishop paid to have the 65 hp L-4C tow “Save Boca Grande Tarpon. No Jigs. No Killing” above the heads of those 31 NASCAR-style teams on Sunday. “I kept watching in horror this spectacle, this BS that they’ve been doing for the past seven years and said enough is enough. This mishandling of fish is something I want to stop. The tarpon fishery doesn’t belong to the PTTS, it belongs to all of us. I wanted to make a statement and raise awareness about what’s going on.”

A 100-foot-long banner usually does the trick. In fact, one tournament participant lamented over the radio that it was too bad nobody had a rocket propelled grenade, or RPG, handy to shoot the little Piper out of the sky. He was promptly told to shut up. People might be listening. They were.

Bishop catches most of his tarpon on a fly. He’s not a big fan of the jig. But his real issue is the idea that tarpon, which translate into a $100 million industry for Charlotte County each year, are being killed for profit. For the amusement of a cable TV audience that is repeatedly told the PTTS is a “live release” affair. Yes, the fish are alive when the PTTS and the TV cameras and the photographers are done with them. They don’t stay that way very long.

The PTTS has been taking its hits lately. Author Randy Wayne White recently and publicly pulled his sponsorship of the tournament through his Doc Ford’s restaurants in Sanibel and Fort Myers Beach. White cited the event’s use of “snag fishing” for his decision. “Snag-fishing is contrary to every historic ethic associated with sport fishing — a fact I hope to communicate unequivocally to other sponsors,” White said. “We urge all sponsors to join us by withdrawing from future tournaments … that promote snag-fishing by turning a blind eye, by using silly euphemisms (‘jig-fishing’), by failing to ban this most ‘unprofessional’ of techniques.”

Bishop says there are lots of L-4Cs in the world. There are lots of banners. He intends to keep using both until the PTTS or the state gets the message. Tournament organizer Joe Mercurio obviously hasn’t. When asked about Sunday’s fly-over, Mercurio sarcastically asked if this meant the skydivers, the flags, the color guard, the national anthem and the veterans. He apparently didn’t see the L-4C and the big banner. The PTTS and its sponsors are good at not seeing. Maybe it will take a few more Bill Bishops and Randy Wayne Whites to open their eyes.

Gary Dutery is a Sun columnist. A veteran journalist, he resides in Port Charlotte. Readers may reach him at gdutery@sun-herald.com or on Twitter @GaryDutery.

Novelist Randy Wayne White says tarpon tournament unsporting, restaurants pull sponsorship

Special thanks to NaplesNews.com for this article on the sponsors who are already pulling out of the PTTS – Professional Tarpon Tournament Series in Boca Grande, Florida.

Renowned Sanibel Island mystery writer Randy Wayne White has joined a growing grassroots group of anglers who say the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series, which will begin this weekend, is unsporting and putting too much stress on the tarpon fishery.

Organizers of the catch-and-release tournament say the opposition is baseless but have changed some of their rules this year to try to reduce the number of Silver Kings that end up dead. Critics say the changes don’t go far enough.

White, who owns the trademark for the Doc Ford Rum Bar & Grille in which he is a partner, has told tournament organizers that the restaurants on Sanibel and Fort Myers Beach are pulling their sponsorship of the tournament because it allows a style of fishing White considers unethical.

–Eric Staats, NaplesNews.com

This 100-plus pound silver king tarpon was hooked by Bonita Springs Realtor Jim Gilboy during a weekend fishing trip in Chokoloskee.

This 100-plus pound silver king tarpon was hooked by Bonita Springs Realtor Jim Gilboy during a weekend fishing trip in Chokoloskee.
Photo by ERIC STRACHAN

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

Sign the Petition

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boycott the PTTS

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

Help Fund the Fight to Protect the Pass

GoFundMe DashboardDon’t allow your voice to be silenced!

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

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

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

It’s not happening.

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

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

The History…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Money.

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

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

Enough is enough.

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

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

Will you stand with us?

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

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

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

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