PTTS claims $500,000 boycott loss, wants court to silence Save The Tarpon

PTTS LawsuitClaiming it has lost more than $500,000 in sponsorship, TV advertising, entry fees and other revenues, the company that owns and operates the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series (PTTS) has gone to court in an attempt to silence Save The Tarpon, Inc. and its more than 20,000 members and supporters.

Silver King Entertainment, Inc., which operates the PTTS, is seeking an emergency injunction against the organization in a 235 page civil complaint filed April 29 in Sarasota County Circuit Court. In addition to the injunction aimed at restraining Save The Tarpon, Inc. and its board members from speaking out on issues concerning the PTTS and the Boca Grande tarpon fishery, Silver King Entertainment, Inc. is seeking unspecified damages from the non-profit advocacy group and selected members of its board of directors.

Tom McLaughlin, chairman of Save The Tarpon, Inc. and one of the defendants individually targeted in the complaint, said that he is not particularly surprised that Silver King Entertainment, Inc. filed the PTTS lawsuit given the apparent effectiveness of the group’s efforts in making the voices of its members and supporters heard.

McLaughlin, who referred legal questions to Save The Tarpon, Inc.’s attorneys, said the PTTS charted its own course nearly a year ago when tournament organizers told the fledgling organization it would continue engaging in practices the conservation group considers harmful to the fish and the iconic fishery until “someone tells us to stop.”

Noting Silver King Entertainment, Inc.’s claim that it has since lost more than $500,000 attributable to the actions of Save The Tarpon, Inc., McLaughlin characterized the tournament’s stated injuries as “self-inflicted” and contrary to Silver King’s prior public comments that the group’s efforts were having no impact on the PTTS, its sponsors, or its participants.

“They refused to listen to the voices of those whose only goal was to preserve, protect and grow this storied fishery,” McLaughlin said. “And now they want to make those same voices shut up and go away. As the courts have repeatedly and clearly stated, this isn’t how it works in this country.”

Save The Tarpon, Inc. is represented by Brian M. Beason, a partner in the Port Charlotte law firm Frohlich, Gordon and Beason, P.A. Beason declined comment, noting that the lengthy PTTS complaint is still being reviewed. According to court records, the lawsuit was filed on behalf of Silver King Entertainment, Inc. by Tampa attorneys Mitchell L. Feldman and Dennis A. Creed.

In addition to McLaughlin and Save The Tarpon, Inc., board members Lew Hastings, Frank Davis, Chris Frohlich, Mark Futch, Walton “Tommy” Locke Jr. and Rhett Morris are also named as defendants in the lawsuit. Richard Hirsh, who no longer serves on the Save The Tarpon, Inc. board, is also listed as a defendant. Hastings, recently appointed executive director of Save The Tarpon, Inc., also serves as executive director of the Boca Grande Area Chamber of Commerce.

McLaughlin said Silver King Entertainment, Inc.’s lawsuit and its request for injunctive relief ask the court to invoke the rarely successful legal tactic of “prior restraint,” a maneuver designed to prohibit Save The Tarpon, Inc. and the individual defendants from publishing or voicing opinions or concerns that could potentially cast the televised tarpon tournament in a poor light.

McLaughlin noted that former Chief Justice of the United States Warren Burger, in the Supreme Court’s 1976 landmark Nebraska Press Association v. Stuart ruling that declared the tactic unconstitutional, wrote that “prior restraints on speech and publication are the most serious and least tolerable infringement on First Amendment rights.”

Pointing to a lengthy list of sponsors who have withdrawn their support of the tournament in recent months, Silver King Entertainment, Inc is also asking the court to force Save The Tarpon, Inc. to end its member-driven online boycott of businesses that support the controversial event. McLaughlin said the legality of the group’s voluntary boycott efforts was affirmed in yet another landmark ruling, one that dates to the civil rights movement of the 1960s. In its ruling, the Supreme Court found that a peaceful boycott was a constitutionally protected form of legitimate free speech under the First Amendment.

McLaughlin cited the words of Justice John Paul Stevens who, writing for the majority, stated “concerted action is a powerful weapon. And yet one of the foundations of our society is the right of individuals to combine with other persons in pursuit of a common goal by lawful means.”

Characterizing the PTTS lawsuit as “an act of obvious desperation,” McLaughlin said Save The Tarpon, Inc. will “aggressively defend the ability of our members and supporters to have their voices heard on this and any other issue that impacts the future of our fishery and our community. We will continue the fight to protect, preserve and grow this vital public resource. We won’t be silent, we aren’t going away.”

A Line Drawn: Captains and community members work to ban the Boca Grande tarpon “jig”

By: Capt. Chris Frohlich

A line has been drawn in the sand. I believe that on one side is the moral high ground, a rich history, respect, and tradition. On the other side sits a group of opportunistic vultures, ready to poach when the time is right. They have long since abandoned any moral compass that they once used to guide their way. They are merely pawns, following the gospel of a few greedy individuals who will stop at nothing in the pursuit of fortune.

Save the Tarpon Air Force

A group of community members and Save the Tarpon board members attended the recent FWC Commission meeting in Tallahassee.

In the past year, our movement to protect and preserve the tarpon fishery has gained both membership and momentum. When we first started this movement, we were chastised repeatedly by advocates of the PTTS and those hoping to preserve “jig fishing.” They derided our efforts, ridiculed our members, and tried to break us down. But instead, we grew stronger. Our collective voice became louder. We used the greatest weapons we had in our arsenal; we used patience, and we used the truth. As we began exposing more of the truth, we were bombarded with accusations and labeled as “hippies,” “tree huggers,” and just about any name you can think of. Because in the end, personal assaults became their only method of counter attack. Those individuals who supported the PTTS and the use of the Boca Grande Jig resorted to childish tactics like name calling and cyber bullying. Simply put, their sole tactic centered around diverting the public’s attention from the issues. It became about distraction, interference, intimidation. For a while, this tactic worked. But it’s not working any more.

Last week I had the distinct pleasure of traveling to the FWC meeting with a group of very unique individuals. This was a diverse group from all walks of life. On the agenda that day were two issues of concern to our group. The first issue that was addressed was whether or not both bonefish and tarpon should become catch and release only species. This proposal saw very little opposition, if any.

The second issue discussed was the issue of gear restriction in Boca Grande Pass, and the issue of snagging tarpon. When all was said and done, the Commission directed staff to re-examine the definition of snagging and redefine what gear can be used in the Pass. This issue will be discussed further at the next FWC meeting. But the purpose of writing this article is to tell you how we got there. Because let’s be honest, the naysayers, and there have been many, told us that this issue was never going to be addressed again. Yet here we are.

The public commentary time allotment at FWC meetings is used to facilitate discussion about whatever issues are on the agenda. The Commissioners listen intently as members of the community present their case as to why something should, or should not happen. As we sat and waited to speak, I looked around the room to see who would be speaking for the continued use of the Boca Grande Jig. As it turns out, not too many people.

Those that did speak on behalf of the PTTS or the use of the jig presented their arguments to the Commission and the Commissioners listened. And I listened too. What I heard from pro- jig fishing advocates was truly laughable. Somehow, somewhere along the way, the pro-jig advocates became the voice of the “recreational angler.” According to these individuals, (you can count them on one hand) the recreational angler will be excluded from fishing if the Commission bans the use of the Boca Grande Jig. HUH? I certainly take issue with that argument. I must have missed something along the way. This isn’t about the continuation of the PTTS or the continued use of the jig for all those Captains? These guys travelled all the way to North Florida to ensure that the recreational angler can continue to use the Boca Grande Jig in the Pass? Oh, well that’s just downright swell of them.

Let’s break down that argument for a minute and see what’s really going on.

First of all, I believe the use of the Boca Grande Jig has spawned a culture of aggressive, thoughtless, and reckless fisherman. I think they make Boca Grande pass a nasty place to be while they are “fishing.” Fishing Captains and recreational fishermen that don’t use the jig (live baiters), that attempt to fish the pass have trouble getting anywhere near the fish. Anyone who does try to fish amongst the jig fleet quickly learns that your lines will get run over, boats cut each other off, you get yelled at, screamed at, cursed at, and will probably even have the honor of being the recipient of various hand gestures. So you can imagine how many recreational fishermen are anxious to go fishing in Boca Grande Pass amidst all that ridiculous behavior. I would say that based on the number of recreational fishermen that showed up to the meeting to argue for the continued use of the jig, the number is somewhere around zero.

Can’t you just picture it? Mom, Dad, the kids, and the family dog out on a Saturday or Sunday morning during a PTTS tournament. Everybody jig fishing in perfect harmony. Like I said, laughable. In my mind, the truth is that jig fishing is the most exclusionary fishing tactic of all. A mere 20 jig fishing boats can ruin tarpon fishing in the pass for EVERYONE else in a matter of minutes, and I think they do it every single morning. Except that it’s generally way more than 20 boats. Recreational fishermen don’t realize how good they could really have it. I grew up as a recreational fisherman before I became a guide. Boca Grande Pass was always an intimidating place to fish as a young kid. But I started fishing on my own when I was about 12, often running a boat from the Peace River to Boca Grande Pass, just for a shot at some tarpon. I can tell you from personal experience that it was a different place to fish back then. It was a place that any recreational fisherman could go and feel comfortable and could catch fish. But now, jig fishing has changed the fishery, and I believe it has adversely impacted the way people fish.

I concede that a few recreational guys might desire having the option of using the jig. I even understand why people want to use it. It’s very effective when the fish won’t bite. All you have to do is wait for the circle hook to bury itself into some part of the tarpon’s body, and fish on! Jig fishing tactics are overly aggressive and push the tarpon pods around all day long. In my observation, the fish don’t feed when they are being pushed. They won’t hit any live bait or fishing lure known to man when they get spooked by the jig boats, or any other boats for that matter. But since the jig is capable of snagging them, it’s the perfect choice if you have long ago sold your soul. It’s easy “fishing.” But the simple fact that a few recreational guys might want to use the jig does not hold sufficient weight to allow its continued use. Some people will do anything if you tell them it’s legal. However, the credo of ethical angling dictates that certain methods of fishing be banned. It’s why we have certain regulations in the first place.

Banning the Boca Grande Jig would not amount to exclusion or excessive regulation.

Think about it like this for a moment. The aforementioned catch and release proposal would regulate the way in which tarpon can be caught. Under the new proposal, only hook and line can be used to catch tarpon. Which means that under the current tarpon regulations, you can legally cast net them. And yet, nobody cried out “what about the recreational fisherman” when this proposal was introduced. Nobody from the PTTS showed up to make sure the recreational guys could continue to cast net tarpon. Because it is a ridiculous concept, and one that nobody bothered to defend, even if a few recreational guys actually do want to cast net them. Yet, in the big picture, it’s no more ridiculous than using a device capable of successfully snagging tarpon. And that’s exactly why few recreational anglers showed up to the FWC meeting of their own volition to defend the jig. Maybe the PTTS advocates had other motives when they showed up to speak after all.

You see, the use of jig has essentially created a paradox. The style of fishing is so disruptive to the fish that they constantly get pushed around and do not feed the way they normally would. So fishing with traditional baits or lures becomes way less effective during that time. So what’s the one tactic that’s most effective when the fish won’t bite? You got it, the Boca Grande Jig. It’s not uncommon to see the most “hook ups” when 50 jig boats push the fish into about 30 feet of water. Imagine a tightly packed school of tarpon, all trying to weave into the middle of the school for protection. 50 outboards hover above them, slamming in and out of gear. 3 lines go down per boat, or roughly 150 Boca Grande Jigs with the hook leading the way. Now imagine the ensuing chaos as the fish literally cannot avoid being impaled by these jigs. This is what jig fishermen call a “good bite.”

The beautiful and yet equally frustrating thing about traditional tarpon fishing is that it takes the cooperation of the fish. If the fish don’t bite, you have to be patient. You have to outsmart them. You have to induce them to strike. And sometimes you just plain fail. It’s what keeps anglers coming back for more. In that scenario, the tarpon is Queen, and you play by her rules. If she chooses to ignore you and focus on some biological response like mating or swimming around aimlessly, then it is her choice. But jig fishing takes that choice away. Tarpon cannot avoid the Boca Grande Pass Jig. This jig, and this style of fishing disrupt the tarpon’s long inherited, evolutionary, and innate patterns. It robs them of their ability to act on instinct and impulse. It has long been the right, sometimes seemingly the duty, of the silver king to embarrass, frustrate, and confuse the angler. Jig fishing snatches that right away. Instead of biology dictating when and how a tarpon will behave, a group of reckless fishermen now holds that power.

I think that it is important to note that nobody will be excluded from fishing if the jig goes away. In fact, I believe the opposite is true. More people will be able to fish the pass, and do so more successfully. Just like I used to be able to do, and just like I want my kids to be able to do. To clarify, this would not be some blanket ban on the use of artificial lures, or even regular “jigs.” This would only outlaw the Boca Grande Tarpon Jig. This is a unique jig designed for use in Boca Grande Pass, and is widely considered a snagging device. Not everyone believes this to be true, but it is certainly my belief. That is why so many people wish to see it banned. But it’s important to recognize that nobody is advocating for restrictions on the use of any other lure, or according to some, all artificial lures. So please don’t buy into the rhetoric being spewed by pro-jig advocates about the slippery slope of regulations or the exclusion of fishermen. This unfounded contention is a farce, a smoke show designed to undermine the efforts of those who want to see the Boca Grande Jig banned. That is the same tactic of distraction and diversion already mentioned.

The Boca Grande "jig" may come in many different shapes and colors but the "jig" is in fact, by definition, a "snatch hook" or "snag hook" based on the attachment location of the weight directly beneath the bend or "belly" of the hook. Most all fisheries where snagging of densely packed fish is illegal have prohibited this type of "snag rig" for many years.

The Boca Grande “jig” may come in many different shapes and colors but the “jig” is in fact, by definition, a “snatch hook” or “snag hook” based on the attachment location of the weight directly beneath the bend or “belly” of the hook. Most all fisheries where snagging of densely packed fish is illegal have prohibited this type of “snag rig” for many years.

Before the PTTS, and before the widespread use of the jig, fisherman actually had to learn how to catch fish. They had to learn the patterns of the fish, the behavior of the fish, the tides, and the right bait to use. They had to respect the fisherman who had been there before them, had to watch them fish and learn from their successes. You had to pay your dues if you wanted to learn how to catch tarpon in the pass. You respected seniority; you gave the right of way to boats with fish on. You kept a level head, and you respected the drift. You did all this, and you caught the hell out of the fish. I know, it’s hard to believe based on what has become commonplace in the Pass today. But I have seen it. And I have done it.

I think the real fear that most jig fishing Captains feel is the fear of the unknown. How will they ever survive without the jig? I suspect it keeps them awake at night. Jig fishing is a zero-skill game. It does not require the participation of the fish. I personally believe that many of the Captains that exclusively use the jig couldn’t catch a tarpon using another method to save their lives. I know this because I have witnessed some of them trying to do it. They appear to be clueless and talentless individuals whose entire skill set consists of the ability to play follow the leader, drive a boat (although this is debatable at times), and tie a good enough knot to attach a jig. That’s about what it takes to be a successful jig fishing Captain. Well, on second thought, that’s not an exhaustive list. It does take some creativity. In addition to that list, it is imperative that you possess the ability to make up new excuses to tell your clients each time they ask why their fish was hooked in the eye ball, tail, or anal fin. Or why a sea turtle “ate” a fancy tiger tail jig. It has to be hard to explain that after a few years and several “caught” fish.

There are some fantastic Captains that both jig fish and also fish traditional methods. These are Captains that I have watched and even learned from at times. They will be perfectly fine if the Boca Grande Pass Jig goes away. They are tarpon experts. They know who they are.

And then there is another group. It is the group of Captains who have never actually caught a tarpon. Indeed, they have probably snagged tarpon by the hundreds, even thousands. They cannot picture a world in which they would actually have to learn to catch a tarpon. Such a daunting task seems almost inconceivable to these Captains. They cannot reconcile in their minds the idea that day in and day out they would be forced to utilize skill rather than a snatch hook to keep clients on fish. What an injustice this style of fishing has done to tourism over the years. Literally thousands of clients pass through Boca Grande every year hoping to catch tarpon. What a dreadful reality and utterly despicable disservice it is to those clients to dupe them into thinking they truly caught a tarpon, when in reality they likely just snagged one with a jig. I think those Captains should be embarrassed to call themselves fishing guides, and should personally apologize to every client they ever took fishing with a jig. I think they have sullied the reputation of this storied fishery with their unrelenting deception and unethical fishing style, and have made this amazing fishery a place that some people now avoid.

This is all information that many of us hold to be true. So we presented this information to the Commissioners, and they listened. They asked questions. They wanted to know more about this issue. And they seemed to want to do something about it. I suspect the June meeting will be interesting to say the least. I personally believe that the PTTS is a sinking ship, and the Jig is its precious cargo. They are both sitting atop a boat that is weighed down by lies, and the lies keep piling on. It will be interesting to see who will speak on behalf of the Boca Grande Jig, and how far they are willing to go. How many individuals are really going to sacrifice their reputations, their ethics, and their time in order to bail a few buckets of water out of a boat that is inevitably going to sink. We shall see.

Randy Wayne White: FISHING’S DIRTY LITTLE SECRET

Critics say tarpon actually are snagged with this popular style of Boca Grande Pass fishing.

By RANDY WAYNE WHITE

(The following was originally published in the Sunday, April 14, 2013 edition of the Tampa Tribune.) Randy Wayne White is a New York Times best-selling novelist and resident of Pine Island, Florida. To learn more about Randy, visit his website or Wikipedia page

On Wednesday, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) will consider a draft rule amendment to protect tarpon that, if approved, will be the first step in addressing among the most brazen cons in our state’s fishing history, and a dirty little fishing secret that has, for a decade, caused one or more FWC biologist to appear naïve or, at best, as an unwilling dupe or dupes.

It is an ugly story, dark with irony, but brighter days are ahead — if the commission takes that first bold step on Wednesday and designates  tarpon [but not bonefish] as a catch-and-release-only species.  The tarpon isn’t considered eatable, yet it’s an iconic game fish, so this sounds like a no brainer, right?

Randy Wayne White

New York Times best selling author, Randy Wayne White.

Wrong.   The sad fact is, this is the first incarnation of the FWC’s seven member commission to exhibit enough fishing savvy to acknowledge a problem exists.  By my reckoning, though, the amendment could be a vote or two shy of passage which is why I’ve decided to throw some sunlight on the dirty little fishing secret, expose the con, and hope that Florida’s thinking anglers will make their voices heard.

Here’s the ugly back story:  In the early 1990s, when tarpon tournament purses in Boca Grande Pass climbed to $100,000 or more (not counting side-bet calcuttas) two local anglers revived an old poaching technique that guaranteed they would boat tarpon (even when tarpon were not feeding) and also fill their pockets with lots and lots of modern hundred dollar bills.

“Floss-fishing,” was the technique, a throwback to the days when European peasants fished for survival, not sport — a deliberate method of snagging trout and salmon in fast flowing rivers.  As the two innovators proved, floss-fishing worked equally well on tarpon that school in the fast tidal rips of Florida’s west coast.

“We thought we were being clever, but there’s nothing sporting about what we did,” Mark Futch, a third generation Boca Grande fishing guide, remembers now.  “A buddy and I grew-up fishing that pass.  There were days when tarpon would stack by the thousands in the deepest holes, but they wouldn’t hit a bait, no matter what you threw at them.  With so much tournament money on the line, I decided to try something different.”

For Futch and his boyhood friend, George Melissas,  it meant designing a specialized rig consisting of a heavy lead weight wired to the bend, or “belly” of a hook that had already been canted off-center with pliers.  To disguise the rig’s true intent, a colorful rubber adornment was added to make it look like a legitimate fishing lure.

“Mark still has the prototype, ” Melissas (now one of the country’s foremost experts on sea mollusks) told me.   “We named it ‘The Prom Dress’  as a joke because it came off in a hurry when we hooked tarpon.  Personally, I didn’t go out there with the intent of snagging fish, but I’d guess about ninety percent of tarpon landed using that technique are snagged.”

Seahunt Ptts Tarpon Jig

Something else the men did was name their creation a “break away jig,” which added to the illusion of legitimacy because actual jig lures (which are weighted at the eyelet, not the belly of a hook) are used world-wide, and considered among the most benign of artificial lures.

The ruse worked, and so did floss-fishing.  Futch and Melissas won or placed in the next fifty consecutive tarpon tournaments using their homemade “lures”, and piled up more than a quarter million dollars in prize money.

“We were landing tarpon when no one, I mean no one, could even get a bite,” Futch told me, “and good fishing guides aren’t dumb.  They saw what we were using, and saw that every tarpon we landed was hooked outside the mouth, not inside the mouth.  Soon, there were a hundred boats in the pass using rigs similar to ours, and we were seeing more and more dead tarpon floating or on the beach.  I know I’m partly to blame for this mess, and that’s why I’ve been working so hard to make it right.”

Because I was a Sanibel fishing guide during that era, I knew Capt. Futch only by reputation (although he is now a good friend) but I can tell you from personal experience what happened next, and how that dirty little secret was transformed into a purposeful con.  Among guides, ‘jig fishing’ became the accepted euphemism for snag fishing, but always in a wink-wink sort of way because boating fish is key to making money in what is a very tough business.  The technique wasn’t illegal but most of us knew it wasn’t ethical, so a do-it-until-they-banned-it approach was embraced by some, rejected by others.  How do I know this is true?  Because, as a fishing guide, I DID it.

In 1998, a half million dollars in winnings, and three years later, Futch and Melissas returned to traditional methods when the Boca Grande Guides association did, indeed, ban “jig fishing” in tournaments.   Instead of following suit, however, the Florida Marine Fisheries Commission (which became the FWC 1999) dismissed the growing animus between traditional tarpon anglers and those who used belly-weighted hooks as “a user conflict.”  Worse, the FWC remained indifferent to the fact that Florida’s legal definition of a “snagged fish” (compared to states such as Washington, Oregon and Michigan) offered enough wiggle room to energize a whole boutique industry based on snagging tarpon — and that’s exactly what happened in Boca Grande Pass, in my opinion.

Sea Hunt Boats Snagged Tarpon

This photo, captured by a guest to a local boat show earlier this year, features a Sea Hunt Boats advertising banner picturing a tarpon snagged just outside the eye.

Enter Silver King Entertainment LLC which, in 2002, came to the area to video thirteen TV episodes of its Professional Tarpon Tournament Series (PTTS).   The show featured fast boats and “pro” anglers, in NASCAR-like garb, who used a run-and-gun, pack approach to chasing pods of tarpon around the pass — a water space where, for unknown millennia, Florida’s sport-fishing cash cow, Megalops atlanticus, has schooled to rest and fatten before migrating off-shore to spawn.  For viewers (and sponsors) the dramatic payoff was video of sharks attacking tarpon that had been played to exhaustion, and “official weigh-ins” after tarpon had been gaffed, dragged to the scale, then  hoisted in transparent body bags.

All perfectly legal by Florida law, but the Boca Grande Guide’s Association — never a warm and fuzzy group when it came to outsiders (myself included) — filed a law suit, and appealed to the FWC to send biologists to do a hook placement study that, local guides felt certain, would confirm that “jigging” is actually snagging.  Such a study, of course, would also return a boomerang of bad karma into lap of the snag-rig’s creator — something no one, by now, wanted more than Capt. Mark Futch.

Finally, our Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission responded.  The commission earmarked $250,000 in funding, and assigned a biologist to lead what would result in a three year, eight page document entitled, Summary Report on the Catch-and-Release Mortality Study on Tarpon in Boca Grande Pass, 2002–2004.

Hello happy ending, right?

Wrong again.

According to data from the FWC’s study, in 2004, 74% of tarpon landed using so-called “jigs” were hooked outside the “buccal cavity” or mouth — including a tarpon that was boated after being snagged in the tail — yet the study (after ignoring other statistical red flags) concluded, “While more tarpon [10%] were foul-hooked using artificial bait than live bait, percentages were not unusually high and did not contribute negatively to the survival of tarpon.”

Huh?

That’s right, our FWC biologists fell for the floss-fishing con — hook, line and sinker.   The authors, in my opinion, accepted the fiction that a belly-weighted hook is a legitimate jig lure, then contorted other definitions (such as what constitutes a fairly-hooked fish) as needed to prop-up their own flawed premise.

An example:  Picture yourself holding a spoonful of cereal.  You swing it toward your mouth but, instead, stab yourself in the forehead, the throat, the cheek, the nose or the eye socket.  By the definition of the FWC study, you have successfully hit your target, and are now chewing your cereal compliments of your head, your cheek, your outside maxillary (in terms of tarpon physiology) but not your mouth as it is used by primates and fish alike.

Absurd!  Tarpon are an ancient species; a marvel of evolution that have outlasted dinosaurs, survived global cataclysms, all due to their ability to hunt, forage, ambush and feed successfully.  With its giant Megalops eyes, its sensitive lateral line, this is an apex predator — an animal that has NOT survived the eons by whacking its head, throat and cheeks against prey it intended to eat.

But that’s what the study claims to be true.  As a result, Florida is now stuck with a document that has, in my view, done more to endanger our tarpon fishery than the twenty years of snag fishing the study, in fact, implicitly endorses.

Honest naivety is to blame, I hope.  If not, all particulars and circumstances regarding the creation of that study should be examined under the sharpest lens of a journalistic microscope.

Ultimate Tarpon Book - Randy Wayne White

Before you can understand how badly flawed the FWC’s 2002-2004 study actually is, you must first understand how floss-fishing works:

Imagine a school of tarpon stacked 40 feet high, mouths pointed into the tide. This mass of fish is then transected by nearly-invisible fluorocarbon fishing lines, heavily leaded-hooks attached, a process repeated hundreds of times over a day. Hooks attached to these lines may be oscillating up and down, but are actually more effective as snag hooks if they are held motionless, allowed to drift quietly near the bottom of the column of fish.

These tarpon aren’t feeding (in this scenario) nor are they unaware. Even so, the jaw structure of a tarpon is such that the side-flaps of its mouth (the maxilla or ‘clipper plates’) are exposed targets, as are the fish’s gills. These flaps are hinged and flair slightly outward, not unlike an overgrown thumbnail, or the backside of a human ear. When fluorocarbon line makes contact with this bony flap, the line is sometimes funneled (flossed) toward the inside hinge of the mouth (clipper plate), or through the gill. The hinge, as it narrows, becomes an effective guide. Soon, as the boat or the fish moves, the flow of line is halted by an abrupt collision: The hook (given additional mass by the heavy sinker) either loops and buries itself outside the tarpon’s mouth or gill plate, or it bounces free. If the hook does stick, the startled tarpon then panics, which causes other tarpon to panic, often through a haze of multiple hooks and lines which can create the illusion of a sudden feeding frenzy.

Shrewd, huh? Key elements to this technique:

1. A heavy (3-6 oz.) sinker must be attached directly to the belly of a hook.

2. Tarpon must be stacked in a contained area (which is why this technique is so effective in Boca Grande, but useless off-shore, or in our back bays.)

3. The hook must be extremely sharp and is more effective if it is a circle hook canted slightly using pliers. (I’ve done this, keep in mind.)

4. Low visibility fishing line –fluorocarbon — and a gray sinker are best because deception is imperative.

5. A high speed reel (to rocket the hook upward through schooling tarpon) and a good boat handler all add to the likelihood of success.

The most devious thing about this technique is that, if you are being paid to produce fish, your clients (if inexperienced) will never question why the tarpon they landed is hooked outside the mouth after “bumping” or “nibbling” at the hook.

Obvious, once you understand how it works, right? Not if you’re an overworked, underpaid biologist, apparently – nor if you’re a fishing guide who has wrestled with the ethics of flossing. Capt. Andy Boyette, a top money winner in PTTS tournaments and an accomplished Charlotte County guide, is a vocal example of just how convincing the floss-fishing con can be.

“It took me awhile to figure out that jigging tarpon is the biggest hoax in the history of fishing,” Boyette told me recently. “I jig fished for eight years [2000 to 2008] and didn’t understand, at first, why almost every fish we landed was hooked outside the mouth. I remember trying to think up new stories to explain it to my clients. Finally, I got sick of lying to clients who I liked and respected, and that was the end of jig-fishing for me. I was good at it – my boat won the last PTTS tournament in 2008 – but I’d rather have a clear conscience.”

I asked Boyette if he believed that all accomplished tarpon “jiggers” knew the truth.

“All I’ll say about that is I think there are new fishermen out there who don’t want to believe it, or have been told the same lie for so long that nothing will convince them. But the best clients, actual sports-fishermen, don’t want to catch a foul-hooked tarpon. That’s what these new guides need to think about.” [Click here for Capt. Andy Boyette’s detailed assessment of “jigging”]

Boyette nails a key point: Florida risks a negative economic backlash by tolerating (in fact, endorsing) floss-fishing, and failing to re-define our own vague snagging laws. In1885, when New Yorker W. H. Wood, fishing in the backwaters of Sanibel, boated the first tarpon ever taken on rod and reel, the destiny (and economy) of Southwest Florida was forever changed by moneyed sportsmen who took the ethics of fishing seriously.

Guess what? Serious anglers still do. But Florida has dropped the ball in comparison to destinations such as Oregon, Michigan, Washington and Alaska which have set an example by honoring sporting ethics via articulate legislation. Our state is guilty of another oversight, too: We pay bargain basement salaries to the biologists and law enforcement people mandated to maintain our multi-billion dollar fishing cash cow, when we should be luring the best and brightest in the country. That doesn’t mean we don’t have good biologists and first rate FWC law enforcement people. We do. But it’s bad business not to reinvest profits in order to maintain the source of those profits.

For now, though, the seven member FWC commission can take a step in the right direction on Wednesday by designating tarpon a catch-and-release-only species (but omit bonefish, which would unfairly burden ethical and responsible tournaments in the Florida Keys.)

Let the FWC hear from you, thinking anglers.

Email the Commissioners at FWC.

Visit the website of Randy Wayne White.

The PTTS dead (err… we mean sleeping) tarpon cover-up

This video was filmed on June 17, 2012 during the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series (PTTS) Tarpon Cup Championship. Unlike all other PTTS events, no DNA samples were taken by the PTTS during this event. Here is a short explanation from a first-hand witness who was on the boat which captured this footage. For more of the story, read this.

“When I was asked to participate in the PTTS championship protest I didn’t know what to expect or what reaction I would receive from some of the PTTS participants as I had been a participant myself at one time. I expected to see some of the typical bumper boat type action the PTTS is well known for. Having not participated in the PTTS for some time now, I was completely unaware of what happens behind the scenes to the tarpon after they are weighed.

In years prior, the team that caught and weighed in a fish was responsible for reviving and releasing that fish. In my opinion, I feel the PTTS was under some pressure from the public for dead tarpon washing up on the beach the day after the tournament. The PTTS decided to use a “trained” release team to be in charge of all tarpon after they have been dragged to the scale and weighed in. I was fully aware of their new policy, what I was not aware of however was the blatant disregard for the tarpon once the release team took possession.

What we filmed that day was a total lack of respect for the the tarpon that were to be released. The PTTS crews were not happy about us filming their actions that day and they did their best to cover up the dead tarpon they were dumping by having other PTTS boats wake our boat. This is what happens at the PTTS behind the scenes.”

WaterLine’s Josh Olive: ‘I was wrong’

Newbridge

“I was wrong to take at face value what I was told by tournament supporters. There are two sides to every story, and I’ve done an unacceptably poor job of reaching out to those who want the PTTS to end.”

The following appears in the Feb. 28 edition of WaterLine, the outdoors magazine produced by the Suncoast Media Group and distributed in the Charlotte, North Port and Englewood Sun newspapers. It was written by WaterLine Publisher Josh Olive and is reproduced here with permission. See related story.

Mending the bridge to Boca Grande
By Josh Olive
WaterLine Publisher

“The more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know.” — Albert Einstein

Somewhere along the line, I rubbed a bunch of people wrong. I think it started back in July 2011, when I interviewed Gary Ingman about the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series, an event of which he is part-owner.

At the time, I was aware of the controversy regarding the tournament, but it seemed — based on the conversations I had with WaterLine writers, charter captains and bait shop staff — people in opposition were few and had axes to grind. Basically, the consensus I gathered was that was no big deal.

So I wrote as much. Since then, we’ve covered each PTTS tournament with brief stories, photo essays or both. Fast forward to today: Save the Tarpon, a nonprofit that formed last year, has organized a campaign aimed at ending the PTTS.

Their methods include boycotting the tournament’s sponsors and writing letters to same, encouraging them to drop their support of the tournament — and it looks like they’re having quite a bit of success.

What happened? Well, first off, I was wrong about the scope of the PTTS’s opposition. Turns out it’s not just a handful of people on Boca Grande. Second, I was wrong to take at face value what I was told by tournament supporters. There are two sides to every story, and I’ve done an unacceptably poor job of reaching out to those who want the PTTS to end.

Because of that — the positive coverage WaterLine has given to the PTTS without a balancing amount of coverage given to the other side — WaterLine is now a dirty word to many Save the Tarpon supporters.

WaterLine is a magazine, not a newspaper, and is not bound to the strict standards of a newspaper — after all, it’s supposed to be about having fun. But I still have a journalistic obligation to publish the truth and to be fair — and to admit when I get something wrong.

My normal way of figuring out something new is to read up on it, then talk to people and get a variety of viewpoints, then preferably try it for myself. Then, and only then, do I believe I know enough about the subject to say something. That method hasn’t worked for this issue. The history of tarpon in Boca Grande Pass runs deep, and passions are high.

So, after thinking it over for the past few months, I’ve got a new policy with regard to tarpon and Boca Grande Pass: I don’t know enough to say anything. I haven’t been part of the history. I’ve never caught or hooked a tarpon, though I’ve observed at very close range as others have caught them on both live bait and jigs.

I had never even watched one jump until two years ago. I’ve read a lot of things, but that’s not the same as actual experience. Therefore, I’ve concluded WaterLine’s readership will be better served if I allow others to do the talking. That doesn’t mean I won’t be asking questions, and making sure their voices aren’t too loud from either side, but I think it’s best to leave my opinion out of it — on this issue, anyway.

You may be wondering why I’m telling you all this. Well, a few weeks back, I heard that Save the Tarpon was going to be having a party — a shindig, to be specific. I said to myself, “This is going to be perfect. I can put my new policy into action — I’ll go out there and talk to people, take some pictures, and get a good story out of it.”

Then I happened to run into Jennifer McLaughlin, one of the organization’s founders, and I told her I was planning to attend. The next day, I got a phone call from her husband, Tom. He explained that although I would be welcome to come out, it would be a problem if I came representing WaterLine. He said the group doesn’t trust me to be unbiased and he assumed any WaterLine story would be intentionally skewed to make them look bad.

So that’s why I’m explaining this to you: I want to say here, as publicly as I can, that I’m not opposed to Save the Tarpon. I don’t wish them any ill will, and I have no master plan to paint them as evil, stupid or misguided people. In fact, I really need their help — among their supporters are many of the local tarpon experts that I’m hoping to be able to talk to and quote when silver kings are the topic du jour.

I also want to make clear that WaterLine is not “The Official Magazine of the PTTS,” and we have never been a sponsor of or had any “side deal” with the tournament. Although we have published editorial coverage of their events in the past and will in the future, we also intend to cover the live-bait tournaments in more depth this year.

It’s true we have printed much more about the PTTS than other tarpon tournaments over the last two years, but that’s not because we favor their events: It’s because they invited me and offered a boat and captain, freeing me up to shoot photos. Nor does the tournament buy our support through Ingman Marine’s advertisements — Ingman advertises with us because WaterLine is the most widely read outdoor publication in the area. Ingman was an advertiser long before we covered the PTTS at all.

I have my criticisms of the PTTS, and expressing them doesn’t violate my new policy because these are things that I have seen for myself. The tournament needs a limit on how long a tarpon can be fought. The FWC recommends no more than 20 minutes. Perhaps a points loss starting at 20 minutes followed by a disqualification at 30 minutes would work.

Under PTTS rules, fish that are foul-hooked aren’t eligible for points, but there’s no observer or photo to document hook placement — just a judge’s say-so. The way at least some tournament participants operate their vessels is dangerous — perhaps not to others in the tournament, but definitely to the boating public. Boca Grande Pass belongs to the people of Florida, not to any one group, and anyone who wants to utilize it should be able to do so in safety. And as a for-profit business, the PTTS ought to be giving more back to the resource that makes them their money.

With regard to the Pass jig and whether it snags fish, I don’t know enough to take a side. There appears to be a consensus building that the jig is a snagging device, and it’s a fact that the men who say they developed the Pass jig now decry its use. Similar devices with the hook above the weight are used to snag fish elsewhere.

To me, that’s not strong enough evidence to make a conviction, and at this point, I believe people should be able to fish how they want. But I’ll say this: I sincerely hope someone is able to prove whether or not tarpon eat the thing. If it can be shown definitively that most of those fish are hooked without trying to eat the jig, then the jig needs to go. In fact, if and when that happens, I’ll be one of the loudest voices shouting about it.

To anyone who is still not quite sure where WaterLine or I myself stand, I’ll summarize as clearly as possible. We didn’t give Save the Tarpon the opportunity to explain themselves and have their say in the magazine. I apologize for that. We endorse neither Save the Tarpon nor the PTTS, but we believe both have the right to exist, to conduct themselves as they see fit within the law, and to their respective viewpoints.

We also believe both are important enough to include in WaterLine, and going forward I’ll make sure the magazine’s portrayal of those viewpoints is balanced and unbiased.

(Josh, you’re welcome to join us March 3 at the Boca Grande Community House-Community Center from 2 to 6 p.m. Kick back and enjoy a nice cold Miller Budweiser – on us.)

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Off the gaff, but not off the hook

This article, written by Captain Tom McLaughlin on behalf of Save the Tarpon, Inc., will be published in the upcoming edition of WaterLine Magazine at the request of publisher Josh Olive.  We are posting it here first as submitted. WaterLine is published weekly and distributed in the Sun family of newspapers each Thursday.

Save the Tarpon, Foul Hooked Tarpon

Foul hooked? This hook placement is commonly seen in the jig fishery.

Just as the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s was poised last week to move forward with a plan to make tarpon a catch and release species, the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series suddenly and unexpectedly announced it would abandon the controversial practice of gaff, drag and weigh in the events it holds each season in Boca Grande Pass.

While obviously too late to compensate for the harm already done, the decision was welcomed by all Floridians with a stake in the health of our shared local tarpon fishery. While not entirely voluntary, of course, and accompanied by a chorus of protest aimed at the FWC from PTTS corporate management and tournament participants, Save The Tarpon Inc. sees the decision as a step in the right direction.

Thursday’s capitulation by the PTTS is even more significant as just three short months ago, as Save The Tarpon was still finding its footing, the tournament insisted it would continue to gaff and drag tarpon until told to stop. When it became apparent that state regulators were laying the groundwork to do exactly that, the tournament softened its stance and found what appears, in theory, to be an acceptable alternative. We are certain the PTTS is up to the challenge of making it work in practice. We will, of course, be there on your behalf to make sure this happens.

That’s just part of why Save The Tarpon Inc. and savethetarpon.com exists. Thanks to your efforts and the work of our more than 2,000 supporters here in Florida and throughout the world, we were able to provide the FWC with the assistance and encouragement it needed to begin work on a plan that will statutorily bring an end to the days of the beach-side corporately sponsored weigh boat and those now-vanished Internet glory shots of PTTS teams proudly posing with large, roe-laden tarpon cradled in their arms rather than in the water where common sense tells us they obviously belong.

Under the plan now proposed by the PTTS for the season to come, a tape measure and laptop computer will replace the gaff, the sling and the scale. As currently proscribed by law, the fish will be immediately released at the back at the boat rather than at a beach more than a half-mile and up to 30 minutes away. As we said, clearly a step in the right direction.

The initial concept of the Save the Tarpon movement was to act as an intermediary in the user group conflicts that have, unfortunately, become synonymous with Boca Grande Pass.  Our mission was (and still is) to act on behalf of all users by not only protecting the fish, but by also ensuring anglers equal and safe access to the fishery.

As input was compiled from  tarpon anglers and community members, it became apparent the problems in the Pass centered around the PTTS.  However, the goal was not to fight the PTTS, but to garner its support and cooperation. Working together was obviously the best way. Or so it seemed.

Possible changes to tournament policy were proposed by Save The Tarpon to Gary Ingman, owner of both the PTTS and Ingman Marine. Ingman flatly refused. “We will stop weighing those fish when the state ends possession of tarpon,” Ingman insisted. What a difference a few months and 2,000 voices speaking as one can make.

It was made apparent from day one that ownership and management of the tournament were concerned solely with how change for the better would impact their highly profitable cable TV show. There was no talk of the fishery, not other anglers, not our local economy, not even you.

The founding principle of Save the Tarpon back then was to save the tarpon by calling for an immediate end to the PTTS. It was, it appeared, the only option left. You told us that if the PTTS was unwilling to reform its gaff and drag policy, hyper-aggressive pursuit of the fish, exclusion of other user groups, unsafe boating practices and manipulation of gear, it was obvious the conflict in Boca Grande Pass would never subside. Most importantly, it was equally obvious the health of the tarpon fishery was at stake.

What goes on in Boca Grande Pass in May and June would appear to most to be more of a demolition derby on water than sport fishing. The PTTS agrees, promoting its tournament as a form of “controlled chaos.” If you’ve seen the TV show, you know. A pack of more than 60 boats will race to position themselves directly atop a pod of fish. As the tarpon are driven from the pass, the pack gives chase. You don’t want to find yourself and your family in their way.

There are those who say fish caught during PTTS events and other times on artificial devices are being deliberately “snagged” or foul-hooked by anglers using the so-called Pass jig. It’s hard to tell. PTTS participants routinely block attempts made by Save The Tarpon and others to figure out where on any given fish the hook has managed to lodge itself. The PTTS has now pledged to stop hiding its fish and have hook placement observed and recorded by a third party.

The PTTS has partially addressed some issues, but others remain. Save The Tarpon, for instance, is not entirely comfortable with the tournament’s continued opposition to the FWC’s efforts to make tarpon a catch and release species. It will be ending possession, it says, in the name of “conservation.” Yet in the next breath it insists there are no conservation issues with the status quo. It’s tough to have it both ways. We expect the PTTS will clarify its true position once it figures out what, exactly, it is.

Our members are also concerned with something else. Something not as tangible as catch and release or hook placement. It is, quite honestly, the culture of institutionalized, pack mentality disrespect the PTTS has created and apparently fostered simply to make better TV. It’s there. Fish the Pass during a PTTS tournament. You can see it, you can feel it, you can almost even smell it. There’s an implied sense of ownership of a public fishery taking place. Recreational anglers aren’t welcome. Just ask the competitors in their NASCAR style outfits and NASCAR style wrapped boats. They’ll tell you. If not, they’ll see to it you get the hint.

We remain concerned that despite the concessions promised by the PTTS in light of the proposed FWC action, the fishing public will still be denied access to the fishery and will continue to be bullied out of the Pass. Is PTTS behavior altering the habits of the fish? Honestly, we don’t know. What we do know is that the impact on the fishery as a recreational destination is clearly evident.

Save the Tarpon isn’t resting on last week’s victory in Tampa. It was a good start, but it’s just that. A start. It is our intention to work towards meaningful and enforceable improvements to special regulations the FWC already has in place for Boca Grande Pass. As we begin this effort together, we want your thoughts. Go to savethetarpon.com or look for us on Facebook. Give us your ideas. We look forward to hearing from you.

 

 

 

 

 

Josh Olive & Waterline Magazine, are you ignoring the recreational angler?

Save the Tarpon, Inc was recently contacted by Nick Garbacz, a local resident and recreational angler.  He provided us with a copy of a letter dated July 16, 2012 which he sent to Josh Olive, Publisher of Waterline Magazine, a weekly publication distributed in the Sun family of newspapers each Thursday.  As you can see from his message below, Josh Olive did not acknowledge, reply to or publish his letter.

To: Save the Tarpon
From: Nick Garbacz

Message:

Below is a letter I sent to Josh Olive that he did not acknowledge. I wasn’t openly aware of your organization at the time, but felt I had to respond to his ridiculous editorial so in my amateurish way I responded as forwarded.

I have signed the petition and encourage the right fight to Save the Tarpon.

Respectfully yours,

Nick Garbacz

 

July 16, 2012

Mr Josh Olive
Publisher, Waterline Magazine
23170 Harborview Road
Port Charlotte, Fl 33980

Dear Mr Olive,

I consider myself to be an average sportsman and conservationist and have been able to hunt, fish, and observe nature in various places in the world. I do not presently belong to any conservation or sportsman’s organization and have no ax to grind with those that do. I do however take exception to your articles concerning the PTTS and those that oppose its concept and execution. Your attempts to gain the middle ground in my opinion fail miserably. I must also confess I do not view the PTTS in a favorable light even though I know and respect many of the participants in the event.

As everyone knows the tarpon gather each year in the May to July timeframe to seek and accomplish pre-reproductive activities and this occurs in a very small area with the Boca Grande Pass so it seems like the old saying “LIKE SHOOTING FISH IN A BARREL” has meaning in the case of the PTTS. Could you picture the FLW Tour staging a BASS Tournament in a Four Acre Farm Pond stocked with 10 pound bass? I would also ask any sportsman to view the PTTS TV show or boat around the pass during the event and truthfully say this looks like a true sport fishing event – maybe a Daytona 500 crash. I am especially fond of the one where the participant holds the DNA swab and says ”Just doing our bit for preservation of the species” for a fish he just caught that has less than a 70% chance of living.

If the show must go on, why not have it after the tarpon have accomplished their goals for being in BG Pass . Of course the obvious solution to preserving the fishery, would be to close Boca Grande Pass to all fishing during May and June, isn’t that a novel idea ? You could still fish for tarpon just not in a very small area.

If you believe that most fish in the pass are not foul hooked you are a very light thinker. The last time I fished the pass I was 3 for 3 foul hooked and that is why I stopped, but have fished the walls, beaches and other areas with crab, lures, and white bait with great success. Also, just because a tarpon is hooked in the jaw does not mean it wasn’t foul hooked. Almost 100% of Sockeye Salmon are legally snagged in the mouth with sockeye fly rigs and techniques as they do not eat upon entering the rivers. (It is yet to be proven if tarpon actively eat in pre-spawn pass activities)

In answer to your question “It’s all about saving the tarpon – right?” In the case ot the PTTS it certainly is all about the M_O_N_E_Y that is the one fact all can agree on.

Respectfully yours,

Nick Garbacz

Other Recent Articles by savethetarpon.com regarding Josh Olive:

Josh Olive and The WaterLine Magazine: A Disgrace to Journalism and Conservation

Waterline Magazine’s Josh Olive tosses out some questions

Guides, STT agree to take differing routes to a common goal

Boca Grande Fishing Guides Association (BGFGA)Save The Tarpon Inc. respects the decision of the Boca Grande Fishing Guides Association Inc. to pursue its own organizational goals relating to tarpon fishing in Boca Grande Pass. We are pleased that many individual members of the guides association have pledged their continuing support for Save The Tarpon Inc.’s efforts to elevate public awareness of the harm being done to this world famous fishery by the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series.

Save The Tarpon will continue to focus on ending the outdated and wasteful practice of gaff, drag, weigh and kill. Save the Tarpon will continue to demand enforcement of Florida’s safe boating laws during PTTS events. Save the tarpon will continue its work to ensure public access to Boca Grande Pass at all times.

Many of those who support Save The Tarpon Inc.’s efforts are obviously sympathetic to the concerns of the BGFGA as they relate to the use of the so-called Pass Jig, the most common method of fishing employed by PTTS participants.

It is our belief that injecting this contentious issue into the current debate would deflect attention from the group’s stated goal of bringing about achievable and equitable reform. The PTTS is desperately seeking to characterize opposition to gaff, drag, hoist and kill as an assault on the recreational tarpon angler. It is a strategy that has clearly failed.

The Boca Grande Fishing Guides Association Inc. created a sea change in public thinking through its efforts to promote what was originally known as the tarpon “kill tag” when it was adopted. Almost overnight the senseless “hero photo” slaughter of tarpon came to an end.

The last vestige of this practice, unfortunately, lives on through the PTTS and its televised “hero photos” of tarpon being needlessly gaffed, dragged, hoisted, weighed, gutted and buried in the deepest waters of Boca Grande Pass while it perpetuates the fiction of “live release.”

Save The Tarpon Inc. and its nearly 2,000 members remain focused on effectively finishing the job the BGFGA started those many years ago.