By: Heather Taylor
We are recent 180-degree converts from being avid PTTS fans to passionate advocates of saving the tarpon of Boca Grande Pass. My husband, Kevin, and I not only watched the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series on television, we even recorded it on our DVR so as not to miss a single episode. I “liked” them on Facebook. I even got a little thrill when I saw PTTS host, Joe Mercurio, at a restaurant. But that was then, and this is now…
My husband is an avid fisherman. He has fished in the Pass and surrounding area for over 20 years. His most recent passion, which he took up about a year ago, is fly fishing. He has instilled a passion for fishing in our two teenage daughters and it is one of our favorite family pastimes.
This past spring we enlisted a Realtor to help us find a vacation home in the place we love to spend our free time; the place we love to fish; the place that hosts this tournament we love to watch on TV. We have spent a lot of time in the area since March.
What we discovered this spring and early summer about the PTTS was shocking and heartbreaking. The PTTS had misled us and so many other viewers into believing that they are an ethical catch and release tournament which promotes conservation. But we saw with our own eyes that this is simply NOT the truth.
It doesn’t take a marine biologist to watch the hoard of boats pound the fish ruthlessly day after day to understand that what is happening is bad news for the fishery. Also, the tackle and technique is simply unfair to these magnificent fish. What we saw during and after the tournament was tragic evidence of this … massive female tarpon floating in the pass or washed up on the beach and lost forever. Finally, the majority of the old timers my husband interacted with during the season indicated it was one of the worst ever. The fish were not only sparse and inconsistent, but very skittish when present.
The PTTS supporters would like to make people believe that they are a huge economic boost to Boca Grande, but I do not even think that is the case. We rented both on and off the island during our home-buying process. Our experience was that the PTTS folks rent elsewhere in the area, for the most part, and do not spend a significant amount of money on the island.
Those renting on island at that time of the year are predominantly those who have vacationed there and fished recreationally for years. Other than Millers (Boca Grande Marina), we never saw PTTS participants at a restaurant where we dine (The Temp, South Beach, Sisters, the Gasparilla Inn and The Pink Elephant).
The PTTS has to be stopped. It is so sickeningly against the ethical treatment of animals, I do not see how it has continued this long! What can we do to stop it? Please tell us. We are 100 percent on board with all efforts to stop this travesty of “sport” fishing!
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