Help Save the Tarpon

A while ago I published a small write up (reblog) of Bad Things at Boca Grand, about the destructive practices of the Professional Tarpon Tournament. Back then there wasn’t much you or I could do to help except maybe express outrage on our respective forums (blog, tumblr, facebook, twitter, etc.). Now there’s an organization looking to help us help.

Save the Tarpon opposes, and is calling 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 for-profit fishing tournament and television show.  The disruptive fishing methods endorsed by the PTTS and employed by it’s participants are causing the tarpon to change their movement, feeding, and spawning behaviors. Behaviors which had, until now, been unchanged for thousands of years. The change in these patterns has already deteriorated the quality of the fishery.

Good folks like Mill, Pallot, Ault, McGuane and Kreh are just a few of the saltwater fly fishing notables who have added their names to the petition. Add your voice here.

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  • Gary Colecchio

    The “movement” was started by Rick Hirsh who lives in New York and vacations in Florida.

    He fishes exclusively and is connected with the Boca Grande
    Fishing Guides Association members. This group of “traditional live bait ” guides has been fighting for 15 years for exclusive use of the pass using a listed set of rules published in the local press and Chamber of Commerce.

    Their goal is to rid the pass of “off island ” guides. Their strategy has been if they can ban the use of artificial baits (jigs), the outsiders would leave. Of course this tournament is now a target because it shows that recreational fishermen need not employ local guides and successfully catch fish themselves.

    BGFGA has demanded Florida Fish and Wildlife study the snagging issue , at taxpayers expense and rejected the finding when it did not substantiate their claims. They have since sued the state, as well as make other outrageous claims such as outboard motors ( employed by jig guides and recreational fisherman, vs their traditional inboards) scare the fish and change their migratory habits.

    This issue is not one of concern for the health of the tarpon fishery, all science points to a healthy fishery, but an economic one and a turf war engaged in and accelerated in the last decade.

    This new Save the Tarpon campaign is the latest weapon employed by the BGFGA, who populate it in their campaign for exclusive economic access to the fishery , although not all that well masked:

    As a light tackle tarpon fisherman and guide, I have no interest in either method of fishing the pass , preferring shallow water sight fishing , so I have interest in either side. But to those who have been following this travesty of allegations, accusations, innuendo, bad science and bad blood, this is simply another chapter and another tactic of BGFGA to ultimately regain ownership of a fishery they believe they have the right of sole ownership of.

    – Captain Gary Colecchio

    • Reply

      Thanks Capt. Gary,

      Appreciate the comments and another perspective. Of course, being a fairly ardent (not to say radical) conservationist I’m all in favor of techniques that don’t excessively stress the fish (and kill them).

      Snagging or no snagging, it seems like dragging an already tired fish to shore just to get an official weight and then hoisting it above water just to get a bunch of hero pics is pushing it in this regard. (Particularly when there have been a raft of studies showing that removing fish from the water, at all, lowers their chances for survival.)

      As you say, the science behind the snagging issue is iffy, to say the least, but the other science behind the deleterious effects of mishandling fish is not. I guess that’s where I’m at and why I support a ban to any fishing (spin, bait, or fly) that uses it.

      As for the other issue — that of the BGFGA wanting sole rights to fish an area — well, that’s obviously wrong and wrongheaded of them if it’s true. It’s a public area and anyone should get to fish it. However, I’ll support whoever supports no more dragging and abuse of large fish.

  • Reply

    Good to highlight this. Looks like the kind of fishing I wouldn’t touch with a bargepole, the bass competition scene taken to the sea.

    However, and glossing over the possible irony inherent in the use of the term ‘ethical fishing’ which is thrown about in this row, I wonder where the evidence is for the claims made in the excerpt you quote above. I have had a look at the ‘Save the Tarpon’ site and at the ‘Bonefish and Tarpon Trust’ site. The former seems to have no links to support the claims and the latter has articles on research but with no corroboration. Prof. Jerry Ault is cited a number of times but has only published one unconnected paper on Tarpon and that four years ago. Being a research biologist I’m a ‘show me the data’ kind of guy and I see none.
    It is quite possible that I have missed the research that supports the above statement and I would be keen to read it as the impact of angling on shaping fish behaviour is something I have an interest in. Without it the campaign seems to be about some anglers not liking the way other anglers are angling. Which might be fine, and I am in the Save the Tarpon camp if it comes down to it, but does it not simply degrade to a playground spat – “he said, you said, no I didn’t, yes you did”?

    great blog as ever,

    • Reply

      Hey Eccles,

      Yeah, you’re right there, but the video does share some anecdotal evidence on the use of circle-hooks, dragging and shows dead tarpon floating. Not exactly scientific, but hey. Looks bad.

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