To the Editor:
From its inception, the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series (PTTS) has been conducted in a sporting manner with an emphasis on promoting conservation and the sport of tarpon fishing in Boca Grande. I would like to tell you about our history of conservation efforts and share some facts about ongoing and future efforts to protect the fishery that we all respect and depend upon.
Firstly, the PTTS has worked closely with biologists from the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commissions, Fish & Wildlife Research Institute to make sure we all benefit from the best science available and help to manage the fishery. In 2005, the PTTS served as the pilot study for the FWC’s current tarpon DNA tagging program. Since then, our organization and our anglers have provided nearly 1,000 tarpon DNA samples to the FWC to further their research.
More recently, at the request of FWC biologists, we allowed FWC tarpon researchers to take possession of tarpon that had been weighed during our 2010 PTTS & WPTTS events, so they could take blood samples and perform other tests that they were not normally able to perform as easily, and cost effectively, as they could at our events. The purpose of the tarpon physiology study was to evaluate the effects of fight time, handling and the environment on the stress responses of tarpon measured using changes in blood chemistry. This study is ongoing.
BY CAPT. TOM McLAUGHLIN - There is some truth behind the talk that the Save the Tarpon movement is simply a turf war. Which side of the pro-jig/anti-jig movement you fall on has some correlation with where your turf is. A vast majority of the jig guides and PTTS participants come to town for the months of May and June, and once the tarpon head offshore to spawn, that same majority return home to either continue fishing in their home waters or pursue other occupations. They have very little tie to the local community during the rest of the year.
The notion that the fight over Boca Grande Pass tarpon fishing is about a group of traditional Pass fishing guides wanting to stop all others from fishing in their “private fishing hole” is the battle cry of most who oppose the Save The Tarpon movement. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is a turf war, but not in the way so frequently described by participants of the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series and board members of the Florida Guides Association.
Message boards are still heating up in reference to local anglers’ ongoing battle about how to catch a tarpon. While it has never taken much in the last 20-plus years to get an argument going in this venue, the protest on the beach during the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series championship served as a boiling point this year.
If you have your Google alerts set to “tarpon,” “Boca Grande” or “Gasparilla Island,” you will have found some interesting things in your inbox. From Florida Sportsman to all the local news channels and papers, everyone has weighed in with some sort of story, and many with some sort of slant, about the controversy.
The use of catch-and-release as a conservation tool to ensure healthy recreational fisheries for the future has become standard throughout the world of recreational fisheries. The catch-and-release ethic is especially apparent in the world-class tarpon fishery of Florida, where virtually all tarpon are released. However, catch-and-release is only a valid conservation tool if it is practiced correctly so that most fish that are released survive. Sadly, the catch-and-release practices of some in the tarpon fishery are likely decreasing survival of released tarpon and should be curtailed in deference to the ethic of responsible fishing.
Research on catch-and-release fishing generally shows that the amount and type of handling of fish after being caught and before being released is an important factor in determining the fish’s likelihood of survival after release. In general, fish that are kept in the water and handled minimally do best, while fish that are handled extensively and exposed to air for long periods of time don’t fare well.
About 60 island property owners recently called on our bridge authority to break a promise we, as a community, made to the state in 1995 and once again in 2000.
Who is responsible for operating, maintaining and replacing Boca Grande’s bridges and causeway? Based on that promise, we are. In 2000, the Florida Legislature passed an act re-creating the Gasparilla Island Bridge Authority it had originally established in 1995. Most of the statute's language is technical. Not what you’d consider bedtime reading. But the rest is easy to comprehend for anyone interested in taking the time to understand what we told the Legislature we would do back in 1995 and again five years later.
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