Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Suncoast Tarpon Roundup has improved attitude

The Tampa Bay area has always embraced tarpon fishing, but tournaments have moved from “kill” to “all-release” formats.

St. Petersburg Museum of History (1918)

The Tampa Bay area has always embraced tarpon fishing, but tournaments have moved from “kill” to “all-release” formats.

In the spring of 1934, people didn't have much to smile about. Unemployment peaked at 21 percent. Massive dust storms tore through Oklahoma. Bank robbers Bonnie and Clyde shot and killed two lawmen in Texas. And over in Germany, this little fellow named Adolf Hitler was stirring up all kinds of trouble. Here in St. Petersburg, however, folks had at least one thing going for them. The fishing was good. Tarpon, the silver king of game fish, were thick and feisty.

Sure, there was a fishing village down the coast called Boca Grande that had captured the imagination of the sports writers from New York City. But the local anglers knew the waters of Tampa Bay had just as many fish as Charlotte Harbor — and none of the crowds.

In fact, the schools of these chrome-bodied brutes were so large off the downtown pier that you could probably herd the fish just like cattle. That's when somebody decided to get the whole town in on the fun and have a tarpon roundup.

The rest is history.

Tomorrow, the Tampa Bay area will again host the annual Suncoast Tarpon Roundup, billed as the world's oldest and largest tarpon tournament.

A lot has changed in 75 years. The tournament, once criticized for its "kill" format, has gone to "all release."

Last year, anglers caught and released unharmed more than 350 fish. The anglers also worked with biologists from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission on an ongoing genetic study.

These anglers, who for years endured the criticism of conservation groups and outdoor writers (this reporter included), are now models for us to follow: anglers who pursue their sport with passion while protecting it for future generations.

The roundup is a not-for-profit organization that promotes sportsmanship, research and education. The tournament has divisions for both adults and juniors, and it is the latter group that has kept this event going for more than seven decades. It is not uncommon to find two, three and even four generations of anglers in the same family who have fished in the Suncoast Tarpon Roundup.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I have signed up my children, ages 5 and 7, for this year's event, though I doubt either will actually get a chance to fish.

I hope their $25 entry fees will help keep the event going for another year and perhaps even encourage anglers, outdoor enthusiasts, environmentalists, conservationists, and even those who love history, to keep this institution alive.

In its heyday, fishermen from across the United States came to St. Petersburg to fish for tarpon. An advertisement in the June 1936 issue of National Sportsman magazine urged anglers to head south: "For the thrill of a lifetime, come to Florida's Gulf Coast … and fish for the gamest fish that swims … fast as greased lighting."

Before Tampa Bay had professional baseball, football and hockey, the two biggest sports in town were fishing and sailing. The Suncoast Tarpon Roundup was the social event of the season. They even crowned a "Tarpon Queen," who rode a parade float down Central Avenue.

But by the early 1990s, angler attitudes had changed. "Catch and release" for nonedible sportfish became the norm, and sponsors would no longer back a tournament in which fish were killed for sport.

So last year, the roundup changed course and became all release. Organizers expected the sponsors to return. Most did not. But a few who believe in the future of the sport have come to the roundup's aid.

"I was happy to help them," said Herb Quintero, whose Complete Angler bait shop is just a block away from the Seminole Boat Ramp in Clearwater. "We practice catch-and-release, and think it is great that they made the change. We hope other people will come around and show their support."

fast facts

Suncoast Tarpon Roundup

When/where: 6 a.m. Saturday to 6 p.m. July 18. Fish must be caught in the Gulf of Mexico and inland waters adjacent to Pasco, Pinellas, Hillsborough, Manatee and Sarasota counties.

What else: There is a regular division as well as specialty divisions for juniors, women, landlubbers and more. There are weekly trophies and prizes, too. Partial proceeds will benefit the Pediatric Cancer Foundation. To become a sponsor or to get an entry form, go to For information, call Charlie Crisp at (727) 244-9095.

Suncoast Tarpon Roundup has improved attitude 05/07/09 [Last modified: Friday, May 8, 2009 4:50pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. For starters: Rays at Twins, with Cobb pitching with a purpose


    UPDATE, 12:34: Cash said he has been pleased with Sucre's work and is trying to find playing time for him. ... Cash also said after reading Farquhar's comments about having trouble re-focusing after getting out of a jam and then going back out for a second inning he will factor that in to how he uses him. ... …

  2. St. Petersburg's Sebastien Bourdais vows to return for IndyCar finale

    Auto racing

    INDIANAPOLIS — Sebastien Bourdais was in one of the best race cars he'd ever had, so fast that most of his competitors thought he would win the pole for the Indianapolis 500.

    Sebastien Bourdais does physical therapy at the Rehabilitation Hospital of Indiana in Indianapolis. Bourdais broke his pelvis, hip and two ribs in an accident during qualifying for the Indianapolis 500 on May 20. He plans to return home to St. Petersburg soon to continue therapy. [Associated Press]
  3. Yellow cards stall Rowdies offense in tie with St. Louis


    ST. PETERSBURG — It's not the result they wanted, but it certainly could have been worse. Neill Collins' 87th-minute header off a corner kick was the reward the Rowdies settled for Saturday night during a 1-1 draw with St. Louis before an announced 6,068 at Al Lang Stadium.

  4. Calvary Christian routs Pensacola Catholic to win state baseball title


    FORT MYERS — Calvary Christian left no doubt as to which baseball team in Class 4A was the best in Florida this season. The Warriors defeated Pensacola Catholic 11-1 in six innings Saturday night at Hammond Stadium to claim the school's first state championship in any team sport. It also solidified a 30-0 season. …

    Matheu Nelson celebrates after scoring on a wild pitch during the first inning, when Calvary Christian took a 6-0 lead.
  5. Numerous lapses add up to frustrating Rays loss to Twins

    The Heater

    MINNEAPOLIS — While the Rays made some good defensive plays, threw a couple of big pitches when they needed to and got a few, and just a few, key hits, there were some obvious things they did wrong that led to them losing Saturday's game to the Twins 5-3:

    Rays reliever Tommy Hunter says the Twins’ tiebreaking homer came on a pitch that was “close to where I wanted it.”