Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Outdoors

Meeting hopes to settle tarpon dispute

State officials will hold a public hearing Monday in St. Petersburg to unveil new tarpon rules — primarily because the fishermen of Boca Grande just can't seem to get along.

For a generation, the charter boat captains who work "The Pass" each May through July have been at each other's throats.

On one side, you have the traditionalists, the homegrown guides who fish with live bait the way their forefathers have since the early 1900s. These local guides have powerful allies: the affluent residents of Gasparilla Island who own some of the most expensive plots of real estate in Florida.

On the other side are the out-of-towners, traveling guides who overrun this old fishing village when the bite begins.

There also are the tournament anglers, most of them blue-collar weekend warriors who use artificial lures to fish in the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series, a $500,000 catch-and-release competition that takes over weekends during peak tarpon season.

The locals and their politically connected allies who own land in Boca Grande want the PTTS to simply go away. The tournament anglers, a large majority of who live in the greater bay area, say they have the same rights as the locals to fish the pass that links Charlotte Harbor with the Gulf of Mexico.

Biologists from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission are caught in the middle. They are usually tasked with developing regulations designed to protect species from overfishing, not mediating disputes.

When a stock gets in trouble, such as the snook after several recent freezes, the FWC is supposed to step in and take action.

But this is not the case for tarpon. According to FWC spokeswoman Amanda Nalley, they are not in "biological jeopardy." And state records show that thanks to the tarpon tag program, only six fish were killed statewide in the 2011-12 fiscal year.

So if tarpon are not in danger, why should we spend countless hours and dollars to change regulations? And why does the FWC plan to move ahead with new rules that will make the tarpon fishery catch-and-release only even though for all practical purposes, it already is?

Because in the rules, there will be "special allowances" for "temporary possession." Among the examples cited, "photography purposes, measuring and scientific sampling." The rule also will allow an angler to buy a tag to kill a tarpon in pursuit of a world record.

But the new rule leaves a question unanswered: Can anglers, such as those in the PTTS, still tow their catch to a floating scale, weigh it then release it?

According to Nalley, the issue of floating scales is still being discussed.

"No decision has been made as to whether or not to include it in the proposal," she wrote in response to written questions.

State officials need to decide this issue soon. The charter boat captains who target tarpon, the tournament anglers getting ready for this year's season and the land owners who care about their investments deserve an answer.

Comments

Captainís Corner: With full moon, tarpon are on the move

With the full moon this next week tarpon are moving down the beaches and making their way out of the bay and moving out to the bridges and the passes to feed before some of them leave to go out and spawn on the full moon. Early in the morning along t...
Updated: 6 hours ago

Captainís Corner: Cloudier water improves the bite

Windy conditions this week have actually slightly improved fishing. The waters of Saint Joseph sound had become so clear that it made finding fish easy, but getting bites very difficult. Snook have been gathering in great numbers all along the beache...
Published: 05/19/18
Updated: 05/21/18

Captainís Corner: Red grouper fishing continues to be good

Red grouper fishing continues to be steady in depths of 100-120 feet. Large bait stacks are holding a fish or two, but larger concentrations are on very small rolls and potholes in those depths. Zooming in on the bottom 10-15 feet of the water column...
Published: 05/19/18
Updated: 05/20/18

Captainís Corner: Catching a giant cobia

Cobia is the topic this week. Capt. Tom Markham, aboard the Simply Hooked, was beginning his daily bait routine. It turned out that one of the markers located near Clearwater Pass, surprisingly, had a giant fish waiting for him. The captain slid up t...
Published: 05/16/18

Captainís Corner: Tarpon showing up on beaches, bridges

This week shouldnít be a total wash out. While there is a chance of rain every day, it should only be sporadic. Hopefully it wonít dirty up the water too much. If you are a tarpon fisherman and look forward to their arrival like I do, then you are in...
Published: 05/14/18
Updated: 05/15/18

Captainís Corner: This is best time of year for bay area fishing

Itís the best time of year for fishing in the area. Tarpon can be targeted off of any of the bridges. The Gandy, Howard Frankland and Skyway are my top choices. While awaiting a tarpon strike, I kill time by dropping smaller baits for Spanish mackere...
Published: 05/13/18

Captainís Corner: Change tactics for fly fishing success

Most fly fishers would prefer minimum wind and cloudless skies to increase chances for a banner day. This has been a problem lately. The wind makes casting more difficult, unless very experienced, and clouds interfere with sight casting opportunities...
Published: 05/11/18
Updated: 05/14/18

Captainís Corner: Tips on handling burgeoning baitfish

Schools of baitfish have arrived and taken up residence in all depths. Birds are diving on them close to the beach, all the way out to the midwater artificial reefs. Farther offshore, bait schools might not be visible on the surface but can be detect...
Published: 05/11/18
Updated: 05/12/18

Captainís Corner: Buckle up, the tarpon are here

Tarpon season is here, and the fish are showing up in numbers along the beaches. While there have been tarpon in the bays and backwaters for awhile, there were very few schools cruising the coast until a few days ago. Then, seemingly overnight, big p...
Published: 05/11/18

Captainís Corner: Here come the tarpon

Itís hot, the water temperatureís right and itís May. That means itís Tarpon Time! Aprilís full moon seemed to have opened the flood gates for tarpon arriving in our area. Weíve observed some at the Sunshine Skyway bridge for a couple weeks. On a few...
Updated one month ago