To the Editor,
I am about to open a can of worms. Image a fisherman doing that.
I have been following online the controversy regarding tarpon fishing in Boca Grande and the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series.
Since I have often been referred to as the guy “who ruined the fishing in Boca Grande,” and then running off to Costa Rica, I feel I am qualified to weigh in on this matter. Wade Stephenson and I introduced the 12 Fathom Jig to Boca Grande back in 1986. Ownership of the company has changed hands several times as well as the design of the jig.
I am not going to comment on handling of the fish or Florida State law, but I will say I was part of the group that lobbied here in Costa Rica for the law that sport fishermen cannot remove from the water, all billfish and the fine to do so is $4,000. The problem here is regulations and enforcement are worlds apart and many sport fishing operators continue to advertise on the web with sailfish hoisted out of the water.
When Wade and I introduced the jig, it was manufactured with a fixed Mustad extra strong 8/0, J-Hook. Later after we sold the company, the design was changed to a large circle hook with a break-away sinker. It wasn’t until the design change that I started hearing and reading complaints of fish hooked outside the mouth and large amounts of lead being left on the bottom of Boca Grande Pass.
In the many years I fished the jig in Boca Grande and in Costa Rica, I have snagged two tarpon. Both instances were in Boca Grande when a giant school of fish picked up and headed west. I got in front of the school and when they got into 30 feet of water, they were so thick that my rod tip danced as fish bumped into my line. In one instance I snagged one tarpon in the dorsal fin and the other I snagged the fish in the tail.
I have never gut hooked a tarpon using a jig with a J-Hook. I have never used a jig with a break-away circle hook design so I cannot judge how much more effective they are than a J-Hook. I do know I have caught hundreds of tarpon in my lifetime in Boca Grande and Costa Rica, and 99 percent of them were on jigs. As I said I won’t comment on handling of fish in Florida or the law, but I feel the PTTS events would be more sporting, less controversial, and more environmentally friendly if they returned to fixed J-hooks.
As far as the etiquette of people fishing Boca Grande Pass, I have learned over my many years on this planet that courtesy can be taught. Common sense can’t be.
Crocodile Bay Resort and Marina,
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