BY MARCY SHORTUSE AND LEW HASTINGS – It’s springtime in Boca Grande and that means tarpon season is rapidly approaching. Two traditional events have been planned by the Boca Grande Area Chamber of Commerce, as well as a third event held by Gasparilla Outfitters and Boca Grande Charities, Inc that is rapidly becoming a tradition.
The first event, and the one that kicks off tarpon season every year, is the Ladies Day Tournament. This year, as every year, the tournament will take place on Mother’s Day weekend, which this year it’s on Saturday, May 9. The competition will be celebrating its silver anniversary this year as well.
Team entries are $550 for a team of four. Fishing times were set from 6 to 9 p.m. this year at the recommendation of the local fishing guide to ensure the best tides and opportunities to catch fish. The captains’ party and official rules review will be held the night before, as always. Details, as they are locked in, can be found at ladiestarpon.com.
The artist selected to represent this year’s tournament is Ladies Day favorite Brendan Coudal. Brendan’s design this year is specifically geared to honor the 25th anniversary of the event and signed limited edition prints are available at the Boca Grande Chamber office.
Nearly one month later, the World’s Richest Tarpon Tournament and Silver King Festival will be honoring 33 years of traditional tournaments in pursuit of the silver king.
This year there will be two separate divisions in the big tournament. The pass division which will concentrate within the boundaries of Boca Grande pass as it has always done and the new beach division which, it is hoped, will bring a new crop of anglers to participate in a chance to be crowned King of the Beach.
Each contest will be held on June 4 & 5, with the beach division fishing in the morning and the pass division fishing in late afternoon. Entry fees for the World’s Richest will be $2,500.00 for a team of four to enter the pass division and $1,000.00 for a team of three to enter the beach division.
The beach division teams will have to accommodate a tournament-trained observer aboard their vessel so interested teams should plan for the extra passenger on board.
With tournament art supplied by world-renowned conservationist and marine artist Guy Harvey, the World’s Richest Tarpon Tournament will continue to promote the tenets of conservation, education and sportsmanship in this all-release sport fishing event.
Details, entry forms and rules can be found online at worldsrichesttarpon.com or you can call the Boca Grande Area Chamber of Commerce Executive and Tournament Director Lew Hastings at 964-0568.
If you would like to become a sponsor for the World’s Richest Tarpon Tournament and the Silver King Festival, opportunities are still available. If you are interested in being featured in the event’s magazine, which features tournament history and our community’s efforts to protect and respect our coastal marine environment, call the Chamber office at 964-0568.
In addition to the competition on June 4 and 5, tarpon festival weekend will kickoff on that Friday and spill over into Saturday, June 6 with a world-class art show downtown, organized by Carroll Swayze. There will be music, food and activities for kids planned as well.
Also on Saturday, June 6, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. the Gasparilla Island Kids’ Classic will be held in Boca Grande Pass. The team entry fee is $1,000 for a four-person team. Each team must have an approved business or corporate sponsor.
Registration will be held from noon to 2 p.m. at the Boca Grande Community Center on the day of the tournament. Boats will be on the water by 4:30 p.m., when Pastor Gary Beatty will bless the event and participants. The Lemon Bay High School ROTC will present their color guard and the National Anthem will be sung. The Charlotte County Warbirds will also perform a flyover. After the tournament, awards will be presented downtown. Check with your captain on the day of the tournament to find out more.
Proceeds from this year’s tournament will benefit Moffitt Cancer Center’s Family First Program, All Children’s Hospital Music Therapy Program, Englewood Community Care Clinic’s Sports First Aid Program and the Crowninshield Community House of Boca Grande.
Proceeds will also go to a program for L.A. Ainger Middle School and Lemon Bay High School students. The STEM (science, technology, engineering and Math) Program will team with Lemon Bay Conservancy’s Juvenile Tarpon Habitat Conservation Initiative to create a camp opportunity for the students to work in collaboration with members of the Conservancy, university professors and state and local experts to provide students with knowledge of local ecosystems.
This year’s premier sponsor for the tournament is Grande Air Services. Contact Gasparilla Outfitters to sign up a team for the kids’ tournament at 964-0907, or go to 4tarpon.com.