Florida's Tarpon Tourneys Wince At Tag Rules

The Gold Cup’s advice to participants regarding the use of tarpon tags is making some anglers wonder whether the state’s rules haven’t gone too far. As a result of conversations Gold Cup organizers had with Florida FWC officers, it was decided that in order to comply with the state’s tarpon tag law, as soon as a fish was reduced to “possession,” a $50 tag must be affixed to the lower jaw. For practical reasons, that means that in order to “strap” (measure) a weight fish, it must be tagged while being brought into the skiff, and anglers will then most certainly cut and remove the tag (a zip-tie-like device) before returning the fish to the water. One angler, who spoke to us on condition of anonymity, commented: “So in essence, there will be two holes in the fish: one from the gaff and one from the tag.”
While making anglers uneasy, the Gold Cup’s struggle to conform to the state’s new strict definition of possession also raises plenty of questions. Why shouldn’t tournaments have to follow the same rules as everyone else, especially as they set examples for recreational fishermen? On the other hand, is it really necessary to damage a tarpon further than necessary when the rules call for releasing the fish anyway? Or should the tournaments consider changing a long tradition of rules designed to ensure fairness to all anglers — which encourage anglers to gaff and lift tarpon over 70 pounds into a skiff — and use some different sort of scoring? Lots of questions, and no easy answers.

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