Daily DrakeJigger

JiggerAfter months of discussion and debate, bickering and banter, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) delivered a firm message last week: No more jigging in Boca Grande Pass.

“There’s not going to be a huge impact from this one ruling,” says Save the Tarpon spokesperson, Tom McLaughlin. “But it’s groundbreaking for the FWC, paving the way for more appropriate management of the tarpon fishery with a focus on pressure that comes not just from attempting to catch the fish, but how we attempt to catch the fish.”

The ruling, which goes into effect on Nov. 1, provided partial closure to an issue that has divided Boca Grande residents, conventional and fly anglers, tournament organizers, and conservationists for years.

Aaron Adams of the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust (BTT) says that during the last decade excessive use of the Boca Grande Jig in Boca Grande/Charlotte Harbor has altered tarpon behavior. “Fishing, more importantly catching, suffered with each passing year,” Adams says. “The way the jig was fished vertically, and using fish finders to stay over the fish, didn’t give tarpon any down time—and that affects their behavior.”

The Professional Tarpon Tournament Series (PTTS), on the other hand, which has held its big-money event in Boca Grande the past 10 seasons, and whose competitors often use weighted jigs to hook tarpon, says its show will go on. According to PTTS spokesman, Joe Mercurio, tourney anglers will merely adapt their rules to conform to state guidelines.

“This regulation will do little to solve the user-group conflict that exists in Boca Grande and even less to preserve tarpon,” Mercurio adds. “It’s a widely held belief the greatest impact on the sustainability of tarpon has little or nothing to do with fishing methods and instead hinges on water quality and… the further loss of habitat.”

The jig ban is the second tarpon ruling the FWC has approved since last spring. In June it implemented catch-and-release regs for Florida tarpon, eliminating all harvest except in pursuit of an IGFA world record.

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Tom Bie is the founder, editor, and publisher of The Drake. He started the magazine in 1998 as an annual newsprint publication based in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. He then moved it to Steamboat, Colorado (1999), Boulder, Colorado (2001), and San Clemente, California (2004), as he took jobs as managing editor at Paddler, Senior Editor at Skiing, and Editor-in-Chief at Powder, respectively. Tom and The Drake are now both based in Denver, Colorado, where The Drake is finally all grows up(Swingers, 1996) to a quarterly magazine.

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