On Wednesday the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is to meet in Lakeland to consider a rule change that, if adopted, will eliminate a very popular technique of recreational tarpon angling widely used in Boca Grande Pass, the world's most renowned tarpon fishing hole.
This popular form of fishing, which has been used by many Floridians and anglers from around the world, employs the use of a weighted artificial lure head and pliable plastic tail to entice a tarpon to feed. Similar lures are widely promoted for deep-water use for a wide variety of Gulf and Atlantic fishes, and they are generically called "butterfly jigs".
As with fishing methods for almost every fish species that swims, there are differences in opinion and preference on tarpon tackle types and rigging options. Some in the Boca Grande area see the use of artificial baits in tarpon fishing as a break with tradition, and others see it as their favorite bait for their favorite sport. Old stories of early tarpon angling speak of the use of jigs and spoons as the way tarpon were originally caught there.
Jig fishing in Boca Grande today is essentially as it has always been for more than three decades, with improvements made over time. The hook style has changed from a traditional "J" hook to a more modern circle hook, typical of hooks used for prized gamefish destined for release worldwide.
The use of break-away weighting also has been replaced by weights that slide up the line on hook up. These tarpon lures are readily available at area tackle shops and in mega-outdoor stores throughout Southwest Florida, and come in a variety of head shapes and soft body shapes and colors.
Anglers using tarpon jigs present their bait exactly as traditional guides present their live bait squirrel fish. Both baits work best with no rod action. Both baits are presented at a specific distance off the bottom. Neither bait is actively manipulated by the angler. While the popular artificial lure is called a "jig," there is no jigging action.
Opponents of the artificial jig lure are trying to label the jig as a snagging device and not a lure that entices the tarpon to strike. They question why the jig has to be set up with the lure weight placed as the bottom of the hook. They also claim the jig was invented for use specifically in Boca Grande Pass.
The fact is the jig was designed in the mid-1980s by a long-time and legendary Louisiana fisherman named Lance "Coon" Schouest. The "Coon Pop" jig is widely used in Texas, Louisiana and in many other fisheries where tarpon are found.
The lure is designed so the hook can separate from the jig weight after the tarpon is hooked up.
If the weight is permanently attached to the hook, the tarpon will use the weight to shake the hook free of its mouth. Further, the jig weight, soft body placement and hook setup is designed to resemble the shape and hook placement of the natural squirrel fish bait.
Finally, the jig is widely used and promoted for use today with a non-offset circle hook. If you know what a non-offset circle hook looks like, you will know how difficult it would be to use such a hook to try and intentionally snag any fish.
Further, research performed by FWCC scientists throughout the first decade of this century has not shown any evidence that tarpon are foul hooked by jigs at rates higher than any other popular species.
Capt. Daddy Dave Markett
Move on flat tax
On April 15 in The Tampa Tribune U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Lakeland, detailed a bill he introduced called H.R. 243, the Bowles-Simpson Plan of Lowering America's Debt Act, or as he calls it the BOLD Act.
It basically outlines a means to reduce debt, but most importantly, it introduces a flat tax of 10 percent to 20 percent, eliminating the minutia of the current tax codes.
In my response April 21 I chided the representative for introducing a flat tax bill that was doomed to sit in committee and expire. It looked like political grandstanding to me.
I stated that unless some cataclysmic event occurred, or some elected officials who had the courage to enact change no matter what it might cost them politically came forward, we would see no action.
But with the current outrageous behavior by the IRS to target specific political and religious affiliations, this might be a good time to rein in a powerful department that has gotten way to large and out of control.
This targeting - no matter if you are a conservative or not - should be an affront to both political parties.
Are there representatives out there who can carry the ball and see this flat tax bill moves out of committee?
I beseech all to contact their House representatives and ask about bringing this bill to the light of day - to hopefully restore some confidence in the government of the United States of America.
Liberties at risk
I just read the report about the National Security Agency and the order they gave to Verizon to hand over millions of phone records.
The order was secret, and Verizon was prohibited from telling its customers about it.
The story was in the Daily Mail, a London newspaper, and said in part:
"The Guardian obtained a copy of the order that forces the phone company to hand over records of phone calls starting in late April for all of its customers on a 'ongoing, daily basis' without giving specific parameters."
This, on top of the scandal involving the IRS targeting conservative groups. What other liberties will this administration try to destroy?