Catching a tarpon isn't necessary to have a fun tournament.
The Ladies' Day Tarpon Tournament in Boca Grande is proof of it. Not one tarpon has been caught in the past two years despite decent weather.
Brendan Coudal’s fourth Ladies Day Tarpon Tournament poster for the May 20 Boca Grande Area Chambr of Commerce event.
Multigenerational teams and an average of 50 boats, roughly twice that of most other tourneys, compete in the unofficial kickoff of the world famous tarpon season in Boca Grande.
"We know our ladies will love what we are doing this year," said Larissa Wells, tournament director. "This year's tournament includes the traditions of years past with a new flair."
The tourney is all women, all release and all fun, Wells said.
Ladies Day Tarpon Tournament
Organizer: Boca Grande Area Chamber of Commerce
Registration limit: 50 teams maximum.
Entry fee: $500.
Fishing: Begins at 3 p.m. and ends at 6:30 p.m.
Where: Boca Grande Pass
When: May 20
Bait: Live bait only, no jigs, jigging or chumming.
Leader length: 15 feet maximum and 10 feet minimum. Minimum 50-pound test line with single barb, single hooks allowed. No breakaway gear.
Contact: Tournament applications are at bocagrandechamber.com or call 964-0568.
Tarpon tournaments used to routinely involve dragging a tarpon several miles to the dock and displaying it as a trophy, which killed the creature. The Boca Grande Ladies Day Tournament changed all that.
Weighing and releasing a tarpon on site (still done in some tournaments) stressed and often killed the tarpon so the Ladies Day organizers adopted a do no harm philosophy that has become the fishery management standard.
Lew Hastings, executive director of the Boca Grande Area Chamber of Commerce, said the 22st Ladies Day Tarpon Tournament once again features the artwork of Brendan Coudal of Nokomis.
"His artwork is for sure a treasure," Hastings said. "This is Brendan's fourth time as our official Ladies Day Tournament artist and he may need some help from the public this year with his as yet un-named Pirate Girl painting."
The collectable tournament posters are prized on island. Proceeds benefit The Bonefish & Tarpon Trust.
Coudal's mermaid image will be prominently displayed on the posters, programs and T-shirts for the event, which has become an island tradition for Mother's Day weekend, said Hastings.
Coudal's vintage series capture the essence of the Ladies Day tarpon tourney, which was the first to become a catch-and-release tourney.
"Through my paintings, I try to share some of the more remarkable images and events I've experienced," Coudal said. "The vintage paintings are my way of creating images that evoke a smile. They are fun and idealistic, and they capture a point in time when life was less complicated."
He uses his wife, Nicole, as the model for the paintings. His work is displayed at Art Uptown Gallery in Sarasota or go to artuptown.com or brendangallery.com.
T-shirts and posters featuring the artwork will be available at the Boca Grande Area Chamber office and Englewood Bank's Boca Grande office.
Four female anglers per boat are permitted and only two rods may be fished at a time. The angler must hook, fight, and boat the fish and if she tires too much to continue a teammate may help but the fish will be counted as a team catch and not an individual catch.
Boats are not allowed to anchor any time except for an emergency.
All boats must fish within these boundaries: The east boundary is a straight line running north and south between Intracoastal Marker No. 75 off Cayo Costa and Intracoastal Marker No. 1 off Gasparilla Island. The west boundary is the No. 12 red buoy in Boca Grande Pass.
The south boundary is a straight line running from red buoy No. 12 to the QR test buoy on the Gulf side of Cayo Costa. The north boundary is a straight line running east from the Lodge Dock to a point where it meets the east boundary and a line running from the concrete pier at the lighthouse beach to red buoy No. 12.
Once a tarpon is hooked, a boat no longer has to remain within the boundaries.