Gasparilla Island businesses are gearing up for the new season. There is a lot of energy in the air as we wait to see who becomes the next president of the United States.
Most island business owners take time off during the off-season when traffic is slow on the island. But the Boca Grande Fishing Guides Association and the Boca Grande Area Chamber of Commerce work year round to preserve the island's place as a premier fishing destination featuring world-class tarpon schools.
Cappy Joiner, president of the Boca Grande Fishing Guides Association, spends three months of the year at his beautiful North Carolina mountain home. The scenic view from the mountaintop is breathtaking.
Cappy Joiner, president of the Boca Grande Fishing Guides Association, has campaigned tirelessly for greater tarpon protection.
It is hard to get Joiner to slow down long enough to share the years of knowledge he has from a life spent on the water. He knows tarpon better than anyone alive.
The BGGA is made up of fishing guides dedicated to preserving the tarpon heritage that has branded Boca Grande the "Tarpon Capital of the World" for more than 100 years. Joiner advocates a simple step to preserve the silver kings.
"Get rid of the tarpon tag," Joiner said. "We need to save the tarpon habitat before it becomes another Texas. If the adult tarpon habitat is destroyed the Boca Grande Pass is done - something no one wants to witness in this lifetime. The fish will simply stop coming to Boca Grande Pass. "
Joiner said he used to ask other guides and fisherman: "How many tarpon did you catch today? Jump or land?"
Now the question is: "Were there any tarpon in the pass today?"
June used to be a great tarpon fishing month but no longer.
"The tarpon rarely are in the Pass like they were for so many years in June due to the pressure being put on the fish day in and day out by fishermen." Joiner said.
He decries modern fishing techniques, which are the exact opposite of the methods used for years in the Pass. Aggressive boat operation and a controversial piece of tackle often referred to as a "weighted jig" is changing the tarpon's migration patterns in the Pass, he said.
"The future is now," Joiner said.
He applauds recent changes in tarpon tournaments to all catch-and-release.
The Boca Grande Chamber of Commerce last year revived the World's Richest Tarpon Tournament to great success. This year it will switch gears from a Fall Festival to a July Fourth event.
"This year the Chamber will sponsoring a Fourth of July event that is still in the developmental stages," said Lew Hastings, BGACC executive director.
The Gasparilla Inn & Club is already renowned for its spectacular fireworks so the Chamber is working with General Manager Jack Damioli to ensure it does not interfere with the operation of the Boca Grande mainstay.
The annual Christmas Walk will be Nov. 24.
"This is an island event that everyone loves year after year," Hastings said." This event is a great way to show off the island businesses and is a fun event for the entire family."