The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel Kicks off Tarpon Season

The “Ding” Darling & Doc Ford’s Tarpon Tournament celebrates that first catch by Chicago architect William Wood in what is now part of the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. 

Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille on Fort Myers Beach hosts the May 4 event. Termed a “Catch, Release, and Care” Tournament, the fishing competition forgoes harmful weigh-ins and instead, declares winners from photos taken on-board and by the use of lie detector tests. 

Judges also assign bonus points to fishermen who perform a DNA swab test on their catches. As part of the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC)’s Tarpon Genetic Recapture Study, the swab sampling helps scientists track tarpon and educate the public. The proceeds from the tournament benefit wildlife at the  J.N. “Ding” Darling Refuge on Sanibel Island. The Silver King for “Ding” after-party follows the tournament and is open to the public. 

Later in the month, Boca Grande hosts the World’s Richest Tarpon Tournament. Tarpon fishing has been in Boca Grande’s genes since Thomas Edison, Ernest Hemingway, and Zane Grey battled the prized fish. Today the big name associated with the tournament is famed marine artist, biologist, and tournament sponsor Guy Harvey. 

The Boca Grande tournament also strives to educate the public through quick release practices, along with educational demonstrations and lectures by leading fishery experts and scientists. 

On Saturday, kids can participate in a tournament and families can enjoy a carnival, educational presentations, live music and food vendors.


Second Annual “Ding” Darling & Doc Ford’s Tarpon Tournament

logoMay 4, 2013


Sponsored by Doc Ford’s on Fort Myers Beach, the tournament offers a 100 percent purse. The entry fee is $400; $50 for after-party-only tickets. 


31st Annual World’s Richest Tarpon Tournament


May 23-25, 2013


The entry fee is $2,000 per boat with an 80 percent pay-out. Free admission to street parties and educational activities.

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