Tarpon Tourney Raises $125K For Wildlife Refuge

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The 12th annual “Ding” Darling & Doc Ford’s Tarpon Tournament raised $125,000 for research at the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel. The sold-out tournament included 60 teams and 245 anglers vying for over $62,000 in cash prizes.

Salt Rock’s Jason Capra, Cody Chivas, Caleb Dumas, Peter Frederiksen and Brian Timmons landed six tarpons, winning first place and $28,080. Also catching six silver kings was SP Designs, claiming second place and $15,600. Additional cash winners included: (3) Sea Reaper Sportfishing, $9,360, (4) TowBoatU.S., $6,260 and (5) Tarpon Travelers, $3,120. Awards were also presented to amateur team Maastricht Engineering/Windows Plus, female angler Jasmine Constantine of TowBoatU.S. and senior angler Phil Pica of SP Designs.

Founded by Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille, the competition has raised nearly $1.3 million since its inception in 2012, supporting the 6,470-acre national refuge, part of the largest undeveloped mangrove ecosystem in the U.S. and world-famous for its migratory bird populations and bird-watching opportunities. Occupying one-third of Sanibel – the location of Doc Ford’s first restaurant – more than 40% of the refuge is congressionally designated wilderness. It’s also the site of the first tarpon caught by rod and reel.

“We thank this year’s anglers, our many event sponsors and donors who continue to make the annual tournament a successful fundraiser for the wildlife refuge,” said Joe Harrity, a partner with HM Restaurant Group, the parent company of Doc Ford’s and Dixie Fish Company. “Since the 1940s, this special place has symbolized local and national efforts to protect and enhance critical wildlife habitat while addressing present-day and future concerns for conservation, education and water and wildlife research. Money raised from the tournament has a meaningful impact in our community.”

This year’s tournament also attracted 27 senior anglers, 30 women and 11 amateur teams, all angling for the silver king, a prized game fish revered for its powerful, often acrobatic fight. Twenty-three teams caught 47 tarpon.

Nearly $440,000 has been awarded to top finishers during the 12-year history of the competition, launched to support local professional fishing guides and make anglers part of conservation efforts through education.

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