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Annual ‘Ding’ Darling tarpon tourney breaks records with $120K

May 16, 2018
Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

The seventh annual "Ding" Darling & Doc Ford's Tarpon Tournament on May 11 topped previous years' fundraising efforts by netting $120,000.

Collected through the tournament sponsorships, donations and silent auction, the proceeds will benefit the J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel.

The tournament also broke the record for fish caught, set the first year of the event. Anglers photo-recorded 49 tarpon catches this year, compared to as few as two and as many as 39 in previous years.

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Team Costa with Caloosahatchee Cowboy Charters took first place at the seventh annual “Ding” Darling & Doc Ford’s Tarpon Tournament on May 11, along with a check for $13,185.

The tourney paid out $29,300 in prizes to five winning teams out of the 55 registered. The first place prize of $13,185 went to Team Costa with Caloosahatchee Cowboy Charters members - including captain Josh Constantine, Chris Magnano, Kyle Potts and Chris Mills - for catching six fish.

"It was a great day of fishing," Constantine, who pulled in three of the team's fish, said. "Catching a giant tarpon, that's good every time."

Four teams caught four tarpon each to take the remaining four cash prizes, ranked according to when they recorded their first tarpon catch of the day. Team Doc Ford's pulled in the day's second tarpon at 7:31 a.m., nabbing the second-place award of $7,325. Team Mabry Electric won $4,395 for third place, Team Barker Boatworks got $2,930 for fourth place, and Team Captiva Cruises scored $1,465 for fifth.

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The tourney also gave out awards to female angler Deb Powers of Team Fishin' Divas, senior angler Brian Bartholomew of Team Poondoggers, amateur team Team On Island, and others who caught fish.

"One hundred percent of the anglers' registration fees goes to the awards purse," tournament organizer Birgie Miller, executive director of the "Ding" Darling Wildlife Society-Friends of the Refuge, said. "That's why our sponsorship partners are so important to us. They pay the costs for putting on the tourney and contribute to the charity proceeds."

DDWS organizes the event with Doc Ford's Rum Bar & Grille as the title sponsor.

Tournament social events took place at the Fort Myers Beach location.

"To date, the tarpon tournament has raised nearly $450,000 for refuge water research, wildlife research and education," Miller said. "We can't thank Doc Ford's enough for their incredible show of support these past seven years. They've already committed for the 2019 tourney, which will take place next May, the date to be determined by choice of the winning team."

"We are so grateful for this fundraiser, because not only does it add much-needed dollars to the refuge budget, it also supports our conservation mission," Supervisory Refuge Ranger Toni Westland said. "Plus, it is an opportunity to remind anglers, both professional and amateur, about the importance of ethical and responsible fishing."

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