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Silver King tourney returns, global anglers hooked

By Staff | May 1, 2015

Only in its fourth season, a Sanibel-based tarpon tournament has caught fire with anglers.

The “Ding” Darling & Doc Ford’s Tarpon Tournament on May 9 will bring anglers from Europe, the western states and Florida for the event and the pre/post celebration. The European team of journalists will travel from Scotland, Denmark and Briton. Others from Canada, Colorado, Louisiana are among the states and nations represented at the catch-and-release event in Fort Myers Beach.

A handful of team slots remain for the event that will benefit the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge/Ding Wildlife Society. Sponsors will accept auction items, and visitors are encouraged to join in pre- and post-event activities. Cash prizes are awarded to the team landing the most tarpon. Prizes will exceed $20,000, with last year’s winning team clearing nearly $11,000. Last year’s winning team, the Boomer Sooners, are returning.

The deadline to register is April 30. Entry fee for a boat of up to four anglers is $500. One hundred percent of the fee intake goes into the awards purse, which many anglers understand as rare in Florida fishing. “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society-Friends of the Refuge host the event with support from title sponsor Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille and other local businesses and private donors.

The “catch, care, and release” tournament earns money from sponsorships and silent auctions to benefit wildlife and conservation education at J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge in Sanibel.

“The playing field is limited to 50 boats,” said Birgie Miller, the Ding Society’s executive director and tournament organizer. “Last year’s first place winners won $10,744, and more than $40,000 went into refuge coffers. We are very excited, especially with a tournament for responsible fishing.”

Four journalists from Scotland and Denmark will team up to fish and cover the tournament May 9. The combined circulation of the team’s news and fishing publications is more than 2.3 million.

Captain Jim Patrick from the UK writes for the daily Sun and Scottish Sun newspapers. Teammate Paul O’Hare covers news, sports, and other features about Scotland for the Daily Record. Paul Fenech will be covering the tournament for the monthly Sea Angler magazine, while Niels Lagergaard Pedersen from Denmark writes for the monthly Fiske Avisen.

The team’s participation was made possible through a partnership between the Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau and the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society-Friends of the Refuge.

The Captain’s Dinner takes place the evening prior to the tournament, Friday, May 8, at Doc Ford’s in Fort Myers Beach. Following Saturday’s competition, the Silver King for “Ding” after-party will be open to the public with limited tickets available at $50 for each non-angler, including dinner and a silent auction.

“There’s not another tarpon tournament like this one in the area,” Doc Ford’s co-owner Marty Harrity said.